Nigeria has called on ECOWAS Member States to place the Decent Work Agenda at the centre of their socio-economic policies, for sustainable development in the sub-region.

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, William Alo, made the call at the opening of the Meeting of Labour Experts/General Assembly of the ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum holding in Abuja from 16th – 19thJuly, 2019.

According to him, “The pillars of the Decent Work Agenda – social dialogue, social protection, rights at work and employment – are indispensable building blocks of sustainable development.”

Alo stated that the Nigerian government had created an unrestricted space for social dialogue to cushion workers’ vulnerability, and to foster greater reconciliation and mediation between disputing parties.

The Permanent Secretary described social dialogue and collective bargaining as reliable tools for addressing inequality, minimizing the incidence of working poor, and ensuring fair wage distribution, as well as tackling informality in the ECOWAS sub-regionand therefore appealed to tripartite partners and other stakeholders to employ dialogue and consultations to address problems faced by workers and employers alike.

He noted that the theme of this year’s Forum, “Strengthening Social Dialogue for the Promotion of Decent Work in the ECOWAS Region”, was designed topromote social dialogue and tripartism, aimed at preventing and ending conflicts, and promoting socio-economic development and integration at the national and regional levels.

He commended the ECOWAS Commission for its role in deepening integration in labour administration in the sub-region, noting, “Your role in the development of the ECOWAS Labour and Employment Policy and its Youth Employment Action Plan, draft ECOWAS Decent Work Regional Programme (2019-2022), and the draft Directive on Harmonisation of Labour Laws in the ECOWAS region to be validated at this Forum, are key milestones worthy of mention”.

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 Forumfor 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.

In goodwill messages, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Social Dialogue Forum, and Organization of Trade Unions in West Africa (OTUWA) pledged support to the Forum in realizing its objectives. They agreed that the meeting came at an auspicious time when the world was focused on the future of work that is human-centred and inclusive.

The objectives of the meeting of Labour Experts/General Assembly of the ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum are to: build consensus on topical labour issues; validate and adopt key policy texts on labour and employment; and share experiences and best practices on labour and employment issues across the ECOWAS region.

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