#HLPF17 - Highlights Day 2

On Day 2 of the High Level Political Forum 2017, Deputy General Secretary of the ITUC, Wellington Chibebe took part in two events. Throughout his interventions, DGS Chibebe illustrated that trade unions are not just shouting from the terraces, but offering concrete solutions towards achieving SDGs and Targets.

DGS Chibebe’s interventions drew from the Trade Union Focus on SDGs work that has recently been completed by TUDCN members at the national level. He also highlighted many of the recommendations put forward in the Worker and Trade Union Major Group Submission to the 2017 HLPF. Strong emphasis was given to the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda as an effective rights based framework for achieving many SDGs and Targets, including the elimination of poverty, especially in-work poverty, and achieving gender equality.

During the first of the two events, the first plenary review of SDG implementation on SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere, DGS Chibebe brought a strong message that people, communities and countries can lift themselves out of poverty, improve livelihoods, engage in local development and live together in peace – and meet the SDG 1 objectives through job creation, strong social protections systems and quality public services, better working conditions and access to democratic decision making. In his intervention, he unpacked the pillars of decent work, noting that they are indivisible and mutually reinforcing.

Mr Chibebe began by saying that people need to be fairly compensated and that there is a need for minimum living wages to be established through a statutory rule-setting process, with the close involvement of social partners, emphasising the need for strong social dialogue.

He went on to highlight that all states should ensure collective bargaining rights in order to achieve fair wages above the minimum wage level. Accordingly, workers should have the right to organise, join trade unions, and negotiate appropriate wages and compensation for their work with their employers and national collective bargaining systems are essential tools to narrow wage differentials and reduce overall inequality. It was further highlighted that the ability of social protection systems to combat poverty and promote inclusive growth is widely recognised.

Finally, DGS Chibebe noted that quality public services form a cornerstone of efforts to end poverty and that austerity measures and cuts to public services seen in recent years must be reversed. It is not only a matter of governments delivering on their obligations, but of using some of the most effective tools for combatting multidimensional poverty. Mr Chibebe finished by putting forward an example of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and exclusion, and supporting social mobility and decent livelihoods through free quality primary and secondary education.

DGS Chibebe intervention starts at 1:08:00

In his final intervention during the Thematic review: Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world: Multi-stakeholder perspectives DGS Chibebe, drew attention to the Trade Union Focus on the SDGs where trade unions identified the challenges to realising the SDGs and Targets while proposing certain recommendations. Acknowledging that the challenges are numerous, it was noted that they could be overcome through greater transparency, inclusion and dialogue. The intervention highlighted the challenges, such as in-work poverty, to achieving SDG 1 on ending poverty, SDG 3 on ensuring occupational safety and health, and SDG 5 on eliminating the gender pay gap and removing barriers to womens access to decent work.

On SDG 1, it was noted that the working poor account for more than 700 million people, and thus meeting SDG 1 by 2030 will be impossible if this issue is left unaddressed. To this end, Mr Chibebe suggested that implementing and enforcing a statutory minimum wage allows people to live with dignity and is essential to reducing poverty.

On SDG 3 it was put forward that occupational health and safety is a critical issue for workers, which can only be realised if jobs are decent and workers’ rights are respected. He said achieving high occupational health and safety standards is a shared responsibility among the social partners and governments and should be part of national health plans. However, Mr Chibebe noted, governments are tasked with the responsibility to enforce occupational health and safety standards and businesses should be encouraged to invest in these standards for their workers throughout the entirety of the supply chain.

On SDG 5 DGS Chibebe referred to the ILO Global Wage Report 2016/2017 which shows that increasing minimum wages has the potential to help reduce the gender pay gap, particularly for those at the bottom of the wage distribution scale. When determined through tripartite consultations, with workers and employers, minimum wages have the ability to reduce inequalities with no significant impact on overall job creation. It was underlined that this requires respect for the fundamental rights of workers, such as freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Mr Chibebe went on to note that women’s unpaid work, at a conservative estimate, contributes 10 trillion USD a year globally, or 13 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP). He underscored that women worldwide tend to assume greater responsibility for unpaid care work as they retain a disproportionate role in caring for the young, sick and elderly. This imposes a double burden of paid and unpaid work. He suggested governments seeking to expand employment would do well to increase public investment aimed at improving care infrastructure.

The responses to these challenges are complex but the labor movement considers it essential to bring national laws and enforcement practices on freedom of association, the right to organise and bargain collectively, and non-discrimination into compliance with ILO core labour standards and promote social dialogue between employers and workers. Mr Chibebe closed by saying that this would set the essential legal foundation needed to establish and sustain social partnership; to negotiate wage and social protection frameworks to eliminate poverty; to promote gender equality in the world of work; and to provide critical tools to the most vulnerable workers to lift themselves off the sinking floor of poverty, including informal workers, migrant workers, ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, and the disabled.

DGS Chibebe intervention starts at 21:20

Find out all about trade unions participation in the HLPF 2017 here.