The Ministers in charge of Labour and Employment from Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are examining the proposals by labour experts and the General Assembly of the ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum (SDF) regarding the harmonization of Labour laws and a decent work programme for the region.Addressing the ministers and delegates at the opening of the ministerial meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne maintained that in the promotion of decent work for ECOWAS citizens, dialogue between stakeholders (including Ministries of Labour and Employment), employers, workers and civil society organizations and international partners, dialogue is imperative in order to reach a consensus on decent work agenda that takes into account the needs of the labour market, while protecting the interests and rights of all workers.
She stated that the ECOWAS Commission recognizes that social dialogue contributes to the overall cohesion of societies and is crucial for productivity and a well-functioning region.
A statement by the ECOWAS Commission on Monday in Abuja said that Jagne stressed the importance of an active collaboration with all stakeholders on peace consolidation and social cohesion for the realization of the objectives of the socio-economic development of the ECOWAS region.
She pointed out that ECOWAS has come a long way since the adoption of the ECOWAS Labour and Employment Policy in 2009 and in addressing the challenges, has undertaken major projects for the acceleration of the process of integration while achieving the community’s vision of moving from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of peoples, by 2020.
Jagne urged the Ministers to adopt the text of recommendations being presented to enable the ECOWAS Commission “put in place regional mechanisms that facilitate and enhance the social integration of our citizens in our community space and create conditions for a job decent and regulated at Member State level without xenophobia and other forms of discrimination”.
Declaring the meeting open on Friday, the Minister of Labour and Employment of Niger Mr. Mohammed Ben Omar noted that the people of West Africa are looking up to the ministers to provide lasting solutions to the issues raised in aid of regional peace and stability.
The initiatives of the SDF, he continued, is an illustration of the goodwill of the ministers for the strengthening of capacities in the area of labour administration.
In his remarks, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison for ECOWAS, Mr. Dennis Zulu, opined that as a long-standing partner of all ministries of labour and employment in the region, the ministers are being encouraged to use the opportunities provided by the meeting to ensure that “the ECOWAS SDF can realize its potential and be an effective, efficient and durable mechanism for enhancing the quality of work and results in the labour and employment sector”
Speaking on the theme of this year’s meeting -Strengthening Social Dialogue for the Promotion of Decent Work in the ECOWAS Region, the Permanent Secretary, Nigerian Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. William Alo, pledged the continuous support of the Nigerian government to the ECOWAS Commission in “its unabated determination to holistically address knotty employment and labour issues in the region”.
The statement added that there were also goodwill messages from the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) and the Federation of Organisations of Employers in West Africa (FOPAO) whose’ chiefs- Madam Abotsi Klutse Kekeli and Mr. John Odah alongside the President of the ECOWAS SDF Mamadou Konate, advocated the entrenchment of workers’ rights, gender equity, vocational training for the youth, as well as the right to social protection among others.
The Ministerial Meeting was preceded by the brainstorming sessions of the labour experts and General Assembly of the SDF, being a natural follow up to the discussions and review of ongoing activities, including a stock taking of past activities meant to work out appropriate mechanisms for better coordination and implementation of desired programmes and initiatives.
According to the statement, it is expected that the documents deliberated upon will be the key frameworks that ECOWAS and Member States can apply in order to achieve the ILO Centenary Declaration for the future of work adopted at its 108th conference held in June 2019.