Uganda’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Pius Bigirimana’s profile continues to get elevated after he was appointed Chief Negotiator for Africa at the International Labour Organisation (ILO’s) Standard Setting Committee on Ending Violence at Work.
This happened at the ongoing annual International Labour Conference that got under way in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.
The committee comes into existence as the ILO embarks on a process geared towards the adoption of possible new standard or standards on prevention and protection against violence and harassment at work.
The standards are meant to protect workers, whatever their occupation, and whether in formal or informal, urban or rural areas. The committee will negotiate a guiding framework on how to prevent and address effectively violence and harassment at work.
Its deliberations will culminate into issuance of new instrument or instruments to meet the current needs of work, but also responsive to the new risks concerning violence and harassment at work.
The move has been described as “timely and groundbreaking” because never before has the ILO or any international organization adopted a norm on violence and harassment in the world of work.
In his opening statement as Chief Negotiator for Africa, Bigirimana noted that violence in the world of work remains a global challenge and it therefore presents a strong case for an international labour standard.
“It’s a considered view of the Africa Group that the international standard should take the form of a Convention supplemented by a Recommendation because a Convention leaves no doubt about the international community’s commitment to influence domestic or municipal legislation towards ending violence and harassment in the world of work.” Bigirimana submitted.
He further stated that a Convention opens up state parties to scrutiny by the international Labour Organisations Committee on the Application of Standards, which over the years has proved to be an effective vehicle of securing compliance with international standards.
He also noted that because of cultural differences, accommodation, understanding and tolerance would be necessary especially on the issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexual (LGTBI). He then advised the meeting that where because of cultural relativism a common position is not reached on the issue of LGBTI, the Convention should provide for member states adopting municipal legislation that take into account their national contexts but without seeking to impose their national values on others.
He also stated for avoidance of doubt and in line with previous United Nations practice that, the expression of LGTBI should not appear in the proposed Convention and supplementary Recommendation.
Bigirimana is part of the Government of Uganda delegation led by Hon. Janat B. Mukwaya, the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Other members of the Uganda delegation include Mr. Peter Werikhe, Secretary General National Organisation of Trade Unions and Mr. Douglas Opio, the Executive Director of the Federation of Uganda Employers.