By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Labour and Social Security, Alpha O. Timbo has said that the country’s labour laws and ordinances do not adequately respond to modern day world of work generally and for the country and thus said there is need to review them adding that they have been there since the colonial period.
Alpha O. Timbo made this statement on Tuesday 14th June whilst giving the keynote address at the Family Kingdom Hall in Freetown during the opening of the three day stakeholder’s consultative workshop on the review of the labour laws in the country.
He said that his Ministry together with partners like the country’ Labour Congress, the Sierra Leone Employers Federation and other partners have been undertaken consultative workshops and meetings across the nation in places like Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Portloko adding that the three day workshop in the capital is the final consultative gathering on the review of the West African nation’s labour laws.
‘’ Any work place must have the two main personnel that is an employer at some point referred to as a master and also a worker at some point in our legislation referred to as servant. We are trying to go away with those nomenclatures as a result of modern day practice, therefore, in any work place there exist relationship between an employer and his workers,’’ he said, adding that , it implies that, there must be laws that must regulate such relationship between the two partners.
Minister Timbo added that further to this, these ordinances, and laws the fact that they have not been reviewed in terms penalties for those that violates the provisions of the law we found out that they have been grossly in adequate.
‘’Ladies and gentlemen In view of this, and considering the fact that, it is important that Sierra Leone, is part of the international community, we believed that this state of affairs must not be continued therefore it is not surprising the president Julius Maada Bio and the SLPP government in their preparation of its manifesto we were mindful of this state of affair to the point that in the manifesto,’’ Minister Timbo lamented.
Speaking on behalf of the country Representative of the International Labour Organization in the country, Tonderai Manoto, and Chief Technical Adviser Opportunity Salone Programme said the Sierra Leone government should be congratulated on having made commitments and progress on a number of International Labour Standards related matters adding that the government has so far ratified ten (10) conventions and one (1) protocol in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
‘’on legislative reform, now, it is very positive that the Government wishes to continue on this path and strengthened the national and legal frame work including to give effect to the commitment under ratified conventions with the current legislative reforms ,’’he said .
He said that with the six draft laws, which are the employment bill, the occupational safety and health bill, workers compensation bill and the others, the ILO stands ready to provide the technical comments on these draft laws.
‘’ As you know the ILO provided the technical assistance in the form of a Technical memorandum submitted in the 2018 on the Employment Bill. And the ILO stands ready to provide the technical assistance again on the latest version of the Employment bill,’’ Tonderai Manoto added.
Secretary General of the country’s Labour Congress, Max K. Conteh, thanked the Labour Ministry and other partners for the ongoing consultation it has undertaken adding that the consultation means seeking the opinion and advice of others and that is what he said the Labour Ministry and the Labour Congress have done nationwide and therefore commend the government for providing those resources.
‘’ For Some of us that are aware of the Labour Laws in this country, if you go to memory lane started in 1996 during the SLPP government of Tejan Kabbah at that time the current Minister was the lead for workers and 26 years on, we are still on that so you see how may be it is a lesson in disguise because considering that from 1996 to now, we have not completed,’’ he recalled.
He said that the country’s labour laws were not bad but said the issue is with implementation of the laws of the country, thus urging other stakeholders to take advantage of the review consultation process.
‘’I want to, through the Ministry of Labour to make sure even though we have the best laws but if we don’t implement them what is going on in this country is not something we can write home about . So we might have very good laws but when they are not implemented it makes nothing into the lives of workers. And I can assure you those of us that have gone through the whole exercise, we would be acclaimed all over the world , in terms of what we done , in terms of the laws we want to promulgate, ’’the country’s Labour Congress scribe lamented.
Permanent Secretary of MLSS, Madam Fatmata Mustapha, underscored the importance of the three day programme saying it is geared towards the review of the country’s labour laws adding the review is not only for the country’s labour ministry but for the country as a whole.
She said that because of the country’s obsolete labour laws, it has created series of industrial disputes, unfairness, abuse and harassment, stating that most of the provisions of the current existing labor laws are unresponsive for the modern day needs in the world of work.
Madam Fatmata Mustapha added that, labour is an essential cluster in terms of human capital development that affects economic growth which she said can further develop an economy by expanding the knowledge and skills of its people, thus organizing a consultative workshop therefore, is a step in the right direction with a view of ensuring a comprehensive review of the undermentioned labour laws and ordinances that has not been reviewed for decades.
‘’ One, the definition of wages and Industrial relations Act No. 18 of 1971, the Factories Act No. 2 of 1974, the Employer and employed Act Cap 212 , the trade Union ordinance 1940 Cap 221, The employer registration ordinance cap 213 , the general law business startup act and the government compensation Act 1954,’’ Madam Mustapha lamented.
Madam Mustapha went on to say that the Labour Ministry and its social partners , the Sierra Leone Labour Congress , the Sierra Leone Employers Federation initiated the review process , adding these tripartite bodies have carefully reviewed some of the existing labour laws for which they now have the following bills , the regulation of wages and industrial relations bill, occupational safety and Health Bill, workers Compensation Bill, Work Permit Bill, overseas employment and migrant workers Bill and Employment Bill.
‘’This workshop will ensure that the views of stakeholders in the Labour and employment sector are reflected in this review process and it will always also creates an opportunity to participants to objectively look at the draft bills and make recommendation with the aim of improving the provisions and sections of the bill. It is my conviction that the reviewed labour laws will create a business friendly atmosphere , promote the ease of doing business , foster industrial peace and harmony through social dialogue,’’ the Permanent Secretary further added.