7 June

International Labour Conference

International Labour Conference Speach Addresses by Mr. Josef Bugeja, Secretary General – General Workers’ Union (Malta) on 7 June 2016:

 

Mr Chairman, Vice-Chairs, Distinguished delegates, In 2008, the International Labour Organization unanimously adopted the Declaration on Social Justice for Fair Globalization. This declaration set out various targets aimed at giving a strong social dimension to globalization, the aim of which was to achieve decent living for all based on the Decent Work Agenda. This years’ conference holds the important and significant goal of evaluating the impact of this declaration and the way forward in permanently eradicating global poverty. The Director General report challenge and provoke our full and effective commitment to fight global poverty in the framework of the 2030 Agenda which embodies a holistic approach to the development and respect for human dignity.

 

1) Implementing such a far-reaching agenda presents a complex challenge but also a unique opportunity to redefine and strengthen the way the global community works together. This global challenge can only be achieved through social dialogue, between all stake holders on how to implement the Social Development Goals as listed in the declaration. The promotion of an inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. The goal is to stimulate economic growth and investments in which decent jobs generate the adequate purchasing power for a decent living. Succeeding in achieving these goals at national level requires a framework of institutions, social partners’ organizations, strong labour laws, and a strong culture of social dialogue. Decent work together with social progress is a key element for the creation of economic growth, peace and prosperity. For the national states, the declaration means ratifying and respecting the ILO’s core conventions, including the right to organise, the right to negotiate and the right to strike, and recognising social dialogue as an essential part of the democratic form of government. For the trade union movement this means defending and improving working conditions and workers’ rights but also acting responsibly, bearing in mind the overall development of all employees, companies and society.

 

2) For employers, it means respecting these rights in practice, accepting their social responsibility and being prepared not to let profits over ride the eight social development goals as set out in the declaration. The Decent Work Agenda sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves access to lifelong education, opportunities for work that are productive, a fair income based on respectable working conditions of equality, equal pay for jobs of equal value, human dignity, security and safety at the workplace and social protection for the worker and their families. However, whilst applauding all the efforts made towards bringing global poverty to the attention of the international community, it is depressing to note that in developing and emerging economies over a billion working people were either living in extreme poverty or in near poverty in 2015. In the advanced economies, the share of the population living in absolute poverty, according to national definitions, actually increased by one percentage point between 2007 and 2011. In countries most affected by the financial crisis and the policies adopted to counter it, those poverty rates doubled. This makes poverty a genuinely universal challenge; all the more so since income poverty is strongly correlated with other expressions of poverty and increases exposure to unhealthy or dangerous living.

 

3) poor working conditions and as the Director General himself declared; poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere. On the Maltese local scene, social dialogue is strong and vibrant. Social partners are involved in the development of national policies. We are experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The national government successfully implemented a number of policies aimed at increasing female participation and motivate unemployed persons to enter the labour market. These include free childcare facilities, in work benefits and incentives for job creation. As a matter of fact according to statistical figures the unemployment rate in Malta is at its lowest since 1980. Furthermore to tackle poverty the government implemented various initiatives to improve the living conditions of pensioners including an increase in pensions. The government also invited social partners to discuss the national minimum wage. In May, to celebrate Workers’ Day, social partners organised a joint press conference committing them self to promote integration of foreign workers in the workplace. The GWU takes poverty very seriously and has never ceased from its efforts of attempting to convince successive Maltese governments to act strongly and stop the trend of low-paid work and precarious indecent working conditions.

 

4) Acknowledging that there are still several obstacles to eradicate precarious employment nevertheless it is satisfactory to note that various legislative measures have been implemented by the Government as proposed by the GWU aimed at curbing exploitation of workers and improving working conditions for workers in sub-contracting agencies. This proves a growing sense of commitment between the Maltese government and Maltese social partners to do whatever it takes to improve the living conditions of all citizens with particular attention on those who have fallen below the poverty line and those who are at risk of poverty Finally as the director general report declares all of us should do our utmost to implement “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity”.