Government of Liberia GOODWILL MESSAGE Delivered by H.E. Joseph N. Boakai, Vice President, R/L At Celebrations Marking World Labor Day Slipway Sports Complex Tuesday, May 1, 11am
Honorable Keynote Speaker and Members of the Legislature;
Madam Minister of Labor and other Officials of Government;
Representatives of International Organizations;
Labor Partners of Government including the Chamber of Commerce representing employers;
The Liberia Labor Congress, representing the Workers of Liberia;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today is International Labor Day. A day set aside to appreciate and honor our workers, and all workers around the world. The history of International Labor Day spams over a century.
It is an important annual event that remembers those who struggled and succeeded to ensure decent and fair working conditions in the world. On behalf of our President, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Government of the Republic of Liberia, I wish to congratulate the working people of our country including those represented by Trade Unions; for their invaluable and indispensable support to the economic recovery process of our country. In the face of worldwide recession and major monetary challenges, we have managed to keep our economy stable, thanks in large measure to sound fiscal policies and the commitment of our workforce.
Throughout the world, International Labor Day is an occasion for Unions, community groups and the general public to join in celebration to reflect on the historic struggle of working people throughout the world for social and economic change. In keeping with this historic importance, the Ministry of Labor in collaboration with its tripartite partners and UN Organizations, commemorate today May 1, 2012 under the universal theme : “Building a Future with Decent Work” and National theme: “Working Together to Make Decent Work a Reality and Must for Liberians.”
This year’s theme accentuates the momentous struggle of workers to put an end to unwholesome labor practices and enhance acceptable social and economic working conditions for the labor pool and to re-invigorate our minds in the advocacy for decent working conditions for our people. For many of us in this Country, work has always been a major route for escaping poverty. From our childhood, we are taught the value of hard work and what it means to earn an honest living. The majority of us have a true understanding of what God meant when He told Adam (in Genesis Chapter 3, Verse 19) “By the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return to the ground…”
As a government, we are aware that eradicating poverty is not solely a question of generating economic growth and employment opportunities but rather making sure that both the quantity and quality of available work is such that it can lead to poverty reduction. The European Union reported a couple of years ago that majority of poor people in the developing world already have jobs: the problem is that these are predominantly in the informal economy, where conditions are usually insecure and incomes inadequate. We believe that by promoting decent work and productive jobs is making conscious decisions for strengthening democracy, supporting social cohesion and contributing to economic growth.
In many developing countries (such as ours), the informal sector of the economy has a high proportion of the working population. And the informal sector is typically where working arrangements are not recognized or protected by law. This type of work is typically characterized by low income, poor working conditions, lack of representation, inadequate social protection and lack of rights. We therefore cannot have an honest and open discussion on the question of decency in the workforce without taking a keen look at the informal sector.
In 2002, the International Labor Organization found that while it may be true that vulnerability and insecurity of employment are a defining characteristic of informal work; informality covers a wide range of working arrangements from self-employed (including yanna-boys, wheel-borrow pushers, waiter-marketer, and other petty traders, as well as rural workers (including home workers and contributing family members). And in this area, we find a lot of our young people who proudly working to meet their needs instead of begging in the streets or from office to office.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has asked me to reaffirm this administration’s commitment and determination to provide our youth with the largest number of options and the greatest freedom possible to develop as individuals, by providing better opportunities to join the workforce; particularly in a region where so many men and women face unemployment, inequality and poverty. As part of our strategy to achieve that objective, we must provide opportunities to our youth to help them acquire the training and skills necessary to make them more marketable and employable. While we are strengthening our higher institutions of learning and opening more community colleges, we are also building up vocational training centers.
Recently, the Government paid for all 250 slots at the Humanity First Vocational Training Center, thereby offering our young people the prospect to attend free of charge and acquire professional training in Mechanism, Carpentry, Plumbing, Auto mechanics, and Masonry. At the same time, the Monrovia Vocational Training Center is undergoing major renovation (thanks to the Chinese), and we are in talks to reopen the Liberia Opportunity Industrialization Centers around Liberia. Thinking about work and youth makes sense because it has social, economic and political implications.
In conclusion, let me congratulate Liberia’s first female Minister of Labor, Honorable Vabah K. Gayflor, the ILO, Liberia Labor Congress, Liberia Chamber of Commerce, UN Partners, for such an outstanding celebration which marks the beginning of an era of close collaboration of stakeholders in our Labor sector. Businesses have an important role as a social partner and a key responsibility for implementing the principles of decent work in terms of adhering to the law and to international standards. But we are also aware that even the well intentioned businesses need constant reminder and in some cases, coercion.
Let me assure you again, that you have our fullest commitment as a Government in ensuring that the Decent Work Bill currently before the 53rd Legislature is passed into law which will guarantee decent work for our people. Workers of Liberia, Employees, this is your day. Enjoy it. Look backwards at the achievements your forebears accomplished, to your benefit. Look forward also to the future, to see what contributions you can make to the progress, productivity and happiness of your families, your children’s futures, to your nation.
Yes, we are all in this together! In one way or another, every single person is a worker, an employee. Therefore, we should all be sensitive to the concerns and the welfare of workers and employees.
Congratulations to our working class. Thanks for being the engine that keep Liberia going.
Happy Labor Day! And May the Almighty God always bless us, protect our sovereignty, unify us, preserve our dignity and keep us safe!
I thank you!