Distinguished Members of the Press,
We converge here this morning to brief you on the forthcoming World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which is commemorated on 29th April, and the International Labour Day, which is marked on 1st May every year.
These two days are intertwined as they both speak about issues that affect workers in all categories. It’s therefore no mistake that they closely follow each other.
The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is commemorated as an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus attention on emerging occupational safety and health trends; magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities and on how to make our workplaces safe and healthy. This year’s national theme is “Safety, health and the future of work: Combating vulnerability of the Youth”.
The theme is embedded in this year’s campaign which highlights the critical importance of addressing the challenges the young workers face.
The theme also calls for strategies aimed at improving safety and health at work through promotion of decent youth employment and building a culture that fronts Occupational Safety and Health (OSH).
Decent work focuses on providing opportunities for work that are productive and deliver a fair income, job security and social protection for families.
Decent work similarly presents better prospects for personal development and social integration; freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives; and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
This year’s campaign is also aimed at accelerating action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG target No. 8.8) of safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030.
The National Housing Survey 2016/17 indicates that 21% (about 7.77 million) of the entire population are youth. The National Labour Force Survey report (NLFS) 2016/17 estimates that 57.3% (5.7 million) of a total labour force are youth. Pertaining to safety and health performance, ILO records indicate that working youth suffer up to a 40% higher rate of non-fatal occupational injuries than adult workers older than 25 years. Injury to young workers not only leads to loss of productive time, loss in investment time in education but also a lifetime of lost or compromised career opportunities, potential earnings and general well-being for him or herself, his or her dependents and the community at large. Most of the world’s work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses are preventable. Therefore all efforts need to be put on the following arrears:-
- timely collection and effective utilisation of relevant Occupational Safety and Health data;
- mainstreaming occupational safety and health in education curriculum;
- expanding legal frameworks to cover all workers of the economy;
- strengthening the capacity of tripartite partners in safety and health;
- intensifying awareness on safe and healthy work practices;
- maximizing productivity of young workers;
- building a more competent, healthier young workforce;
- reduce business costs and protect brand image and brand value; and, lastly but not least,
- enhance young employees’ commitment and social responsibility to the business.
As we commemorate the 2019 World Day for Safety and Health all stakeholders; Government, Employers, Workers, Civil Society and International community need to be involved in this joint campaign to successfully combat OSH vulnerability of young persons at the workplace. Government has a responsibility of empowering its citizens to maximize their individual and collective potential by developing skills, increasing labor productivity and cultural enrichment to achieve sustainable and gender sensitive development.
All Employers in public and private organisations and enterprises need to appreciate that poor health and safety creates costs for organisations. Employers therefore ought to comply with the regulatory framework, particularly the labour laws. Meanwhile, all workers need to adhere to safe and healthy working procedures.
On the other hand, the International Labour Day is commemorated to honour the contribution workers make towards development across the globe. The day is also used to create national and international awareness on the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of workers. Each year’s celebrations are designed to fit a selected theme and this year’s theme is “promoting employment through enhanced public infrastructure development”.
The theme draws from the fact that public investment in infrastructure like rail, roads, power dams and power transmission, oil refinery, apart from creating jobs on their own, will eventually continue to bring down the cost of doing business, which will in turn attract private investment and create more jobs for the people of Uganda. It’s undisputable that infrastructure development has a multiplier effect on investment and job creation.
The International Labour Day 2019 theme relates to the challenges that the Country has been experiencing in provision of decent employment opportunities and job creation. Furthermore, the theme is in line with the aspirations of the second National Development Plan (NDPII) which aims to propel the country towards middle income status by 2020 through strengthening the country’s competitiveness for sustainable wealth creation, decent employment and inclusive growth.
The theme thus calls on Government, all category of investors and other stakeholders to redesign and review their policies, laws, strategies and programs with the view of increasing job and employment opportunities for the working age population that increased to 19.1 million in 2016/17 from 16.5 million in 2012/13 as reported in the Uganda Bureau of Statistics National Household Survey 2016/17.
Some of the critical actions required for optimizing the employment impacts of infrastructure projects include:-
- sustaining the ongoing government efforts to implement the strategic infrastructure and industrial projects identified in the National Development Plan II;
- developing national guidelines on mainstreaming employment creation in infrastructure projects;
- integrating employment impact assessment in social impact assessment of infrastructure projects;
- making employment creation one of the measurable indicators of success of every infrastructure project;
- encouraging adoption of technology that support both efficiency and high employment impact of infrastructure projects; and
- promoting social safeguards in infrastructure projects including promotion and protection of workers in infrastructure projects.
As I conclude, I wish all the workers of Uganda happy and peaceful celebrations of the Occupational Safety and Health at Work Day, and the International Labour Day.
I take this opportunity to invite all of you to the National Celebrations of Occupational Safety and Health to be held at Kampala Capital City Authority grounds at Lugogo in Nakawa Division on Monday, 29th April 2019.
Thereafter, all roads will lead to Patongo Akwee Primary School Playground in Patongo Town Council in Agago District where the national ceremony for the International Labour Day will be held.
All preparations are in high gear at both national and district level, and we look forward to hosting you all as we celebrate the workers.