By Joan Nwagwu
The Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) says West African region is facing chronic lack of resources required to mitigate the excruciating effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
OTUWA President, Mr Mademba Sock said this at the opening session of a two-day Sub-regional Workshop on COVID-19 and Post Lockdown Socio-Economic Recovery in West Africa on Monday in Abuja.
“In our subtregion, we are faced with a chronic lack of resources to reflate the public service at a time of a pandemic when this is needed for the type of direct cash transfers we saw in the developed western nations.
”We have seen how billions of dollars have been deployed by the developed western nations to buy up and stockpile hundreds of millions of vaccines against COVID-19.
”This leaves hundred of million of people from the developing nations with virtually none of these vaccines.
”Not only are these vaccines not available for our people, they are also expensive and our government have largely depended on hand outs from donations into a central pool called Covax Initiative. “he said.
He said the workshop would review the effort being made across the subregion by ECOWAS and individual national government to make the vaccine available to tens of millions of ECOWAS citizens.
He said that the workshop would review the economic measures being put in place by the various government in the subregion to stimulate investment in the economics of countries in large, small and medium size enterprises.
Ms Vanessa Phala, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Country Director for Nigeria, noted that COVID-19 had wrecked unprecedented havoc to health, economic and social life in almost all countries of the world, including the rich industrialised countries.
Phala said there was a need for strong tripartite respond to the COVID-19 pandemic “and it’s related impact on the world of work which is the Global Call adopted by the ILO.”
”The global call which underlines the need for supporting a human-centred recovery. It also highlights the policies that are needed to shape a global response to the pandemic that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient.
”It calls for international cooperation and urgent solidarity to roll out vaccines and provide adequate financial support, including debt relief, to counter the employment impact of crisis and strengthen social protection,” she said.
Phala therefore called on policymakers to strive to support a robust recovery and broad-based, focusing on employment, income, workers’ rights and social dialogue.
She said that policymakers needed to consider among other issues, policies for ensuring that hard-hit groups, notably young people, women, the low-paid and low-skilled workers were supported in finding decent work opportunities and that they do not suffer any long-term “scarring effects”.
“It is the role of OTUWA and affiliates to ensure that recovery strategies are based on social dialogue, that promote a transition to a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world of work,”she said.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, the President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), stressed the need for government to specially invest heavily in protecting jobs, providing effective and efficient healthcare due to the contrary situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wabba, represented by its Head of Information by Mr Benson Upah, urged governments and organised private sector to explore strategic partnership options to revive ailing companies to restore jobs and preserve common heritage.
“We call on the appropriate governments at all levels to reduce corruption in the system and cost of governance. We cannot pretend that things are still what they used to be.
“Nonetheless, we find it necessary to say that time has come for people in the sub region to take more seriously issues of governance and accountability in democracies.
”We are not armchair critics, either are we agents of doom. We did make our modest contributions during the COVID lockdown, and even till this afternoon.
“We had a robust advocacy campaign on the dangers of COVID virus, the dangers of COVID virus to the economy and how to preserve jobs during COVID lockdown and its aftermath.
” We issued statements and we wrote to the appropriate authorities on the need to stratify the interventions in such a way a manner that at the end of the day, we would have a win-win situation, among others,” he said.(NAN)