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New Standard on HIV/AIDS discussed by NAS and Stakeholders

New Standard on HIV/AIDS discussed by NAS and Stakeholders

The National HIV/AIDS Secretariat in collaboration with ILO/AIDS, the Ministry of Employment,  Social Security and Industrial Relations, the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, the Sierra Leone Employers Federation and UNAIDS held a one day consultation on the new International Standard on HIV/AIDS adopted at the 99th Session of the International Labour Conference on 17th June 2010 in Geneva Switzerland with a cross section of the World of Work stakeholders.   Also present were stakeholders from people living with HIV, the media, workers associations, the private and public sectors, the Sierra Leone Parliament.  (Photo: Honourable,  Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Employment, Labour and Social Security, chairing the one day Tripartite World of Work Consultation, on the new labour standard on HIV and AIDS)

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Labour and Industrial Relations gave the key note address and also served as the chairman.

  • The purpose of the consultation was to take stock on the World of Work Response to HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone.
  • Discuss the Recommendation of the new International Labour Standard on HIV and AIDS and the world of work.
  • Empower and give support to National HIV/AIDS Secretariat in Implementing the new recommendations.
  • Come up with a Roadmap for the country that will be binding on the tripartite memberships in implementing the new recommendations.
  • Establish a Joint Tripartite Plus Committee to serve as a technical working group that would work with the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat to be reviewing the implementation of the new  recommendations.

Two key presentations were made.  The first presentation on the overview of the World of Work Response was done by the Director of NAS, Dr. Brima Kargbo.  The second presentation was done by the Deputy Director, Mr. Abdul Rahman Sessay.  The presentation was on the new Instrument.  The processes it went through before its adoption and the content of the new instrument.

 “Responding to the HIV epidemic at work in Sierra Leone does not rest only on Government but the employers and workers organizations in creating an enabling environment, strengthening the national workplace policy on HIV/AIDS and legal framework to address stigma and discrimination and support workplace interventions,” the chairman said.

Continuing, the chairman noted that “When all of us agree to these tenets, then we can safely say that we are on the road to creating the change. This is not an impossible task. We have the foundations that we can strengthen and continue to build on to realize this change.” 

He said in April 2005, the tripartite constituents together with other partners met at the Bintumani Hotel and adopted the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS in the world of work.

At the Bintumani meeting, the National AIDS Secretariat was tasked to take the lead in coordinating and mobilizing resources towards the integration of the world of work response into the National strategy.

He said the National AIDS Secretariat has delivered on those responsibilities by developing the National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS. The Secretariat, he went on, has mobilized resources for the world of work response, and has integrated the world workplace coalitions on HIV/AIDS, continued to inform and remind stakeholders on international agreements relating to HIV/AIDS.

”We mandated them but what have we as a tripartite constituent done to encourage them to continue to work hard? I say very little action has been done by our membership”, the minister lamented.

An extract of his speech is produced below:

“We are meeting here this morning in an epoch making event to discuss recommendations on the new International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Implementation of the new Labour standard will strengthen our leadership in the national response to HIV.

Many of our compatriots in workplaces have suffered from premature death or have abandoned their workplaces because of inherent stigma and discrimination at the workplace. Some are living with the virus and dying slowly because they are afraid to come out to seek medication.

If “Nine of Every Ten People Living with HIV will get up today and Go to Work”   according to the Director General of the ILO, should we not make this happen in Sierra Leone when HIV medications are free? We need to promote a united action to enforce both the code and our national workplace policy on HIV/AIDS.  

The Executive Secretary of the Sierra Leone Employment Federation, Leonard Johnson, noted that the ILO has over the years stressed the importance of safeguarding workers through a comprehensive occupational safety and the health programmers and has been advocating for the incorporation of the ILO code of practice on the HIV and AIDS and the world of works in the occupation safety and health programmers of various workplaces.

Indeed, employers are conscious of the huge impact of HIV and AIDS in the workplace,” he noted, adding “It affects mainly people of work age. It reduces the labour force and affects the skill base of enterprises. The direct and indirect costs are huge.

Giving examples, the Executive Secretary said absenteeism and early retirement increased labour costs for employers from health insurance to retraining and reduced productivity.  “As employers’ organizations, we in conjunction with our colleagues in the trade union movement have a leadership role to play in tackling HIV and AIDS in the workplace.         

The Sierra Leone Labour congress as an umbrella trade union organization in this country, has over the years been involved in educating its members on HIV/AIDS prevention through workshops, seminars and condom distribution under Round 6, Objective 11 of the National Intervention of the Global Fund funded programme of the National AIDS Secretariat, both in the Western Area and in all Districts.

As you may be aware, the Labour Movement has specific strengths, including its membership, structures, capacity for education, ability to campaign, experience with health and safety, rights-based approach and negotiation skills.

To address HIV/AIDS, people need prevention, care, support and treatment. Labour activists including the Sierra Leone Labour Congress can help by playing its particular role in all of the work that is needed in addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS in this country.

It is with this in mind that the Labour Congress commends the role of the International Labour Organization and its constituents in addressing workplaces aspects of HIV/AIDS, and also welcomes the adoption of the new ILO Recommendation on “HIV and AIDS and the world of world.

Mr. Chairman, the Executive Secretary went on, colleagues at this consultative meeting, to support the new ILO recommendation on HIV/AIDS and the world of work, the Sierra Leone Labour Congress calls on government to work with its social partners in implementing the new ILO instrument, which underlines that all countries, whatever the infection rate, can benefit from a legal framework that brings HIV-related workplace challenges into the open, protects against discrimination, respects privacy and confidentiality rights, prevents risk of infection at the workplace and ensures the participation of all stakeholders for relevant institutions.”

Dr Brima Kargbo at the World of Work consultation

Above: Dr. Brima Kargbo, Director National HIV and AIDS Secretariat, presenting  at the one day Tripartite World of Work Consultation, on the new labour standard on HIV and AIDS

The outcomes of the consultation were:

  1. Unanimous adoption of the new recommendation.
  2. The establishment of a tripartite plus Committee as a technical working group that would work with the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat to be reviewing the implementation of the new recommendations.
  3. Minister to be joined by the Committee to Brief His Excellency on the New Standard.
  4. Discussion to be held in parliament on the new recommendations.
  5. Cabinet to discuss the new recommendations .
  6. Ministry of Labour to fast track the review of the Laws to incorporate this new recommendation and HIV issues.
  7. To put in place mechanisms to enforce the new recommendations.
  8. ILO to provide technical and financial support to assist Government implement the new recommendations.
Participants, at the one day Tripartite World of Work Consultation, on the new labour standard on HIV and AIDS

Participants, at the one day Tripartite World of Work Consultation, on the new labour standard on HIV and AIDS

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