Ukpono Ukpong, Abuja
The Federal Government has identified social dialogue and collective bargaining as veritable tools for addressing inequality, minimising incidence of working poor and ensuring fair wage distribution as well as tackle informality in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Addressing the meeting of Labour Experts and General Assembly of the ECOWAS Social Dialogue Forum held in Abuja, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, William Alo, described social dialogue as one of the core pillars of the Decent Work Agenda which can play important role in linking employment with trade and economic policies.
Alo noted that addressing the issue of minimum living wage for the “working poor” constitutes one of the most important priorities to fighting inequalities.
While noting that the forum which had as its theme ‘Strengthening Social Dialogue for the Promotion of Decent Work in ECOWAS Region’ is noteworthy, coming at a time when the prerequisites for social dialogue, notably freedom of association and collective bargaining are being undermined especially by some employers in the sub-region,
he appealed to the tripartite partners and other stakeholders to always opt for dialogue and consultation in all situations so that together, solutions may be found for problems faced by workers and employers alike.
He said: “The erosion of workers’ bargaining rights over the last decades explains to a large extent the current divergence between productivity growth and wage increases for a majority of workers.
“The divergence between productivity increases and wage increases is indeed at the heart of inequalities and can only be addressed through social dialogue.
“The Nigerian government has created an unfettered space for social dialogue. Workers vulnerability arising from the new economic environment takes many forms, with joblessness being the most severe for many people.
“Precognitive of this reality and the accompanying concerns by trade unions of potential industrial disharmony, the Nigerian government has consistently worked out mechanism for fostering greater reconciliation and mediation.”
He noted that this has been achieved through establishing formal government facilitated spaces for dialogue and mediation in labour matters, adding that “playing a facilitating roles and providing unfettered space for reconciliation has enabled government to bring disputing parties and pre-emptively intervene in resolving their disputes”.
Alo therefore, appealed to member states of ECOWAS to make the four pillars of the decent work agenda (social dialogue, social protection, rights at work and employment) indispensable building blocks of sustainable development.