The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) General Secretary Mr Omar Faruk Osman addressed yesterday, 5 June 2014, ILO delegates of the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference.
Over 4,000 delegates representing Government, Employers and Trade Unions have gathered in Geneva for the 103rd International Labour Conference. Up for discussion this year: forced labour, moving from the informal to the formal economy and migration, application of international standards. Below is statement as delivered.
Statement by FESTU General Secretary at the 103rd International Labour Conference
June 6, 2014
The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) General Secretary Mr Omar Faruk Osman addressed yesterday, 5 June 2014, ILO delegates of the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference. Over 4,000 delegates representing Government, Employers and Trade Unions have gathered in Geneva for the 103rd International Labour Conference. Up for discussion this year: forced labour, moving from the informal to the formal economy and migration, application of international standards. Below is statement as delivered.
“The Federation of Somali Trade Union (FESTU) delegation joins other delegates to congratulate you on being elected to preside over the 103rd Session of the International Labour Conference.
“The report of the ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder to this conference specified that the past biennium has been one of reform and consolidation. In the past one-year and so, the ILO and its constituents fulfilled their mandates in a context of global employment and economic crisis.
“Trade unions witness employment, labour and social situations in our respective countries altered by the lingering effects of the global economic crisis. We now have an unemployment crisis and inequality that is crippling economies and communities.
“Economic and social policies and programmes in individual countries, as well as regionally and globally, are to be dominated by the imperative of responding to the global crisis.
“These resultant frictions have given greater prominence to social justice, whether in the form of youth employment, quality employment, social protection coverage, compliance with & domestication of international labour standards, elimination of child and forced labour, or social dialogue at national level.
“A number of reforms were initiated and spearheaded by the ILO Director General. We believe that these reforms are also important for ILO work related to conflict prevention, reconstruction and recovery. This is why we appreciate and welcome this new engagement and reforms by the Director-General.
“Somalia, still emerging from a dark history of tyranny and civil warfare, has become a country associated with pity and hopelessness, because our country has been regarded by some as a “failed state”. But workers and their unions, do not believe in a lost cause or a struggle without victory at the end, however much difficult and complex the battles of today.
“As you know Somalia is a great country, with a great history but suffering from brutal and ceaseless wars and political crises that have caused untold hurt to millions of Somalis. It has been for a long time a place where the rule of the gun replaced the rule of law. But our people deserve better. Somali workers deserve a life of dignified working and living conditions, free from war, from murder, from abuse, from extremism & political persecution and free from the exploitation and dehumanisation.
“Recognizing levels of development, peace and stability are not uniform across the country, supporting the emerging peace, social cohesion and stability, and really beginning to deliver tangible support on sustained economic development and poverty alleviation, founded on responsible macroeconomic management, infrastructure rehabilitation and equitable access to services is what Somalia needs today.
“There is a particularly severe crisis of unemployment among the Somali youth, who constitute majority of the working population, yet make mainstream of the unemployed. If ILO, its Somali tripartite constituency and wider international partners fail to provide these young people with the prospect of work and an income, we will all remain sitting on a ticking time bomb.
“Somali people are yearning for jobs, decent lives, and social justice for a society free from inequality and suffering.
“To better deliver as one for peace and prosperity for Somali people, conflating factors of unemployment, underemployment, abuses of human & trade union rights and social instability must be authoritatively addressed.
“We call for large-scale and non-bureaucratic solutions to rebuild the nation, promote reconciliation, ensure peaceful transition to democratic governance before 2016 national elections and to re-launch economy based on social justice.
“Somalia successfully ratified ILO core conventions including conventions 98 and 87, and decent work country programme was signed. We are very thankful to our Prime Minister H.E. Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed for supporting Somali workers and standing for trade union rights as he termed his government a “pro-worker government”. We can only call him a great statesman of his day.
“Despite the ratification of the conventions, many challenges remain in the application of the rights and obligations enshrined under the conventions. National policies are yet to reflect the international labour standards.
“Grave violations of freedom of association persist and have even increased. In the last few months, trade union leaders and members have been systematically harassed and intimidated for the exercise of legitimate trade union activity with impunity. Somali workers do not have jobs with beneﬁts, training, and security.
“Somali media workers continue to be exposed to unparalleled levels of insecurity and a serious lack of personal safety. The scale of attacks on journalists marks a continuing crisis filled with unlimited human tragedy and brutal repression of free expression. We believe that the lack of accountability for acts of violence against journalists in Somalia reinforces the culture of impunity and is the main reason why journalists in the country remain in the firing line.
“We are not folding our hands as we see such forces that want to destabilize the fledging independent trade unions, and support fragmentation and weakening of Somalia’s working class. Our unions are responding to them with increased militancy, improved ideological depth and heightened focus on strategic issues of contesting working class power and building alternatives.
“We call for measures for the effective observance of the fundamental ILO core Conventions in law and in practice. Should these violations continue, we would be obliged to lodge a complaint under article 26 of the ILO Constitution.
“The discussion of migrant workers is timely and we commend the ILO Director General for taking this bold initiative. Each year millions of men and women leave their homes and cross national borders in search of decent work and better opportunities for themselves and their families. Migration has emerged as an important issue of our times with far-reaching implications on our workers and societies.
“The challenge confronting the global community, including the ILO constituency, is to make migration work for all and direct it in a way that serves the economic well-being and social justice of workers. Trade unions around the world share the same mission in protecting all workers, both migrants and locals, from workplace discrimination, exploitation, abuses and violence.
“Somali migrant workers face the grim reality of being among the world’s most vulnerable and exploited workers. Their rights as workers are often undermined, because they are Somalis or they are in irregular situations. Some suffer severe abuse and violence in forced labour and trafficking situations. Many of them also do not enjoy the opportunity to upgrade their skills and improve their career prospects.
They are not allowed to join trade unions, especially those in the gulf.
“FESTU is concerned about the welfare of all workers, both migrants and locals. We are calling on our government to ensure the welfare and rights of Somali migrant workers, and will continue to work with the government in protecting the interests of migrant workers from Somalia.
“We support the call for are strict regulations/policies and statutory protections at global level to ensure the health, safety, accommodation, and remuneration for migrant workers and there are stiff penalties to punish errant employers.
“The issues on the agenda of the International Labour Conference (ILC) this year address the challenges we are facing today.
“As the presence of delegations representing workers, governments, and employers attending ILC each year attests, we recognize and accept our shared responsibility to work together to achieve sustainable development and decent work for all.
“The challenge is to make real and measurable progress. Our workers and their families will realize a better life, not from what we say about what needs to be done, but from what we are able to do together.
I thank you."
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