Arab World unions call for support for labour rights
31 March 2011
Participants at the Arab World committee meeting
Unionists in the Arab World have called for continued support for free trade unions in the region as pro-democracy movements sweep across the Middle East.
Transport union leaders from 25 unions from 10 Arab countries met in Amman, Jordan, at the ITF Arab World committee meeting on 22 and 23 March to evaluate and plan for future strategies during this critical period.
In a statement released on 25 March, the delegates said that they recognised “the great revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt”, which had led to changing regimes in both countries, and expressed their deep concern about the situation in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and other Arab countries. They also pledged “full solidarity” with all workers in the region, who had joined the people’s struggle for democracy and a decent life.
In addition, participants urged the ITF to continue to support democratic and free transport unions in the region, and said that they greatly appreciated the “real solidarity” of the ITF and its affiliates with unionists in Arab countries. The statement included a call on the ITF and transport unions in the region to be ready to support new democratic unions that were expected to emerge in Arab countries. Recognition of the right to freedom of association as outlined in International Labour Organization convention 87, giving workers the right to choose and belong to a union was also among the clauses of the statement.
Earlier this week, the ITF, along with the International Trade Union Confederation, condemned plans by the Egyptian government to criminalise strike action in the country. ITF general secretary David Cockroft stated that to deny Egyptian workers their democratic right to lawful industrial action would be a travesty of what the Egyptian people had fought for and won.
African railway unions step up to key challenges
24 September 2009
Delegates at the ITF Africa railway
Railway unions across Africa met in South Africa last week to plan for the future and share experiences.
The 27 delegates from nine countries across Africa, discussed key challenges facing unions in Africa at the ITF Africa railway section conference in Johannesburg from 14-15 September. The challenges included job losses, organising difficulties and railway infrastructure problems. The unions outlined how they were addressing those challenges and pointed out some of their key achievements.
The Uganda Railway Workers’ Union, for example, highlighted how it had signed a recognition agreement with Rift Valley Railways Limited and secured an agreement on an HIV/AIDS policy in the workplace to ensure against discrimination. Its opposition to the casualisation of the workforce also led to the appointment of some 235 casual workers to permanent positions. Against the odds, the union recruited 575 employees, bringing workforce representation to 71 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Railways Amalgamated Union described how it had negotiated a better redundancy package for workers who were losing their jobs and the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) outlined progress in a number of areas including improved maternity rights and sexual harassment policies.
Participants agreed that they would work on a range of issues, including the possibility of smaller unions merging with other transport unions, taking further steps to tackle HIV/AIDS and enhancing communication between the unions and with the ITF.
The conference, which was opened by Satawu president Ezrom Mabyana, was addressed by ITF president Randall Howard, who emphasised the need to rebuild stronger railway unions in Africa. The meeting was also attended by an observer from the United Association of South Africa, a FIOST affiliate.
ITF Africa regional secretary Joseph Katende said: "Railway unions in Africa must pursue merger possibilities with other ITF affiliates. This is the best way to ensure a viable service to their members, whose numbers have dwindled due to the shrinkage in railway services following the mismanagement of restructuring processes by investors and governments."