February 11, 2021
By Aminata Phidelia Allie, Information Officer,
Ministry of Labour and Social Security
The United States Embassy in Sierra Leone has on Tuesday, 9th
February, 2021, paid a visit to the Ministry of Labour and Social
Security in what they themed “an experience sharing visit”.
The Embassy’s Political Officer, Lizzie ORourke, explained that they needed an insight into the country’s labour laws because they too were involved in Human Rights issues and held shared values with the ministry. She said they were eager to know about labour laws and policies such as the Migration Policy, Child Labour, and the Labour Inspection Services Gazette 2020.
The Minister of Labour and Social Security, Alpha Osman Timbo, welcomed the team from the US Embassy and informed them that the ministry has been very proactive in resolving labour issues around the country.
He noted that as a result of the proactive nature of the ministry, there has been a decline in violations of labour laws by employers and employees.
He emphasised that the ministry had placed premium on labour education in order to educate employers and employees to understand their roles and responsibilities as stipulated by law.
Speaking on Child Labour issues, the Acting Deputy Director of Occupational Health and Safety, Abdul Karim Conteh, explained that the Child Labour Unit was established in 2010 to tackle child labour issues in Sierra Leone.
He said that the government had already ratified several Child Labour Conventions and had in 2011 conducted a National Child Labour Survey in collaboration with the International Labour Organization to ascertain the number of children involved in child labour activities across the country.
“According to data from the above survey, about 45.9 percent of children in Sierra Leone are involved in
Child Labour,”Mr. Conteh pointed out.
The Acting Deputy Director informed the US Embassy that the ministry was yet to conduct a similar survey, although some aspects of child labour had been captured in surveys conducted by Statistics Sierra Leone.
Mr Conteh said that the ministry currently has a Technical Steering Committee on Child Labour which comprises of the Ministries of Social Welfare, Agriculture, Information, as well as, Employers’ Federation and Workers’
However, he noted, some of the challenges facing the Unit’s operations include the ministry being limited to conduct labour inspections on only the formal sector. He also highlighted the financial vulnerability of most parents whose children are involved in child labour.
Moses Bassie Conteh, Senior Labour and Employment Officer/Head of Migration Unit,explained that the Unit works to ensure safe and dignified labour migration, with the guide of the National Labour Migration Policy. He said that the policy had been popularized in 11 districts.
He further explained that a Bill, titled ‘The Overseas Employment and Migrants Act’, had been developed and presently in Parliament awaiting enactment. “We are pushing for it to become an Act so that those involved in irregular or illicit labour will be brought to book and tried in courts”, the Senior Labour and Employment Officer said.
Mr. Conteh revealed that the ministry is working on finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding between Sierra Leone and the States Kuwait and Quatar to ensure that there is safe and dignified transfer of manpower.
He also revealed that the ministry is on the verge of establishing Labour Desks at major border crossing points in Lungi, Gbalamuya and Gendema to cross check the inflow and outflow of migrants.
Sinneh Bockarie, who is a Senior Labour and Employment Officer and Head of the Industrial Relations Unit, said that his unit recently undertook an integrated inspection exercise to assess the rate of compliance with the industrial and labour regulations. The Unit also conducted a nationwide impact assessment of COVID-19 on Small and Medium Enterprises.
As the Minister mentioned, Mr Bockarie added that a lot had been done by the Unit to enhance industrial peace and harmony.
The Acting Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Chiblee Francis Kamara, highlighted some of the challenges the ministry is faced with in its operations; paramount is the low budgetary allocation or non-availability of funds. Also, lack of mobility has hindered the effective and efficient implementation of the mandate of the ministry.