May Day Statement issued by the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) on May 1, 2019, being commemorated under the theme: “Building solid and genuine cooperation for advancing the modest gains made in the Somalia rebuilding process”
Delivered by Mr. Omar Faruk Osman, FESTU General Secretary
May 1, 2019
For Somali workers, this year’s May Day celebration is another opportunity to reflect on the cost of the sacrifices they made for national peace, stability, productivity, wealth creation and unity. It is also the time to review some slow yet positive progress made in workplaces, households and the national economy and to continue to look for ways to effectively defend these gains.
While our country is trying to move away from a Fragile State, towards a Developing State, FESTU has deliberately chosen the theme “Building Solid and Genuine Cooperation for Advancing Modest Gains made in the Process of Rebuilding Somalia”. We are a committed and tireless advocate of social dialogue as a proven tool for advancing progressive change and consolidating a culture of participatory democracy. We know that genuine social dialogue helps mobilize citizens for nation-building.
We know that people’s participation in governance is more effective through dialogue and consultation. Somali workers see themselves as agents of change and are always ready to make the sacrifices and contributions necessary to advance their communities and their economy towards shared prosperity.
Cooperation is critical for the building of human society, especially those who have been shattered by conflict. Somalia is no exception, and that is why it has resolutely positioned itself for tangible reconstruction guided by the true spirit of cooperation at all levels. Our country will undoubtedly need the cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders to advance the aspirations of millions of Somalis during this critical period of our history. We the workers and our unions know what cooperation means because we see it as the fulcrum for unity and sense of solidarity. From this premise, FESTU and its affiliates will readily cooperate in all areas related to nation-building, economic progress and social cohesion, on the basis of genuine and meaningful consultation and social dialogue.
On this workers’ day therefore, we reaffirm our readiness to offer our cooperation and collaboration to national reconstruction efforts, because we know that it is in our common interest.
On this note, we emphasize that:
Advocating for an Employment-rich Economic Growth
Somalia will need robust economic policies and integrated employment programmes with focused discipline to apply and implement them as the country continues to grapple with the task at stabilizing its broken economy. Such policies and programmes must guarantee that in the short, medium and long term the results will benefit ordinary Somalis – particularly the ones left far behind due to crises. So far, we appreciate that the Federal Government is taking giant steps in areas of economic and social reforms. In particular, FESTU commends the Federal Government for the development of the National Employment Policy (NEP) and the National Social Protection Policy. We welcome these pieces of socio-economic progress. Indeed, we are also excited about these human-centered developmental policies because they are the products of consultation and collaboration under the tripartite structure of the nation’s industrial architecture.
We urge that the implementation of these policies be robust. The Federal Government and Federal Member States must ensure that these policies, particularly the NEP, is implemented in ways that will lead to the creation of decent jobs for the teeming young men and women of the country who join violent armed groups or retort to desperate migration journeys because of growing despondency and frustration on account of their dire economic situation.
Crisis of Unemployment
Despite relative progress in Mogadishu and other major cities, FESTU is very concerned that there is a continuous degradation of working conditions and living standards due to inflation and shrinking economic opportunities. One of the biggest challenges that Somalis face as workers today is the rise of what can been termed “Working Poverty”. We know too well that this situation has relegated many workers and their families to the doldrums of misery and hopelessness.
The crisis of unemployment must inspire us to intensify our struggle for decent employment – investing in education and skills development, creating jobs, eradicating poverty and reducing inequality must be the top priorities of the Federal Government, Federal Member States, the private sector, business community and workers.
Debt Relief for Somalia by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs)
Somali workers are relieved by the fact that Somalia is about to exit from the program monitored by IMF staff (SMP) and that, on this basis, the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) will eventually grant the country reprieve that will pave way for further support for Somalia. FESTU, however, wants to urge the government to be cautious in its borrowing attempts. For FESTU, if the government chooses to borrow funds, these should be channeled to sectors and initiatives that will deliver direct and tangible benefits to the poor and the weak in the society. Public spending should target women and youth empowerment initiatives, including through human development initiatives.
It is the workers who built our country and its economy, and they continue to keep the engines of this economy running. Therefore, FESTU will continue to articulate workers’ views, interests and concerns in discussions concerning national development.
Political and public administration
FESTU knows that a well-organized and motivated political and public administration will make a tangible contribution to successfully rebuild the nation and improve the well-being of the people. Already, we are seeing steady progress in the reform of the legal and public sectors. This is commendable.
Further, we call on our political elites to be ready to make the necessary sacrifices and deliver responsible and responsive stewardship as we continue this journey to national reconstruction. We also, call on the Federal Government and Federal Member States to genuinely seek and forge convergence and working relationship that will serve the people and their communities well. We urge politicians and political office bearers to put their people and country front and above their personal ambitions. We call for unity from you all.
Embracing peace, improving the conditions of working people and eradicating poverty must remain principal objectives on which all progressive formations including trade unions must converge.
Reviewed National Labour Law
FESTU and its affiliated unions salute the Federal Government for the successful review of the Labour Code of Somalia. Again, we commend the Federal Government for embracing and supporting national tripartite consultations around this historic exercise. FESTU is confident that this piece of legislation will help guide and guard our industrial relations practices, as well as ensure a positive image and good investment projection for the national economy. Investors are not coming to invest in a rudderless industrial relations milieu but one with an unambiguous and progressive template that works for business and workers.
We, therefore, strongly urge the Federal Government and Parliament of both houses to ensure that this draft Bill is swiftly and effectively enacted into law.
ILO Centenary Celebration
We salute and congratulate the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the occasion of its milestone 100 years existence! We affirm that the ILO being the only United Nations (UN) agency with a tripartite space and opportunity has remained the most relevant, dynamic and progressive agency for the advancement of social justice through its unique normative function. We convey our best wishes through the Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryder to all the tripartite members of this noble Organization. We equally salute the Member States of the ILO for their continued support and engagement with the ILO.
FESTU is heartened that the voice of working women is becoming increasingly powerful. It demands greater inclusion of women in all spheres – employment, social, political, unions – and advocate for pay parity and an end to all gender-based violence and discrimination.
Trade Unions Struggle
We will always be reminded that the space and freedom that we enjoy and celebrate today was gained through the sweat and resilience of our movement whereby our leaders and members were victimized because of their trade union activities. We will fight hand in hand until our country truly becomes a place that truly belongs to all citizens, especially the workers on whose shoulders reside the prospect for sustainable economic development.
Despite the victories won in the past months, we are far from being happy and we shall be using this coming year to make it clear to employers, government and workers that the struggle for a better life and social justice for the working people of Somalia continues. Our priority is to defend workers and also fight for the dreams and the aspirations of our members and the working class in general. We imagine and are ready to struggle to shape a future that is free of unemployment, poverty, inequality and injustice.
The Somali nation and the trade union movement in particular has this year lost a highly respected comrade, late Minister Abdirahman Hosh Jibril, former Minister of Constitutional Affairs. He dedicated his entire life to liberating the working-class people from the shackles of exploitation and oppression. His unfaltering defense of free and independent trade unionism in Somalia was unconcealed. He stood up to establish democratic rule of law in Somalia. His untimely death has created a vacuum in the national leadership and we will miss his passion and easy-going manner. He will always be remembered as a humble and dedicated activist, who commanded respect and possessed sincerity.
We salute the courage, resilience and patriotism of Somali workers. We celebrate our everyday stars, those who against all odds continue to defend the human right to join a union and collectively claim other rights. We stand by each and every one of the struggles for greater justice and better working conditions.
May Day is Ours!
Long Live FESTU!