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‘World of work’ takes centre stage at ILO confab




THE level of prosperity that the world has been witnessing, is no doubt intrinsically linked to the buoyancy of the labour force.

As the drivers of the global economic prosperity therefore, promoting the welfare of workers, providing conducive atmosphere that allows for maximum productivity and global policies that ensure workers are treated right form the fulcrum of the 104th International Labour Conference (ILC) organized by the International Labour Conference (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, which is presently underway.

At the yearly meeting, the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder declared that the focus of the conference is the World of work.

At the presentation of his annual report to the Conference, Ryder observed that the “world of work continues to confront challenges of formidable proportions”, adding that the presence of the conferees suggested they “expect the ILO to respond effectively, with its member states, to these challenges”.

The ILO Chief declared that the ILO is leading by example by embarking on a Conference “that combines innovation with ambition” by way of “using new working methods” that would shorten the Conference (from three to two weeks) without loss of effectiveness in addressing issues which affect the working lives of millions in all parts of the world.

In pursuance of this, Ryder said the Conference would be adopting a Recommendation, which for the very first time will provide an international framework for the transition from informality to the formal economy, “which commands increasing tripartite support as a policy priority”.

The ILO helmsman said the Conference avails the participants an opportunity to look more closely “at how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can be promoted as creators of decent and productive employment”, adding that the ILO considers the report on SMEs as one of its leading achievements to date.

He was quick to add another critical issue that will attract the attention of the annual meeting is social justice for a fair globalization with a focus on core labour protection issues including wages, safety and health, working time, and maternity, each of which lies at the heart of ILO mandate and in policy debates in many a member-country.
Similarly, of concern to the ILO is the successful and harmonious completion of the work of the Committee on the Application of Standards.

Ryder stressed that a shared commitment and renewed confidence from the members of the Committee with a heart for compromise and consensus without necessarily stepping away from strongly held points of principle were necessary for achieving the desired result.

The ILO stated that it does not only intends to use the on-going Conference to prepare for the celebration of its centenary, but to dedicate it to the future of work with a three-pronged approach which combines an outreach to interested parties, an invitation to get involved in a major process of reflection on developments in the world of work, and an invitation to share knowledge, insights, ideas, and proposals, and also the governance of work.

For Nigeria working class, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, who led workers’ delegation to the conference, listed endemic poverty, burgeoning unemployment, frustrating and depressed wage regimes combined with the Boko Haram insurgency as social issues that required urgent attention.

In his response to the addresses of the Chairperson of the Governing Board and the Director General both of ILO at a formal session, said the situation is manifestly grave which requires immediate global attention.

Wabba argued that these circumstances were man-made and can be defeated with pragmatic and integrated approaches.
Wabba submitted that one of the ways of ameliorating the harrowing Nigeria experience is the institutionalization of a robust social dialogue mechanism reminiscent of the presidency of the late Yar’Adua, which he said substantially benefitted the “industrial relations practice” in the country during the late President’s tenure.

Accordingly, he requested the ILO to avail the government of President Muhammadu Buhari “the necessary technical and institutional support to revive the culture of social dialogue in the country”, pledging that the NLC is deeply committed to genuine participation in the revival of the social dialogue.

He said NLC was eager to discuss the core issues of labour interest including job creation, migration management, social protection floors implementation and the broader issues around the structural transformation of the Nigerian economy.

Citing the “Mbeki Panel Report on IFF” (which says a conservative figure of $60 billion leave Africa annually through tax avoidance and tax dodging) as justification, Wabba said the terms of reference of the Global Commission could benefit from themes such as: ending illicit financial flows, secure and effective public service for developing economies, security and safety at work places and communities, as well as holistic migration management.

Wabba maintained that for Africa, industrialization was key to development and both the State and the Public Service have an immense role to play.

On the reign of terror in most parts of the world with special reference to the Boko Haram insurgencies in Nigeria, Wabba said: “Violent conflicts, particularly the ones from the rise of terror and endless civil war are real threats to the global human community as overtime, nowhere and no one is safe, even the chances to grow and share prosperity cannot be guaranteed. We must all rise up to take collective and decisive actions to defeat terror and war.”

To the NLC President, there is no alternative to rapid industrialization of the continent if economic prosperity would be achieved by Africa.

His words: “For Africa, industrialization is an ambition we hold as the thrust of our structural transformation agenda. The State and the public service have immense roles to play. We note the roles these institutions played and still play in the advanced economies of today. Thus we are convinced that we should have the same ladder firmly against the wall in our climb to transformation.”

He also demanded urgent steps to stem the tide of global occupational movement and respect for rights of migrant workers.

“The current desperate migration phenomenon is of serious concern. Push and pull factors that trigger and sustain involuntary migration will have to be genuinely addressed by sending, transit and receiving countries, as well as other development and finance institutions. The Global Commission is indeed, in our consideration, a good space to interrogate these issues further,” he submitted.

The breakdown of attendees at this year’s conference indicates that 668 delegates (comprising 335 Government Delegates, 166 Employers’ Delegates, 167 Workers Delegates) have so been accredited.
A total of 2, 282 advisers (1,108 Government, 499 Employers and 675 Workers) have similarly been accredited bringing a total number of delegates and advisers to 2,950.
Female delegates account for 30.2 per cent of this number as 892 of them have been accredited as against 29.8 in 2014 and 27 per cent in 2013.

There is also a consistency in the rise in women participation in the delegations of Government (36.1 against 34.9 in 2014 and 31.6 in 2013), Employers (26.1 as against 25.9 in 2014 and 23.5 in 2013) and workers (23.6 as against same in 2014 and 21.7 in 2013).

A Report by the Credentials Committee of the conference notes that “…to date 16 member-States have not accredited a delegation”. These are Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Belize, Dominica, Gambia,Grenada, Guyana, Krygystan, Marshall Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

It expresses concern at the number of delegations that are either not accredited or incomplete and urges all governments to comply with the requirement of Article 3 of the ILO constitution by sending a complete tripartite delegation to the Conference.

Similarly, the Committee frowns at the imbalance between accredited delegates (499 Employers’ advisers to 675 Workers’ advisers for instance) and calls for a redress.

Citing the Resolution adopted by the Conference at its 56th Session in 1971, the Committee urges the strengthening tripartism in the interest of International Labour Organization.

Expected to attend the Conference are the Peace Nobel laureate and Child Labour Activist, Kailash Satyarthi, President Mahama of Ghana, President Hollande and President Varela of Panama.

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