Tuesday, June 17, 2014


The WOW delegation on the ILO Conference 2014 in Geneva together with two guests. From left to right standing: WOW President Roel Rotshuizen, CNV International Programme Officer Marjolein Groenewegen, WOW Vice-President Maritza Chireno also President of the Latin American Federation for Workers in the Commercial Sector FETRALCOS , Consultant and Trade Unionist Heriberto Ferrer, WOW Vice-President Koffi Agbobe Zounnadjala also Secretary General of the Pan African Federation of Employees FPE, WOW Executive Secretary Bjorn van Heusden. Sitting: WOW World Board member Piet Nelissen

For the first time in the history of WOW a representative of WOW took the floor on the plenary session of the ILO Conference. WOW Vice-President Agbobe Zounnadjala Koffi from Togo, spoke on one of the most important items of the Conference: Facilitating transitions from the informal to the formal economy. Below you find his speech held on Thursday, June 3 at the afternoon, taken from the English spoken translation version on the website of the ILO. On the same page of the ILO website you can find the original spoken French version of the speech as well as a spoken Spanish translation and an original written French version.

WOW Vice-President Koffi Agbobe Zounnadjala waiting for his turn to speak to the audience of the plenary session of the ILO Conference.

Mr. President allow me to address you on behalf of the World Organization of Workers WOW and present our warm congratulations on your election to the presidency of this Conference. The WOW congratulates the Governing Body having placed one of its most important concerns on the agenda of this Conference namely the transition from the informal to the formal economy.

Indeed, because of its high prevalence, the informal economy is a significant break on into the development and the development of the state of law and it has a negative effect on the growth and the sustainability of companies, the social security for workers, the working conditions, public income, the robustness of institutions and fair competition on the national and international market.

Although some workers and some businesses operate within the informal economy in order to avoid the legislation in force most of those involved in the informal economy are not there by choice but because of a lack of opportunities provided by the formal economy and because they lack other ways of earning a living. Informality has many different causes but in many cases it is essentially an issue of governance.

Social security including social protection.

The coverage of social protection has to be extended to all of the workers in the informal economy through social systems and all mechanisms of social insurance. That includes rights to housing, to education, health, food safety, security, water, hygienic services and social protection in case of illness, invalidity, age and death and against the risks inherent to work. Maternity and child care need to be addressed by priority because of the overrepresentation of women in the informal economy.

Koffi Agbobe Zounnadjala speaking at the ILO Conference 2014.

Formalisation of informal labor.

– Legal recognition and protection as workers (for self employed and independent workers)

The rights and advantages of a formal job: lack of discrimination, guarantee of a minimum wage, measures of health and safety at work, contribution by the employer and the state to sickness and pension insurance, right to organize and to negotiate collectively and membership of organizations of workers including trade unions.

Advantages of formal operations for self employed workers:
simplified procedures for registering, progressive taxation system, protection against harassment, access to resources and services and workers rights.

Formalization of informal businesses

legal and regulatory frameworks including contracts, the rights to use land and property, use of public spaces and regulation in health and safety at work.

Advantages of working formally includes: access to information on finance and the market, acces to infrastructures and public services, effective commercial contracts, limited liability, rules for default and for exit from bankruptcy, access to public and government initiatives and subsidies, membership of professional associations, access to a formal social security system. Registry and taxation includes simplified registration procedures and a progressive tax system.

To Conclude

Nothing for us, without us; This is what the workers in the informal sector are calling out. Workers in the informal sector are impatiently expecting the ILO to adopt the recommendation addressing them. They accept that the situation has to change. However, do not forget that this transition has to take place progressively to make it possible for this important part of the economy to maintain its attractiveness and its traditional dynamism and traditional economic strength.”

WOW Vice President Maritza Chireno and Heriberto Ferrer at one of the Workers sessions on the Transitions of the informal to the formal economy.
This year WOW Vice-President Maritza Chireno from Venezuela made also part of the official WOW delegation to the ILO Conference. For the first time in the history the workers delegation of Venezuela was composed unilaterally by the Venezuelan Government together with the official trade union confederation CBST. The trade union confederation CGT of Venezuela of which Maritza Chireno is Secretary General, together with other confederations presented a complaint to the Credentials Committee of the ILO Conference 2014. The Committe writes the following in its second report:

The committee takes note of the fact that the Government chose six organizations to convoke a meeting on 8 may 2012 for the purpose of nominating the Workers' delegation to the Conference. The Government does not deny that the proposal to nominate Ms. Chireno as Workers' delegate was supported by three organizations (more than any other proposal), but that the Government rejected her nomination on the basis that the CBST (the Government sponsored official confederation, note of the redaction) had stated that it was the most representative organization. While the Government provides registry information about the representativity of this one organization, it is not in a position to provide the numbers regarding the other organizations. The Committee considers that the joint proposal therefore could not be ignored by the Government.In the absence of information for the other organizations, the Committee observes that conclusions cannot be drawn about the combined representative force of the objecting organizations. The Committee recalls that, in the absence of an agreement between all most representative organizations, the existence and application of objective and verifiable criteria for determining the representativity of workers' organizations is critical when designating Workers' delegations. In this regard, the Committee recalls that it has repeatedly, in the past, urged the Government to advance in the impartial establishment of objective and verifiable criteria on representativity and the means to implement them that respect freedom of association of organisations. It trusts that with the announcement of a registration system as of 1 of January 2013, the Government will in the future be in a position to establish and implement such criteria. The Committee expects that the Government will ensure that the nomination of the non-governmental delegations at future sessions of the Conference will be in full compliance with article 3, paragraph 5, of the ILO Constitution.”

The question is whether the Venezuelan Government will indeed establish impartial, objective and verifiable criteria on trade union representativity. It seems that the Government uses bureaucratic measures to prevent other trade unions than those that support the Government to be registered at all.

WOW President Roel Rotshuizen and Amrita Sietaram from the ILO ACTRAV Department at one of the workers sessions on the transition of the informal to the formal economy.

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