A 2-day national seminar on the Role of Trade Unions in Somalia’s Constitutional Review Process was yesterday concluded in Mogadishu, bringing together more than 30 trade union representatives and leaders from 12 affiliated unions of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU).
The seminar, which was supported by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and the UN’s specialised agency for labour – International Labour Organisation (ILO), gave the workers’ representatives of Somalia an overview of the current status of constitutional reform, the ongoing processes, and the different avenues for providing inputs. The seminar also reviewed the current provisions that guarantee labour relations, freedom of association, and freedom of expression.
The first day, 15 December, was dedicated to internal discussions between the trade unions and senior experts from the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs led by its Director General Mohamed Abukar Zubeyr. Unions representatives finally came up a charter of demands for the trade unions and key principles that need to be adhered to during the constitutional review process.
The second day, 16 December, was devoted to interactive discussions with senior officials in charge of constitutional affairs and the government, with the aim of ensuring collective understanding of the interests and demands of workers.
Trade unions deliberated extensively and adopted key principles that should be applied during the constitutional reform process, along with 16 demands that concern and speak to the interests and aspirations of workers. These must be enshrined in the new permanent constitution of Somalia.
The Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Sadik Hirsi Warfa, recognised the two days of extensive discussions by the trade unions as timely and important for the protection of the fundamental rights of workers of Somalia. He welcomed and threw his support behind the 16 demands from the trade unions, and committed to championing their inclusion in the new permanent constitution. “When workers are at peace, there is social peace in the whole country is at peace. On behalf of the government, let me make it clear that workers must be safeguarded in the next constitution and we shall do everything we can to ensure these rights are constitutionally protected and any law that contradicts this constitution shall be null and void”.
Ambassador of Italy to Somalia, Albert Vecchi, expressed the commitment of the Italian government in supporting Somalia’s democratisation route. Italy’s direct support of this seminar underscores its commitment to inspire civic organisations like trade unions to engage and discuss issues of public interests. Ambassador Vecchi applauded the paradigm shift that Minister Warfa led in bringing together the government, workers and employers to promote social dialogue and harmony in rebuilding the Somali nation.
Omar Faruk Osman, General Secretary of FESTU stressed that “It is perfectly legitimate and indispensable for the working people of this country to have a say in the constitution-making process because the majority of those this constitution will impact are workers and their interests, inputs and concerns must be taken into thoughtful consideration. The current provisional constitution contains progressive clauses for human and trade union rights but we need to safeguard these current provisions and other progressive clauses to be integrated.”
Director General of Ministry of Constitutional Affairs received the proposed principles and Charter of Demands and committed to take them into account. Professor Isse Halane, Deputy Director of Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry supported the Charter of Demands, adding that they are progressive insertions that employers also support.