Advancing Decent Work Agenda in Benin: Advocacy of COSI-Benin and their Intersyndicale for Minimum Wage Increment

Keywords : THE TRADE UNION BATTLE AGAINST COVID-19 Benin Newsletters Extending Social Protection

The C0VID-19 pandemic has really taken a toll on the economic activities of countries across the world, especially developing countries such as Benin; the ensuing economic downturn has led to a shift in industrial relations coupled with the restrictive measures introduced by governments, which put a strain on labour rights. The pay that the worker receives as the main compensation for his or her efforts is under severe pressure due to the increase in prices on many consumer products.

In spite of the "social" measures introduced by the government to cushion the effects of the pandemic, workers are struggling to make ends meet with salaries that were already very low before the crisis and that have struggled to improve since the crisis began. Against this background, there is a need for a social dialogue between the various stakeholders, i.e. employers, trade unions and the government, in order to examine the urgency of raising the Guaranteed Inter-professional Minimum Wage (SMIG, in French) with a view to alleviating the suffering of workers. With the support of their partner CNV Internationaal, COSI-Benin has been carrying out advocacy activities in order to promote social dialogue and the employability of young people in Benin, for some time now. These advocacy activities with employers’ organizations and the government have produced convincing results.
The lines are shifting as the intersyndicale and employers engage in discussions.

Exchange meeting between the Intersyndicale and CONEB

Together with the unions members of the intersyndicale and in addition to the activities that fall under their Trade Union Co-Financing Program 2021-2025, COSI-Benin has deployed efforts aimed at raising the minimum wage in Benin. Unions leaders were initially trained on 16th July 2021 on determining factors and the history of the minimum wage in Benin, as well as on analysing the elements of the national socio-economic context that could justify an increase in the minimum wage. Being thus equipped, the members of the intersyndicale composed of delegates from the trade union centers and confederations, in particular COSI-Benin, CSPIB, CSUB, CGTB, UNSTB and CSA-Benin, subsequently held discussion sessions with the leaders of Benin’s employers’ organizations, including the National Confederation of Employers of Benin (CONEB) and the National Council of Employers (CNP), with a view to finding a consensus on this issue. It is clear from the discussions that, in principle, the two employers’ organizations share the same vision as the intersyndicale on the idea of looking at the conditions for raising the minimum wage. All that remains is for this process to be enshrined in a formal mechanism if a deal is to be reached.

Ongoing discussions within the social dialogue structures

In principle, an increase in the minimum wage has been agreed upon between the trade unions, employers’ organizations and the government. The trade unions and employers’ organizations are now working towards a formal agreement on the conditions for raising the minimum wage aimed at relieving the suffering of workers. In this regard, the government has set up a technical committee to analyze the conditions for the increment and their conclusions will be presented during the discussions and negotiations within the social framework. The first formal negotiation session took place on Thursday, 9th March 2022. Although the unions are still dissatisfied, proposals have been made that will allow the interests of each party to be taken into account. It is worth recalling that a few months ago, the Beninese government, through their spokesperson, stressed their readiness to support such a process should a minimum agreement be reached between the employers and workers’ representatives. "If such an agreement is reached at that level, there is no reason as to why it should not be implemented," said Wilfried Léandre HOUNGBEDJI when asked about the increase in the minimum wage. You may also recall that, during his inaugural speech, the Head of State had stated that he intended to place ’social issues’ at the heart of his second term in office. The next sessions of negotiations are expected to take place soon.

COSI-Benin Program Officer

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