via ILO seeks to promote social dialogue – DailyNews Live 5 MAY 2014
International Labour Organisation (ILO) assistant director general and newly-appointed Africa director — Aeneas Chapinga Chuma — was on his first official visit to Zimbabwe where he met the leadership, government and development partners.
Senior Assistant Editor Guthrie Munyuki held an interview with him and below are the excerpts.
Q: What are your immediate tasks as ILO Africa director?
A: Essentially the priorities for me are around four areas.
The first is of course this question of financial generation.
How can you move towards job width macro-economic growth? Second is the issue of social protection.
How do you provide for those that had been by-passed by the growth of the last 10 years and those that are marginal and how can you continue addressing the emerging challenge of inequality in the society?
The third issue is promoting social dialogue, working with the employer, working with workers’ organisations and the government so that they continuously engage and look for ways of understanding each other so that they achieve a common goal.
The last priority is around migration and mobility and its impact on economic generation.
Q: How are you mitigating labour unrest in the region as the ILO?
A: We work in a tripartite arrangement; with government, business and labour although is largely to ensure that international norms and standards are observed; that the workers are allowed the freedom of association and that workers are free, within a certain framework, to negotiate their conditions of employment.
Our role is to help all parties understand both norms and standards and to ensure that all parties which are really recognised by the International Labour Organisation abide by those.
Part of the recognition is that both sides accept those principles, norms and standards.
So our role as the ILO is to support, facilitate and ensure that there is tripartite dialogue and social dialogue.
Often, of course, the workers and the employers may not agree and (the workers) may resort to take action.
I think workers have a right to that as long as it is within the law and it is peaceful.
We have no objections to that. But we are not in a capacity to end but we are in a capacity to continuously encourage dialogue.
Q: During the Zimbabwe land reform programme there were thousands of farm labourers who were displaced. From your interaction with the government have you established what happened to these workers in terms of compensation?
A: I don’t know the details but I am aware of the issues that are on the land reform and its impact on the agriculture workers.
I believe that this issue was taken up by their representatives and also through the apex organisations such as the ZCTU.
I am not sure how it has been resolved but I think there has generally been a lot of chaos really during the period and it did not apply to agriculture workers only but also other sectors.
I do know now that the issues of the workers are being taken up by the ZCTU and individual representative organisations.
Q: What role can you play to ensure that there is the re-instatement of a social contract through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) which appears to have been sidelined?
A: As a matter of fact it’s a matter that I discussed with government.
The TNF now needs legislative backing. And there is a draft law that the government is working on in consultation with other partners so that it is enacted into law.
The impression I had talking to the minister responsible (Nicholas Goche) was clearly that there is a roadmap towards bringing this into legislation by government and then operalising it making sure that the tripartite structure is quite well structured.
I think the law will then define the role of the TNF and its membership.
And what it is that the TNF can or cannot do within the law. I think the TNF is alive and well, that is the impression I got.
Q: How does the ILO intend to complement government in its empowerment programme and who are you working with?
A: As you know the ministry (of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment) changed hands.
Our youth skills and employment (project) was really championed by the previous minister (Saviour Kasukuwere).
So we have got a new minister now (Francis Nhema) and we had a discussion with him.
He is particularly interested in strengthening the vocational training because the entire approach is to skill the youths, give them tools and then they can go there and identify opportunities for enterprise development.
It’s quite impressive that the country has something like 48 vocational training institutions.
The point is to strengthen their capacity to give relevant skills to young people and to upgrade their curricula.
These are the areas that ILO can work with very closely. The ministry was really the champion for the youth and skills and development programme.
Now we are operating successfully in 32 districts. Our interest is in being present in all the districts.
Technically ILO is ready to do that but we need resources and we are encouraging the government, if they believe in this project as central to their employment generation job strategy, to step forward and invest in it.
These are some of the things that the government is looking into but also looking to encourage other partners not to re-invent the wheel but to look closely at this programme which has a track record and a good template to see the extent to which they can support.
Q: Is Zimbabwe’s new Constitution compliant with some of the issues espoused by ILO?
A: It’s a very progressive constitution in all respects even in representation, for example in bringing gender parity.
I am glad that you asked this question.
One of the points of discussion with the government, through the minister (Goche), is for us to work with government to enable them to review all the labour laws to make sure they are compliant with the new Constitution.
It’s a good Constitution, the challenge is in implementation.
Q: Employers and labour have been discussing adopting a production-linked wage in light of current economic challenges. As the ILO do you have standard guidelines on wages?
A: We don’t. These negotiations are between organisations and we facilitate those negotiations.
But from an economic point of view productivity is critical to concentration.
Globally, what has happened with time in the last decade or so, the gains from productivity, particularly in the industrialised economies, have largely between kept by management rather than workers.
That’s where the line of demarcation is. It makes sense to link compensation to productivity.
Should workers produce more and management find ways of producing more with less input it enhances the capacity of the enterprise to generate more wealth.
There is technical issue here. People can confuse production with productivity because it’s a technical point.
Production is just volume. Productivity is the amount produced per unit, it touches on efficiency.
So if you raise efficiency, you raise productivity.
You should be able then to raise the shares that accrue to the resource inputs, including labour.
As a matter of principle, both theory and practice, productivity should be celebrated.