ILC 2024 Address: Renewed Social Contract

ILC 2024 Address: Renewed Social Contract
Mr Atwoli, Workers' delegate, Kenya, Plenary, Discussion of the Reports of the Chairperson of the Governing Body and of the Director General, 112th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, 5 June 2024.
The Central Organization of Trade Unions (Kenya), COTU (K), Secretary General, Dr. Francis Atwoli, has, today, called for a renewed social contract while making a speech before the plenary of the International Labour Conference (ILC), taking place in Geneva, 3rd – 15th June, 2024.
The International Labour Conference (ILC) is the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) highest
decision-making body. It meets annually, bringing together the tripartite delegations from the
Organization’s 187 Member States and a number of observers from other international actors to
consider a series of topics related to the world of work, placed on its agenda by the Organization’s
Governing Body.
This year’s 112th session of the ILO will will address a wide range of issues, including the protection of workers against the effects of climate change and biological hazards, the care economy and fundamental principles and rights at work. The Conference will also elect members of the ILO Governing Body for the 2024-27 term of office.
Importance of a Renewed Social Contract
Noting the importance of social justice “as an imperative and essential tool for economic growth and peace and stability”, Dr. Atwoli indicated that “a functioning and futuristic Social Contract is fundamental to the existence of just societies.”
Social contract, put simply, is the implicit, or at times explicit, understanding of our collective responsibilities towards each other that finds its expression in the norms, collective institutions and policies that fulfil the promise of the Declaration of Philadelphia that “all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity”.
Dr. Atwoli noted that “adopting and implementing a renewed Social Contract would make sure that workers’ rights are respected, social dialogue becomes the corms in these times of multiple transitions, jobs are decent with minimum living wages and collective bargaining, social protection are enforced.”
Concerns Over Governance and Social Protection
While making reference to the increased conflicts and governance crisis facing numerous countries, Dr. Atwoli indicated that “COTU (K) acknowledges that, over the years, many people across regions are losing trust in the way governance is exercised, whether at the national or international levels. People feel disillusioned and abandoned since they are not benefitting from the gains of our economic progress. This trend is unsustainable and does not portend well for humanity.”
Call for Robust Investment in Social Protection
Highlighting a recent meeting with Mia Seppo, Assistant Director General of the ILO for Jobs and Social Protection, Dr. Atwoli reiterated the need for robust investment in social protection infrastructure, noting that “COTU (K) will continue emphasizing on the importance of the ILO to work together with governments to ensure that there is robust investment in social protection infrastructure not only in Kenya but many other countries of the world.”
ILO’s Role in Addressing Current Challenges
Dr. Atwoli while calling for the reforms within the ILO to make it more relevant and effectice, indicated that “today, more than ever before, we must remind ourselves that the ILO, as the guarantor of social justice, cannot remain indifferent in the face of these challenges. While the ILO has the institutional means at her disposal to spearhead the renewal of the contract, there might be need for a relook into the bureaucracy of the organization with the aim of boosting effectiveness and productivity.”
Importance of Social Dialogue
The speech by the Secretary General highlighted the enduring value of social dialogue as a crucial tool for navigating industrial relations challenges.
“We must all remember that social dialogue is our time-tested tool which has served us over the years and helped us to successfully navigate many daunting challenges and crisis in industrial relations practice” Dr. Atwoli said.
Focus on Formalizing the Informal Sector
Dr. Atwoli equally called for renewed focus from both the ILO and governments on strategic investments aimed at formalizing the informal sector, recognizing both the challenges and opportunities presented by its growth in Africa.
“I must note that the growth in the informal sector in Africa has brought with it challenges and opportunities at the same time, and COTU (K) calls for a renewed focus by not just the ILO but also governments so as to ensure that there are strategic investments which aim at ensuring the formalization of the informal sector”, indicated Dr. Atwoli.

Jacqueline Kamau

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