Honourable Minister Mildred Oliphant
The Incoming Chaiperson
Deputy Minister of Labour,
Assistant Director General of the ILO and Director of the Africa region
Director of IOM Africa
SADC Deputy Executive Secretary: Regional integration
President of the SADC Private Sector Forum
Honourable Members of Parliament of the Republic of SA
Senior Governments Officials
Fellow SATUCC Leaders and Executive Secretary
Distinguished invited Guest
Ladies and Gentlemen
All protocol observed
On behalf of SATUCC and all its affiliates in the region, please receive warm and special greetings. We are honoured and take seriously this important and special opportunity to address SADC meeting of Ministers for Labour and Employment, under the theme; “Horizon Decent Work: advancing connectivity, coherence and inclusivity”.
In her article, “Poor places. Rich places. Can geography explain it all?” written last year, Nga Thi Viet Nguyen made this interesting observation, “Tell me where you live, and I can predict how well you’ll do in life.” She goes on to say, “Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know for a fact that location is an excellent predictor of one’s welfare. Indeed, a child born in Togo today is expected to live nearly 20 years less than a child born in the United States. Moreover, this child will earn a tiny fraction—less than 3%—of what his or her American counterpart will earn”.
This is the life and condition of the African child, the African women, the African worker and the African being herself. A story of inherent poverty, unemployment, inequalities as the permanent defining features of our existence, let alone the search for decency; decent work, decent life and decent being
Decent Work as the engine and future of growth, development and dignified life in the SADC region
We regard this seminal gathering as about the substantive issues of the labour market of our region, SADC and the essence and being of work now and in the future, that is decent work and the future of work itself. This is about the people who make things happen in order to make us and our region alive. In other words, those who make our economies grow, hence make our survival possible.
These are workers, the men and women who are invisible to many of us, as they dig deep down the mines at risk of own limb and life. They do so to add value to nature and raw materials to produce the goods and services we need and enjoy. They cook for us, they wash our clothes and make us clean, they look after our children daily, they educate, treat and care for society and they farm our land to feed whole nations. They work, work and work to make enormous profits for shareholders and their companies and for governments to report growth and impressive economic balance sheets.
The SADC labour market is a product of labour migration and skewed colonial patterns of accumulation and wealth distribution. It is a product of cheap labour, gender and racial exploitation, unequal pay for work of equal value, vulnerable and insecure work, as well as poor pension and social security systems for workers and their families. Communities suffer when workers are underpaid, workers retrenched, economies collapse and natural resources looted and depleted to serve narrow profit interests of elites and big corporations.
There is a direct relationship between good governance, good working conditions, good pay and good lasting peace in society. Decent work means a healthy, productive and skilled workforce, whose contribution to sustainable development is beyond its own interests. It means democracy and accountability, workers rights, adherence to fundamental international standards and conditions as a core necessity for solid partnership by social partners and thriving societies.
We must look for lasting, just and effective solutions, rather than short-term, self serving and easily tempting solutions. We must all accept that we must be part of the solution to job security, job creation, industrial and human development and sustainability of the environment in which we live and work. The greed, destruction and short-sightedness accompanying our current growth models based on profit-at-all-costs and don’t care attitudes are formulas for lose-lose outcomes. We have no other region or other countries to live and work, if we destroy what we all need and have.
According to Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International’, “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.
She went on to say, “Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.”
She finally said, “Governments are not helpless in the face of technological change and market forces. If politicians stop obsessing with GDP, and focus on delivering for all their citizens and not just a wealthy few, a better future is possible for everyone.”
It is the duty of social partners to ensure we fight corruption, poor working and living conditions and the weakening of the state to collapse effective regulation and public service. A democratic developmental state is fundamental to industrialisation, worker rights, job creation and meaningful and lasting social dialogue. Weakening of social dialogue by both governments and business, will not bring about the necessary sustainability. Its self-serving and harmful to the very growth and development we all striving towards.
In this regard, we must resist the temptation to gather here as mere formality. We must appreciate and value being together, but search for the most profound solutions that build our economies, skill our workers, support good conditions of work, create jobs and decent livelihoods and therefore, guarantee us and future generations of a better SADC and better future for all.
The Future of work must be about Workers and social justice for all
We live in the age of advances, in almost everything except the conditions of work and life for the majority. Why is it that, so much has been done to develop Communications, technology and accumulation, but so little has been done to develop human beings and their conditions of work and life. Why should progress be viewed with such scepticism by the majority who are supposed to welcome and celebrate it? It is because, it is not in the main, about human development and dignity for all. This is the crux of the matter and what we must change.
We must develop not just apps, but profound solutions to poverty, unemployment and inequalities. To communicate on whatssap and twitter is good, but even more better is food and dignity for those communicating and their families. Unemployment is linked to poverty and linked to inequalities and all forms of abuse and oppression.
According to the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2017, “global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8 per cent in 2017 representing an increase of 3.4 million in the number of jobless people.
The report shows that vulnerable forms of employment – i.e. contributing family workers and own account workers – are expected to stay above 42 per cent of total employment, accounting for 1.4 billion people worldwide, just in 2017.
“In fact, almost one in two workers in emerging countries are in vulnerable forms of employment, rising to more than four in five workers in developing countries,” said Steven Tobin, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report.
As a result, the number of workers in vulnerable employment is projected to grow by 11 million per year, with Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected.
At the same time, it warns that global uncertainty and the lack of decent jobs are, among other factors, underpinning social unrest and migration in many parts of the world.
Profound and lasting solutions for profound and deep-seated problems – A new and effective SATUCC for a new and effective SADC
It will take more than just partnership to go to the root of the problems we face, but bold leadership in all our organisations, workplaces, countries and the region as a whole. It cannot be business-as-usual. Report after report have pointed to the problem, but meeting after meeting are yet to bear real fruits. By this we seek to encourage our partnership to graduate to a new phase of robustness, honesty and foresightedness about the present reality and the future we building.
It is true that the problems of our region dominated ILO Conferences for 3 main reasons;
- Lack of Political will to confront political and economic problems that are the foundation of our labour market functioning and are unavoidable to workers and employers alike. What options are workers left with in an environment of lack of effective, meaningful and genuine social dialogue founded on respect for equality of partners, independent robustness of labour market systems, as well as development of tripartite partners and their right to organise, associate and express their rights and views freely.
- Structural crisis that explain the shocking levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment, which leave workers with no choice, but to act in search for real solutions on their own. When grinding poverty and hunger grow on the one extreme, whilst wealth and extravagance equally show-off on the other extreme, what does that tell us? The problem is not lack of resources, but lack of effective redistribution and just growth models of development.
- Proudly assertive and effective social partners that we out to celebrate for demonstrating to the region and the world that we are serious about decent work, human dignity and balanced development for our people, members and the region.
But what will change this reality? Effective tripartism, social dialogue and structural change. As labour, we take very serious efforts of governments that have demonstrated new will and resolve to confront and deal with real issues forthrightly. We commit to stay true to the cause of building new trust, new partnership and new ways of dealing with real issues. But we also promise and commit to stay true to our resolve to confront real issues without fear or apology. We owe it to workers and the people of this region to be honest about their suffering and unacceptable conditions, that we sustain the momentum we created and shall deepen.
This means, if SADC means business and all of us are to stay the cause, we must hold each other as governments, social partners and leaders, to account and act decisively whenever one of us embarrass our genuine efforts to find solutions. Our goodwill and faith in the efforts underway must not be taken for granted and mean, we must accept anything and everything.
ILO has instruments to hold those failing to adhere to fundamental standards, to account, including the various reprimands and efforts to enforce implementation. What do we have, as measures for same against failure to adhere accordingly?.
On that note, SATUCC welcome the opportunity offered by the new SADC labour market architecture and the increased possibilities of deeper cooperation between social partners. We fully support the convergence of our own key concerns with the Priority areas of focus for the 2017-2018 South African government Chairship, which are: Promotion of Decent work, Employment creation, Youth unemployment, and SMME development. But beyond these, we have serious structural, macro-economic, historic and governance problems that affect our work and keep the vicious cycle alive. In other words, the elephant is in the SADC room, its in our room and we can no longer avoid it.
Our region is yearning for true leadership to build developmental, democratic and integrated states. It is yearning for change, progress and dignity for all, not the persisting burdens of ; hunger, disease, underdevelopment, corruption and unemployment that are ravaging our people. Trade Unions have a role to play and so do business and governments.
On our part, we have taken the responsibility for which we cant be pardoned if we fail to, that of building a regional trade union movement seized with the actual conditions facing workers and the people of our region. We adopted a set of bold and ambitious resolutions from which we are consolidating a final programme that must change the way we do things in our own organisation, in our own national centres, in our own countries and governments and in our region as a whole.
A New and effective SATUCC is a condition for a New and effective SADC, hence our Priority focus on;
- Organisational capacity and trade union renewal for effective support systems, both at the regional and national/affiliate levels
- A visionary and progressive Policy and Strategic Thinking Paradigm for a New working class path of Jobs, industrialisation and decent work in the region
- Building advanced Leadership development skills to deepen advanced worker organisation, innovation and capacity for new and effective ideas through the Southern African Trade Unions Development Academy (SATUDA) Initiative
- Grounding a New Culture of effective Campaigning, worker mobilisation and united action around issues facing workers and communities in our region
- Institutionalising Social dialogue, tripartism and democratic freedoms in Governance guided by ILO, AU and SADC instruments that affirm worker and human rights for all
In this regard, we further take this opportunity to call on the SADC Secretariat to prioritise engagements with all Social Partners and we avail ourselves without hesitation, particularly after our successful Tanzania Congress, wherein we adopted an ambitious set of Resolutions and programme to go beyond words on our commitment.
Finally, we take this opportunity to congratulate the Outgoing Chair of SADC ELS, Minister Mildred Oliphant and your team for the incredible work and progress made during your term and express our deepest support to the incoming Chair, Namibia as we look forward to working together in taking forward this great momentum and accelerate the decent work and developmental agenda and future of our region.
Forward to lasting Partnership, tripartism and effective social dialogue in the SADC region and unity in action for Decent work for all!
Merci boucoup !