Stakeholders meet for ECOWAS social dialogue in Abuja

 Helen Shok Jok, Abuja

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A four-day meeting of Labour Experts and General Assembly of the ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum opened in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday.

The meeting which is being attended by all the Countries in ECOWAS region and their social partners, is aimed at discussing how to promote social dialogue and tripartism in a bid to prevent and end possible social conflicts and stimulate social-economic development of the region.

Industrial disharmony is one of the things that every government all over the world try to avoid due to its repercussion productivity.

Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment in Nigeria, Mr William Alo, commended the ECOWAS Commission for its role in deepening integration in the area of Labour Administration in the region.

“I commend the ECOWAS Commission for its role in deepening integration in the area of Labour Administration in the Sub region and for consolidating on the gains of the Forum since its establishment in 2011.

“Your role in the development of ECOWAS Labour and Employment Policy and its Youth Employment Action Plan, draft ECOWAS Decent Work Regional Programme (2019-2022) and the draft Directive on Harmonization of Labour Laws in ECOWAS region to be validated by this Forum are key milestones worthy of mention,” Alo said.

The Permanent Secretary said that the theme of this year’s Forum which is, ‘Strengthening Social Dialogue for the Promotion of Decent Work in ECOWAS Region,’ is coming at a time when the prerequisites for social dialogue like freedom of association and collective bargaining are being undermined by some employers in the region.

He appealed to the tripartite partners and other stakeholders to always opt for dialogue and consultation in all situations, so that together, solutions may be found for problems faced by workers and employers.

“There is no denying the fact that social dialogue and collective bargaining are veritable tools in addressing inequality, minimizing the incidence of working poor and ensuring fair wage distribution, while also tackling informality in the ECOWAS sub region,” he said.

Minimum Wage

On the issue of minimum wage, Mr Alo said that it constitutes one of the most important priorities to fight inequalities adding that the Nigerian government has created an unfettered space for social dialogue.

Assistant Director General for Africa, International Labour Organisation ILO, Mrs Cynthia Samuel-Olajuwon, expressed happiness with the collaboration with ECOWAS saying that with the engagement from the ECOWAS Secretariat, some policies that address the issues relating to decent work have been developed, adopted and are being implemented.

She called on ECOWAS to take advantage of the Forum to ensure industrial peace in the region.

“If we miss taking strategic decisions now, we would have wasted a very strategic opportunity.

“We are looking at a future of work that is human centred, that is inclusive and addresses in a sustainable manner the key issues relating to the world of work.

“That is already the global agenda and this is the agenda that Africa contributed significantly to shaping,” she said.

She also called on ECOWAS to invest in the institutions of social protection, Migration and social dialogue in the region.

In an opening remark, the ECOWAS Commission for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne, represented by Dr Sintiki Tarfa Ogbe, called on ECOWAS Member States to take measures to address key decent work deficits in the region, unemployment, underemployment, low rate of female employment, and low labour force participation in rural areas, among others.

Dr Jagne stated that the ECOWAS Commission would present to the Forum for consideration and validation, a draft Decent Work Regional Programme (DWRP); and the draft Directive on minimum standards on harmonization of labour laws in the ECOWAS region.

According to her, the DWRP would serve as an impetus to job creation, social security coverage, and social dialogue, as well as improve working conditions and promote gender mainstreaming in labour and employment matters for all West Africans; while the Directive would urge Member States to harmonize their labour laws and social security legislations.

Funding

On the issue of funding and a Permanent Secretariat, all the speakers at the meeting emphasized on the importance of being self-reliant in funding the Forum and called on Member countries especially Nigeria to work toward having a permanent Secretariat for the Forum.

There were good will messages from the Organisation of Trade Unions in West Africa OTUWA, Federation of the Employers of West Africa FOPAO and the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender of the ECOWAS Commission

The meeting will end on Thursday after the election of Bureau of the ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum (2019-2023).

Omolayo.A