The EAC Secretariat, with support from the ILO, successfully organised the much-awaited Forum of Ministers responsible for Labour and Employment from 25th -29th October 2021. The Forum of Ministers on 29th was the peak, after other two sessions of technical officials; Directors/experts for labour from 25th - 27th October 2021, Permanent Secretaries and under Secretaries on 28th October 2021), who deliberated on various labour and employment issues and prepared the report/recommendations for consideration by the forum of minister on 29th
The meeting, organized for the first time since 2009, was convened to review progress made in the implementation of recommendations of the previous meetings of the forum of ministers responsible for labour and employment. Of critical importance, is the recommendation for the establishment of the Sectoral Council on labour and employment, which will enable Ministers of Labour, under the council of ministers to address their observations and recommendations direct to Summit of Presidents. Other issues that came up for consideration include; EAC partnership and collaboration with International Labour Organization (through the MoU signed in 2018) including the EAC Decent Work Programme; coordination of social security benefits in the East Africa community, and proposal for partner states to ratify ILO Convention 190; Regional Labour Migration Policy; and Social Protection.
ILO East African Director, Mr. Wellington Chibebe stressed the importance of coordinated action regarding EAC labour laws and decent work mandate during his opening speech given on behalf of Ms. Cynthia Samuel – Olonjuwon ILO Assistant Director, General / Regional Director for Africa.
“I have noticed with keen interest the issues that were tabled for discussion. They include issues such as social security benefits; free movement of labour and rights of establishment and residence; labour migration; youth employment; and the convention 190. Further, this forum will discuss the formulation of the EAC Decent Work Programme, and the collaboration with the ILO.”
In his remarks, the EAC Secretary General, Hon. Dr Peter M. Mathuki commended Honourable Ministers responsible for Labour and Employment together with their delegations for their continued efforts in the implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol to facilitate free movement of goods, persons, workers and service. He urged them to consider approval of the EAC Labour Migration Policy to among others, to provide guidance for Partner States to harmonise their national policies, laws and frameworks for realizing the EAC Common Market Protocol provisions particularly those related to labour and employment. He thanked the ILO for assistance and coordination of the meeting, highlighting that the last of such meetings was held in 2009. He recommended that the Ministers should consider recommending for elevation of the forum to a Sector Council level, so that meeting are held per protocol requirements.
After the four day dialogue on key labour and employment issues, the forum on the 5th day, Ministers for Labour and Employment considered on a high note and agreed on the following for consideration by the council;
- Take note of progress made in implementation of previous decisions, directives and recommendations, direct Partner States and EAC Secretariat to implement outstanding decisions, directives and recommendations and report progress to the next Council and Forum of Ministers and direct EAC Secretariat to allocate more funds to Labour Sector
- Recommend to the Council of Ministers to establish the Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for Labour, Employment and Migration and direct the EAC Secretariat to present the Terms of Reference for the proposed Sectoral Council for consideration by the 41st Ordinary Council of Ministers
- Take note of the progress made on the finalization of draft EAC Council directive on Coordination of Social Security Benefits, and direct the EAC Secretariat to expedite the finalization of the draft Council Directive on Coordination of Social Security Benefits
- Direct the EAC Secretariat to expedite the development of the Action Plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the EAC Common Market Scorecard 2018 and recommend to the Council of Ministers to direct Partner States to implement the recommendations of the EAC Common Market Scorecard (CMS) 2018
- take note of the progress of the Assessment of Social Protection in the Republic of South Sudan and direct the EAC Secretariat to finalise the Assessment by June 2022
- Take note of the progress made on the development of the Draft EAC Labour Migration Policy, adopt the draft policy for circulation to Partner States by the EAC Secretariat and direct the EAC Secretariat to mobilise resources for implementation of the Labour Migration Policy
- Approve the Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation amongst the EAC Partner States on the Exchange of Young Workers Programme and direct the EAC Secretariat to circulate the draft Joint Programme to encourage the Exchange of Young Workers among the EAC Partner States and the draft Terms of Reference of the Tripartite Technical Working Group to Partner States for comments
- take note of the status of implementation of the East African Manpower Survey and direct the EAC Secretariat in consultation with Partner States to conduct Manpower surveys every five (5) years starting 2023
- take note of the provisions of the ILO Convention No 190 on Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 and urge Partner States to consider ratification of the Convention
- take note of the signed MoU between EAC and ILO, direct the EAC Secretariat to implement the MoU and urge the ILO to consider supporting the EAC Secretariat, Department of Labour with technical personnel
Mr. Chibebe concluded with thanking the EAC Ministers of Labour for their continued hard work and pledged the ILO’s support in implementing the various issues adopted during the forum.