Solidarité internationale et luttes sociales en Afrique subsaharienne
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Travail - Emploi - Syndicalisme
Joint Statement on the Trade Union Situation in Africa issued at the end of a Tree-Nation Strategy by Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Ghana Trade Union Congress (GTUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
19 August 2004
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Ghana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) met in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 19 August 2004. The three federations are the biggest and strongest in their respective countries and among the most influential on the African continent.
The meeting was convened to reflect over their shared concerns about the state of the workers’ movement on the continent and the need for them to play a proactive and catalyzing role in addressing the challenges of empowering, re-focusing and strengthening the movement in Africa.
This is in furtherance of strong commitments in their respective national delegates’ congresses to strengthen the trade union movement on the continent.
COSATU, NLC and GTUC Need to Play a Catalyzing Role in Strengthening the Workers Movement in Africa
COSATU, GTUC and NLC agreed that they must play a much more active role in strengthening the trade unions in the continent. Regrettably, trade unions in Africa are still often quite weak, fragmented and unresponsive to the needs of workers and society at industrial and national levels.
The same weakness and poor focus prevails at the regional level. A consequence is the near absence of the workers’ voice in the ongoing integration of regional and continental economies and political systems. The African Union (AU) and NEPAD have been developed without an active involvement of workers largely not only because African leaders did not practice what they preach in terms of involvement of civil society but also because the trade union movement is in a weak state.
In this context, COSATU, NLC and GTUC deliberated on the state of the two continental workers’ organisations, namely Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions-African Regional Organisation (ICFTU-AFRO).
The leaders of the three centres resolved on the need to strengthen the movement at the continental level and ensure that capacity for responsiveness to the rights and interests of workers is developed and sustained. This is in addition to firming up working class power to help address critical challenges facing the continent, especially the acute, poor human development, instability, conflicts, HIV/AIDS pandemic, structurally feeble economies, weak civil society and the authoritarian character of leadership.
Commitment was expressed to addressing the challenges of firming up capacity of the movement to grapple with the critical task of strengthening the respective regional centres such as Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUC) and Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA).
The Carnage in Burundi and Sudan
The meeting noted that the ongoing carnage and human suffering in Burundi and Sudan require immediate and decisive multi-pronged intervention. Therefore, COSATU, NLC and the GTUC called on African States to immediately and decisively intervene in the Sudan situation.
The leaders of the three federations commended President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria for sending 1,500 troops to be peacekeepers in Sudan and President Thabo Mbeki’s peace initiatives meant to find a lasting political settlement on the Burundi crisis.
It was noted that the crisis was taking place in the absence of the moderating voice of labour and civil society.
The leaders of the three federations also agreed to take to our respective organisations a proposal to coordinate food, clothes and other materials to alleviate the sufferings of the Sudanese.
The Anti-NLC and Anti-Worker Bill proposed to the Nigerian Parliament by President Olusegun Obasanjo
The meeting devoted a lot of time to the crisis in Nigeria,arising from the Executive Bill being debated in the National Assembly that is intended to deregister the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), severely restrict the right to strike and de-unionise existing trade union membership.
The three federations condemned the Bill and its draconian provisions, which are meant to weaken the trade union movement in Nigeria.
The meeting expressed alarm this draconian piece of legislation is being engineered by President Obasanjo of Nigeria at a time that he has just assumed the leadership of the African Union.
It was considered a matter for grave regret that the attempt to destroy the NLC is taking place at the time when the AU and its leadership are being called upon to live to their commitment to good governance,democracy and active civil society partnership in the socio-economic and political development of the continent.
It was also observed that many African states look to Nigeria and to the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo to lead the continent into this new path of tolerance, openness, good governance, policy partnership and respect for civil society outlined in the political objectives of NEPAD.
This situation is not desirable because weakening the unions in Nigeria strikes at the heart of democracy in Africa. An attack on the NLC and the Nigerian workers takes us back to the ugly past of military dictatorships and one-party states, which African has, through the AU, committed to move away from.
The meeting noted that the NLC has proved itself a powerful force for democratic change and in the improvement of the lives of the workers and the poor.
The three federations, therefore, called on President Obasanjo and the Government of Nigeria to abstain from interfering in union activities and roll back the efforts to ban the NLC and restrict the rights of unions and workers.
Further, the meeting called on the Nigeria National Assembly to live up to their responsibility as the bastion of democracy by throwing out the Bill.
The existence, strength, credibility and progressive leadership of the NLC was considered critical to good governance, democracy, leadership and governmental accountability as well as promotion of workers’ and public welfare.
The NLC will host COSATU and the GTUC on October 16-17, 2004 to review progress on the issues and to advance discussions on strategies to deal with outstanding issues, especially the anti-labour legislation in Nigeria and the imperative of re-building the workers’ movement on the continent and at sub-regional level.
Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole mni - President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
Zwelinzima Vavi - General Secretary - Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
Kwasi Adu-Amankwah - Secretary General - Ghana Trade Union Congress (GTUC)
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