William Alo, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, says increasing minimum wage constituted the most important priorities to fight inequalities in West Africa.
Alo made this known at a meeting of labour experts and general assembly of the ECOWAS with the theme: “Strengthening social dialogue for the promotion of decent work in the ECOWAS region” on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to him, addressing the issue of minimum wage for the working poor in West Africa remains the most potent ways to address inequalities.
He said erosion of workers’ bargaining rights over the last decades explained to a large extent the current divergence between productivity growth and wage increase for a majority of workers.
He said the increased divergence over the years was at the heart of inequalities and could only be addressed through social dialogue.
Alo commended the Economic Community of West African State commission for deepening integration in the sub region.
He lauded the commission in the area of labour administration in the sub region and for consolidating on the gains of the forum since it was established in 2011.
He said that the role of the general assembly in the development of ECOWAS labour and employment policy and its youth employment action plan were worthy of emulation.
He said that the theme of the meeting came at a time when the prerequisite for social dialogue were being undermined.
The Permanent Secretary listed the prerequisites that were being undermined to include freedom of association and collective bargaining by some employers in the sub region.
He said: “It is on this premise that I passionately appeal to the tripartite partners and other stakeholders to always opt for dialogue and consultation in all situations.
“So together, solutions may be found for problems faced by workers and employers alike.”
Alo said that social dialogue as one of the core pillars of the decent work agenda could play an important in linking employment with trade and economic policies.
According to him, it interacts with all parts of the economic and social development of a country and is a central element in a policy strategy.
He said that social dialogue and collective bargaining were veritable tools in addressing inequality, minimising the incidence of working poor and ensuring fair wage distribution.
He said that it would also help to tackle informality in the ECOWAS sub region.
Alo however said that the Nigeria government had created unfettered space for social dialogue, adding that workers vulnerability arising from the new economic environment took many forms with joblessness as the most severe.