Today, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) joins millions of workers around the whole world in celebrating workers’ achievements, and critically revisiting our successes and failures, and mapping out strategies to deal with the mammoth economic, political and social challenges facing us.
On this May Day we salute the workers who endure the worst forms of abuse and exploitation. We are aware of the daily abuse, beatings, murder and rape they are being subjected to by the bosses.
Today, we celebrate workers’ day in a country where very few people are still in formal employment, workers are verbally employed & dismissed with no written contracts, 1972 labour code is de-facto law of the land, where a government minister believes that he must have a say on the name and existence of a national trade union, a country where almost all workers are informal economic workers and the remaining workers, including civil servants, are earning poverty wages. So today is workers’ day in a country with no workers.
In the past four years, the federal government had dismally failed in its major responsibilities of creating decent jobs, promoting investment, paying its own workers and setting the tone and foundation for economic progress and development.
Creating decent jobs, eradicating poverty and reducing inequality has to be the top priority for the new federal government with the support of business and trade unions as these are key ingredients to economic success.
The current government must come up a clear programme that will deal with decent job creation, a clear programme underpinned by serious reforms, a commitment to the rule of law, infrastructure rehabilitation and resuscitation of our agricultural productivity.
The economy is not performing, but there are things that are key in the short-to-long term. These include the issue of the social contract. And government, trade unions and businesses must have an institutionalized forum to dialogue as we navigate this delicate transition.
A social contract will provide the necessary framework for tripartite consultations on all matters affecting the management of the economy, promotion of economic growth and development, the operations of the labour market and the provisions of a comprehensive social protection.
Dialogue has been the missing link and it is also important for the government and employers to know that workers’ issues should not be narrowed to wages alone. Workers’ concerns are broader than a living wage and these include the need for harmonized labour laws, stabilization & democratization of the country and general improvement in the quality of life.
The Federal government must urgently seek to create and maintain an adequately remunerated, highly-motivated public sector workers supported by well-managed and up-to-date training and research units. Somalia needs knowledge-based economy which offers its people full employment.
We have also seen the rise of workers’ discontent over non-payment of salaries. Particularly we are concerned that civil servants have borne the brunt of government’s failure to revive the comatose economy. There have been unending delays in paying civil servants and now they do not even know when the pay date is. We want to say that the workers of the federal government, who continue to offer public service for a pittance, are the unsung heroes and heroines.
Poor performance and corruption in the government’s offices will continue as long as civil servants are not regularly given decent salaries. Any credible government must be able to pay its own employees a decent wage.
Young people in this country are at the coalface of the social malaise that confronts us. Indeed, a country that does not take care of its youth does not have a future. They are without meaningful employment, are denied quality education, and sit worthlessly in the streets or homes.
This May Day must revive our call for a new developmental trajectory in which the government drives development and directly provides basic goods and services as opposed to letting everything to the private sector.
The struggle to build a new and better Somalia cannot be led by those who benefitted from conflict, inequalities, poverty and our oppression, and continue to pursue policies to entrench these injustices.
Somali workers need to mobilise and organise to confront the many challenges this country faces and increase the tempo of the struggle for a just and equitable society. FESTU wishes to urge workers to step up the efforts against the further degradation of their working conditions and living standards.
Workers’ day is a day to urge all workers to unite in the banishment of the agonizing chains of exploitation.
We therefore demand:
That the government must revert back to rule of law, including respecting and implementing international labour standards and ILO conventions;
the introduction of progressive and worker friendly harmonised labour legislation;
De-politicisation of the workplaces;
Setting of a national minimum wage;
For as long as there are poor people in our country, the struggle continues.
For as long there are bad working conditions, the struggle continues.
For as long as government officials are attacking trade unions, the struggle continues.
Ahmed Osman Said – FESTU President
Omar Faruk Osman – FESTU General Secretary