By Obioma C. Appolos
President of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), who is also the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, has told world governments and global employers of labour, that the world need a new social contract that would deliver decent jobs and entrench fundamental rights at work, in order to achieve the desired decent work: a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.
Wabba, who said this in his address at the 108th Centenary Conference of the International Labour Conference (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, expressed hope for a better future of work. However, he said that labour organizations across the world, unions, governments and business owners must continue to strive towards achieving accelerated social progress for the common good of humankind.
“As we progress into the 4th industrial revolution, we need an economic model that is socially and economically sustainable. The digital transformation should leave no one behind. Technological revolution should not be a threat to decent work.
“Going forward, we need a new social contract that will deliver decent jobs and entrench fundamental rights at work – freedom of association, freedom from discrimination, freedom from child labour, freedom from every form of gender-based violence, the right to living wage and the right to strike.
“I see a lot of hope in the future of work. But to get to this desired future, we must continue to consolidate on our mandate for social justice. We must continue to strengthen our capacity for tripartite relations. We must continue to strive towards accelerated social progress in a way that ultimately engenders sustainable industrial peace which is at the heart of the aspiration and work of the ILO.
“It is therefore important that we take advantage of a Conference as this to interrogate very vigorously the old idea that social protection cannot be achieved alongside advance in technology. We must confront the fears that improved wages and decent work conditions are at odds with economic progress. We must demobilize the myth that there can never be enough for everyone irrespective of class, gender, and social status.
“There is indeed enough to meet our needs but hardly enough to satisfy our greed. We must, therefore, make the necessary sacrifices to keep the wheels of economic prosperity moving, the engine of social progress roaring and the wings of inclusive innovation soaring.” His words.
Speaking of hope for a better future of work in the context of Nigeria, he said; “In Nigeria, we can report that there has been modest progress in the struggle for social justice. Recently, a new national minimum wage was passed by Nigeria’s Parliament. President Muhammadu Buhari has also assented to the new National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act. We are now at the level of ensuring comprehensive implementation by all tiers of government and employers in the private sector.”
Furthermore, the NLC President, stated; “I urge workers everywhere not to relent in the fight for social justice. To win this fight, we must strive to build workers’ and trade union power. We must bear in mind that the fight for stronger unions are the best safeguards for democracy.
“In order to consolidate workers’ power and build resilient trade unions, the ITUC has prioritized the promotion of peace, democracy and rights.
‘We demand regulation of economic power and the redistribution of wealth. For us, it is “workers first, then profits.” We refuse to accept current historic levels of inequality. We reject the reality that more than 70% of the world’s people have little or no social protection.
‘We demand a re-jig of tax systems in a manner that restores the re-distributive role of government. We reject a situation where more than 50% of the global wealth is owned by less than 1% of the world’s population. We insist on social contracts that deliver social justice.
“Ultimately, our objective of social justice is a shared one. Government and employers will gain more in a milieu of social justice and progress.”