Work is a noble human activity that sustains us. It helps us to meet our material and spiritual needs, escape poverty and build decent lives. Work, creativity and cooperation have been important drivers of human progress. The road to development has always been paved by work and workers. The formula of dynamic development and victory demonstrated by the people of Eritrea during the thirty years of struggle for independence and twenty years of resistance to safeguard their sovereignty is now being explored by different scholars and experts. The main driving forces of the miraculous victory are the toiling human labor and work ethics. The work ethic is a cultural norm that advocates being personally accountable and responsible for the work. This has been brightly illustrated on the reconstruction campaign which has demonstrated a great success despite the multifaceted hostilities. The work ethic of Eritrea’s development workers can be measured against the labor productivity.
Eritrean workers demonstrate a set of values like integrity, honesty, diligence, hard work, responsibility, confidence, frugality, purposefulness, imitativeness in their work. Fulfilling a duty to benefit the society is one of the motivating factors for workers to display hard work. Work ethic is a value based on hard work and diligence. It is also a belief in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character. Eritrean development workers are more determined, motivated, and ambitious because they believe that those efforts will pay off. Historically, work and workers have attracted the best minds of philosophers and become a breeding ground for philosophical debate and political upheaval. Centuries ago Marx and Engels called the workers of the world to unite and fight against the oppressors. They encouraged the workers to fight by saying “The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to gain.” As part of the international revolution, in Eritrea, those who were forgotten, neglected, and formerly passive members of the society including workers were transformed to be active actors in winning the liberation struggle. Eritrean workers alongside other social classes liberated and emancipated themselves and gave their life to the liberation and emancipation of the whole society.
Eritrean workers proved themselves as leaders in the search for solutions on how to overcome poverty, exclusion and underdevelopment. It was obvious that work was very much at the heart of how people perceived the solutions. Taking into account the contribution of workers and other formerly neglected sections of the society, independent Eritrea must be a country where workers work peacefully with secured rights. The country must continue and push toward the implementation of a proactive employment policy and creation of more jobs. The employment condition and the quality of employment of the working people who are at the front lines of production must be improved. Commendable efforts are being made to enhance the productivity and improve the knowledge and skills of the workers to raise the quality of the workforce. The quality of the working population is a matter of extreme importance for Eritrea in order to achieve its objectives. In this age of competition, the prosperity and modernization of Eritrea is unthinkable without a creative, competitive and cooperative work force.
Labor is not a commodity to be traded in markets and workers are human beings with rights. The government of Eritrea has introduced laws and regulations to ensure that labor is afforded freedom, dignity, security and equal opportunity. The Labor Proclamation of Eritrea No.118/2001 defined the “Conditions of work” as the entire field of employee – employer relations and shall include, without limitation, hours of work, wages, annual and other forms of leave payment due for dismissal, compensation to employees for occupational diseases or accidents, redundancy, disciplinary and grievance producers and any other employee benefits and responsibilities. Eritrean workers along with other social classes are fighting to make Eritrea a country of justice and equality where dignity and basic human rights are respected. The Labor Proclamation of Eritrea and the improved laws are meant to protect the social rights of every citizen including workers. The proclamation specified the “Regular hours of work” to be eight hours a day and forty-eight hours a week. The content of the Labor Proclamation of Eritrea No.118/2001 concurs with the fundamental rights conventions of the ILO – addressing the abolition of forced labor, the elimination of child labor, trade union rights, and non-discrimination and equality of treatment in employment and occupation.
Building a national economy is a great cause that requires a great spirit. Workers who have made exceptional contribution to oust colonization have again a historical responsibility of ousting poverty. Eritrean workers are now facing the task of building a national economy that can sustain and uplift Eritrean society. This great and unprecedented cause that we are currently advancing is only accomplished by hardworking and inventive workforce. Therefore the effort to turn Eritrea a modern and prosperous country depends on working people.
Working toward a goal requires cooperation and respect. Eritreans have the tradition of working together to accomplish common goals. Working cooperatively ‘wefera’ involves building relationships and working with other people using a number of important skills and habits. Unless we work collectively we wouldn’t succeed. Henry Ford explained the idea of ‘wefera’ which is common practice in Eritrean society concisely that way: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Toiling in unity is strength and when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved. Therefore, in order to make a difference, workers must work and cooperate towards a common goal.
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