Decent Work Remains a Pipe Dream in Somalia

Today, 7th October 2016, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) joins millions of workers across the world to mark the “World Day for Decent Work”.

Decent work is about achieving fundamental principles and rights at work, the creation of greater employment and income opportunities for women and men, establishing social protection system, and promoting social dialogue between trade unions, employers and government.

Nonetheless today this is not what is happening. Somalis are wallowing in abject poverty. Millions of workers have lost all hope of securing employment and those few that are lucky, are mostly engaged in precarious work. Demanding salaries and better working conditions is an ongoing struggle for Somali workers who are living from hand to mouth, barely making enough to send their children to school and meet their other needs such as health care and decent shelter

The life cycle of the first generation Decent Work Country Programme for Somalia (2011 to 2015) ended last year, with little or no progress made in creating decent jobs for the millions of Somalis, the majority of whom have now turned to be informal economic workers.

Instead of creating decent jobs, the outgoing federal government has presided over and led a ridiculous fight against the trade unions and futilely attempted to unilaterally amend tripartite agreements on decent work programme to hijack a tripartite cooperation to create decent work, plunging many more Somalis into poverty as they could not get decent jobs. A huge youth employment project was launched with no positive impact on jobless youngsters.

Smooth implement of Decent Work Programme would have been made possible by upholding and strengthening social dialogue among social partners – trade unions, business and government, and decent work deficits would have been addressed. But the outgoing federal government chose war path with trade unions.

“In Somalia right now we can’t talk of decent jobs because we as a nation did not create any jobs in the first place. Whatever jobs we have created are menial jobs. Instead, people are going into the informal sector where there is no decency at all,” said FESTU General Secretary Omar Faruk Osman.

The issue of decent work also includes the timely payment of salaries, but more than 85% of companies are not paying salaries. Some have gone for about 12 months, some 16 months and some even years, and once that happens, it means there is no decency at all because concerned workers are working for free. Some workers are paid half of their salaries, which mean they are not meeting their day to day needs.

“What has been bogging down Somalia over the past 4 years is that we have been good at talking, good at producing documents and fighting trade unions but fell very thin on actual implementation of decent work programme. Somalia urgently needs a paradigm shift and start realizing that rhetoric and marathon meetings are not what Somalis actually want, but action on the ground” declared Osman.

As a member of ILO’s tripartite constituency for Somalia, FESTU shall continue to champion for decent work for all Somalis and will continue to engage social dialogue with social partners without comprising fundamental workers’ rights as well as the space of trade unions in this important discourse.

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