The call for global collaboration and partnership emerged during online discussions between the UN and private sector employer organizations from Latvia, South Africa, Kenya, Colombia, Latin America, and Bangladesh. The discussion sought to share insights on business needs and expectations on their engagement with the United Nations (UN) and how they could strengthen partnerships with the private sector to expand efforts to minimize economic disruptions.
Kenya represented by Ms. Jacqueline Mugo, the Executive Director, Federation of Kenya Employers and Secretary General, Business Africa decried the challenges facing the country which is highly informal. “Implementing some of the government measures in the informal sector and settlements has not been easy. There is an urgent need and constant conversation about what can be done jointly.”
Ms. Mugo noted that the sustainability of enterprises was also at risk due to the high number of SMEs that were on the verge of collapse yet they were the source of livelihood for many. She echoed other speaker’s emphasis on global solidarity and especially to those affected in fragile economies like Kenya. “In this situation, there is an urgent need to support businesses to prevent bankruptcies and to help keep people in jobs,” she said.
Sharing the experience of managing industrial relations in Kenya, the country has adopted a model that lays emphasis on social dialogue and continuous communication. This is informed by the realization that joint responsibility was needed for dialogue to foster stability. “Through difficult consultations, negotiations and discussions Kenya came up with a memorandum of understanding which has provided a framework for enterprises and unions to address and accommodate in an effort to keep people in jobs and foster stability,” said the Executive Director, FKE.
Out of this, employers have taken a lead role in negotiating agreements with unions to deal with labor relations and challenges brought about by the crisis. The MoU provides a framework for managing social dialogue. For example, looking at options for sending people on unpaid leave, freezing wages and suspending Collective Bargaining Agreements. Previously, these have never been accommodated, but are now the unusual approaches embraced in recognition of the crisis facing all countries.
In the spirit of shared responsibility and global solidarity, Mrs. Mugo called upon the UN to look at measures of not only boosting SMEs, but the informal economy that employs 90% of people in Kenya. Economic stimulus recovery for this segment is very important because despite the fact the Africa has not been deeply affected as the rest of the world, Africa has no shock absorbers like social protection, safety nets or insurance to cushion its economy.
These discussions will help shape policies for employment, economic growth and sustainable development as well as foster partnerships to address emerging challenges.
Other discussants were;