West African labour movement under the umbrella of the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa, OTUWA, has identified the need to strengthen the regional body of the movement, thus converging in Abuja last week to brainstorm on ways of achieving the needed result.
The regional body was particularly concerned that the movement which is at the infant stage of revival is not getting the required support to move the body to the next level of unionism.
Speaking at a two-day delegate conference of the organisation in Abuja, the Chairman of the organisation, Mr. Alex Bonni, reminded the delegates from across West Africa and few from East Africa of the critical role of a united movement in the realisation of the Decent Work Agenda, as being championed by the United Nations.
He said, “With the support of all present in this conference, we are hopeful that our various governments will have no option than to yield to our demand of the movement targeted at improving the working conditions of the people.”
In a remark, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, commended the leadership of regional body for the revival of OTUWA, describing it as a significant milestone that cannot be overlooked. “The theme of this Conference, “Uniting Workers to Promote Regional Integration in West Africa”, is germane, most especially at this time that regional integration and cooperation is a worldwide phenomenon, inspired by the success of the European experience.
Comrade Wabba highlighted regional integration as a process in which neighbouring states enter into an agreement in order to upgrade cooperation through common institutions and rules. The objectives of the agreement could range from economic to political to environmental, although, it has taken the form of political economy initiative where commercial interests are the focus.
“Past efforts at regional integration have often focused on removing barriers to free trade in the region, increasing the free movement of people, labour, goods, and capital across national borders, reducing the possibility of regional armed conflict through confidence and adopting cohesive regional stances on policy issues, such as the environment, climate change and migration.”
He said that NLC had offered to host the OTUWA Secretariat and provide logistics support for its initial take off for one year as part of its commitments to the existence of a formidable West African regional trade union organisation.
To this end, he said that NLC shall continue to play a vital role in the sustenance of OTUWA and other African regional trade union organisations for the benefits of the workers in the sub-region and Africa as a whole.
“Regional aspirations as shared by West African statesmen, intellectuals, and citizens alike reflect a general desire to break the confines of the nation-state, and a denial of all that divides the region, including the multiple barriers to the free movement of goods and services, people, and capital among countries, and differences in legal, governmental, and educational structures.”
Country Director, International Labour Organisation, ILO, Mr. Dennis Zulu, conveyed the message of the world labour body, assuring them of the support and backing of ILO in seeing the aspiration of the regional body come to reality.
He however charged the participants to use the rear opportunity provided by the conference to proffer solution to the contemporary challenges facing labour movement in their respective countries.
However, the delegates, 200 local and 100 international, are expected to exchange views, share knowledge on how to strengthen the regional established over 43 years without appreciable impact on the lives of workers in the region.
The meeting also provided them with the opportunity to elect new leader to pioneer the affairs of the body.