Regional trade union not impressed by ILO SADC decent work programme

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Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek - The Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) has expressed mixed feelings about the work done through the International Labour Organisation’s SADC Decent Work Programme, which ends this year.

SADC is fast becoming a hotbed of unemployment, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) World Employment and Social Outlook Trends Report, which reckons that 67% of the population did not have decent jobs by the end of 2017.

Besides, 33.6% of all employed people in sub-Sahara Africa were living in extreme poverty on less than US$1.90 per day. The majority of the workers are in the informal sectors, without social protection and social security, said ILO

According to Greg Vines, ILO’s Deputy Director-General, the informal economy in Africa contributes 50-80% of regional gross domestic product, 60-80% of employment and 90% of new jobs.

In 2013, ILO introduced the six-year SADC Decent Work Programme, as a tool to advance the decent work agenda in the region.

The programme is intended to promote standards and rights at work to ensure that worker’s rights to dignity, equality and appropriate legal frameworks safeguard fair labour practices.

It also set goals on how countries can create work opportunities for that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families.

Vines commended the SADC region for making significant efforts in providing decent employment and conducive working environment by adopting international labour standards.

However, SATUCC President, Zingiswa Losi, has described the effort as a drop in the ocean, as there is nothing that the SADC region can showcase in terms of the implementation of the programme at country level.

“What did SADC achieve with respect to addressing decent work deficits, having implemented the SADC Decent Work Programme for the past years?” Losi asked.

Losi made the remarks when she addressed the SADC Ministers and Social Partners responsible for Employment and Labour Extra-Ordinary Meeting took place from 11-17 March 2019 in Windhoek, Namibia.

All SADC member states, representatives of SATUCC and representatives of the SADC Private Sector Forum, ILO, and the International Organization for Migration attended the meeting.

Losi said the fact that entire Africa, including the SADC region, now has the highest rate of vulnerable employment globally at around 67% is a signal that nothing is happening on the ground.

“The picture doesn’t look exciting and leaves us with little to celebrate amid the expiry of the SADC Decent Work Programme and 100 years of the existence of the ILO,” she said.

Losi further revealed that many people are still trapped in the informal economy where decent work deficits abound.

Apart from that, she raised the issue pertaining to human and trade union rights situation in some of the SADC countries, particularly concerning freedom of association and protection of the right to organise as among the challenges facing the region.

“We are appealing to all SADC member states through you honourable ministers gathered in this house to engage the Government of Zimbabwe to uphold the principles and values of the SADC which are underpinned by respect for human rights and rule of law,” Losi said.

She, therefore, recommended that the instrument that would replace the current SADC Decent Work Programme should be designed in such a way that “we are able to make significant strides to effectively root out the decent work deficits by the time its own life span comes to an end”.

This year marks 100 years of ILO’s existence.

Addressing the labour ministers, Vines urged the region to come up with a human-centred agenda for the future of work that will strengthen the social contract by placing people and the work they do at the centre of economic and social policy and business practice.

He said shortfalls in decent employment and productivity constitute the most significant development challenges going forward.

According to Vines, decent employment creation, sustainable enterprises and product development are recognised both as ends and as a means towards development and poverty reduction in the SADC region.

He, therefore, called for the region to invest in institutions, policies and strategies that would support people through future of work transitions.

 

 

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