FEATURED: ILO marks its centenary as Rwanda celebrate Labour Day

ILO Director for East Africa Wellington Chibebe awards a journalist.

Rwanda last week joined the world in celebrating International Labour Day, which was globally celebrated under the theme: Sustainable Pension for All: the Role of Social Partners.

During the national celebrations that took place in Nyagatare District in the Eastern province, the International Labour Organization (ILO) also marked its 100 years since it was born during the time of upheaval from the world war.

The Minister for Public Service and Labour Fanfan Rwanyindo Kayirangwa, Eastern Province Governor Fred Mufulukye, Wellington Chibebe and other government officials attended the cerebrations that included visiting processing industries in Nyagatare District.

At the national level, Labour Day was marked under the theme: “Quality Work, A Catalyst for Sustainable Development”.

Access to sustainable jobs, setting of a minimum wage, compliance to contracts, working hours, and access to social security benefits are the main issues workers need to be addressed in Rwanda.

Attendants prepare to serve ILO centenary cake to delegates.

While addressing the delegates during the centenary/ Labour Day celebration, the ILO Director for East Africa Wellington Chibebe expressed sincere gratitude to be with Rwandans during the Labour Day celebrations.

“It is a day full of history and symbolism for workers’ solidarity and the struggle for decent working conditions. It has even more meaning today in Rwanda as it marks the celebration of the ILO’s centenary. We at the same time celebrate the existing of the 60 years of the ILO in Africa. We are gathered here in Nyagatare today and joining millions of people all over the world celebrating this Labour Day” said Chibebe.

According to him, the International Labour Organization was born 100 years ago during the time of upheaval from the world war. Working people were demanding fair treatment and dignity in work, adequate wages, an eight-hour working day and freedom of association. Indeed, in the first words of the constitution of the International Labour Organization, it is written “Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice. Its tripartite governance model is a source of strength and legitimacy. Workers, employers, and governments come together through dialogue for shared solutions. Through its tripartite consultative and governance model, the ILO has consistently been able to put its finger on the pulse on people’s concerns.

ILO Director for East Africa Wellington Chibebe giving his remark.

He added that through conflict and peace, democracy and dictatorship, decolonization and the Cold War, globalization and turbulence, the ILO has played a central role in the struggle for social progress.

“In recent years, the ILO has been out front in recognizing the need to build a fair globalization that expands opportunities, reduces inequalities, and answers people’s demands for the opportunity for decent work – a concept which itself is firmly embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ILO has been a trusted voice to expand opportunities for young people opening doors and breaking glass ceilings for women and ensuring social justice in every corner of our world”said Chibebe.

He emphasised that the focus of the ILO’s Centenary celebrations is on the “Future of Work”.

“We are living in a time of profound uncertainty, disruption and technological transformation. Innovations such as artificial intelligence will help power economies and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

He however mentioned that at the same time, countries will face tremendous disruption in the labour market – with an enormous amount of jobs created and jobs destroyed.

“Even the concept of work will change – and the relationship between work, leisure and other occupations too. We are not yet prepared for that.  We obviously need a massive investment in education -- but also a different sort of education - not just learning things but learning how to learn. We need a new generation of support and social protection policies for the people.  We need to show that we care, for those impacted negatively by technological transformation. We need to mobilize governments and all actors like never before. This calls for human-centered approach to the Future of Work that reinvigorates the social contract in the digital age” he explained.

Delegates during Labour Day celebrations.

Since the digital economy operates in a world without borders, more than ever, international institutions must play a vital role in shaping the future of work.

“Let us make the most of this pivotal anniversary to renew our collective commitment to international cooperation, to peace and to social justice. Rwanda has been part of the discussions to shape the future of work global report and the voices of the Rwandan people have been given due consideration. We commend the contributions of comrade Eric Manzi from CESTRA in the development of the Future of Work Global report” he added

In her Labour Day message, the Minister for Public Service and Lobour, Fanfan Rwanyindo Kayirangwa said the focus is on providing better working conditions for employees in Rwanda

“Today, we focus on the workers of Rwanda. On those men and women who wake up every day to contribute to this great nation, those who are employed, in both the public and private sector, as well as those who have created work for themselves” said Rwanyindo.

“We are in a country where there is peace and security, infrastructure development is booming, ease of doing business. Now what we need is how to capitalize on this and create enough decent jobs,” she said.

Honorable Rwanyindo called for collective efforts to enable the government to meet its target of creating 1.5 million decent jobs under its seven-year program from the end of 2017 to 2024.

She also called on Rwandan workers to love their work, be good time managers and support local production.

Mubera Martin, the chairman of CESTRAR (Rwanda Workers’ Trade Union Confederation) the most influential National Centre in Rwanda with 16 affiliated Rwandan trade unions urged employers to respect labour rights and permit employees to join trade unions.

“Employees should encourage and permit workers to join trade unions because their rights need to be protected plus they need fair treatment and respect at work”

He however said that the future is brighter with laws in place and asked the government to set up minimum wage and establish employee’s pension.

“Workers and employees must be registered for compulsory social security, then after they could take insurance for more protection,” he added.

Among other issues the trade unions federation raised was the need for insurance for workers, as well as social security.

Rwanda has been a member of the International Labour Organization since 1962. The ILO is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, through a decent work agenda.