BWI – March 20, 2009

Africa Projects: New areas of interest for new phase of cooperation

An evaluation workshop for all African projects was held in Johannesburg from 24 to 26 February 2009. 25 affiliates from Africa and the Middle East attended the event.

The workshop reviewed the projects’ accomplishments from 2006 to 2008 and focused on coherence of problem analysis, objectives, strategies and activities. LOTCO is presently shifting from a project based cooperation to a programme-frame cooperation with a three year cycle 2010-2012. The year 2009 represents a transitory period giving the BWI a good opportunity to steam line various current level projects along the lines of the BWI 2010-2013 Congress Strategic Plans with construction, wood and forestry as its main pillars.

In addition, new areas of interest were adopted for BWI sectors in the new phase of cooperation. Identified future areas of work within the forestry sector included developing strategies on how to deal with sub-contractors, illegal logging, climate change and forests in a changing environment, HIV/AIDS and gender issues. The ILO Decent Work Agenda, certification, OHS and gender were identified as possible tools to use to achieve good living and working conditions for wood/forestry workers.

Construction and building is different from other industries in a number of ways and this means that for the future programmes for this sector BWI and its affiliates will continue to work to address informalization of work, decent work and to upscale the work with the ILO to lobby for the implementation of ILO standards and their respect in IFC and World Bank agreements.

LOTCO, BWI Swedish affiliates, BWI Africa and Middle East project coordinators, BWI Education secretary and a team of consultants also participated in the event.

China: Yao Fuxin Released

The BWI welcomes the release of Yao Fuxin, a labour activist from Liaoning province, after serving his seven years’ prison term on conviction of “subversion of State power”. On 16 March 2009, Yao Fuxin was released from one of the harshest prisons in China Lingyuan n°2 Prison, Liaoning province. “Throughout his detention, Yao was held in precarious conditions, sustained serious acts of ill-treatment and witnessed a deterioration of his health status. We must not forget that the fundamental rights of Chinese workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining continue to be denied by the chinese authorities” says Anita Normark, BWI General Secretary.

In March 2002, Yao, then spokesperson of the newly founded All-Liaoyang Bankrupt and Unemployed Workers’ Provisional Union, was arrested along with Xiao Yunliang (who was released in February 2006, three weeks before completing his four-year prison sentence) for having led a peaceful demonstration against corruption and the non-payment of overdue wages and pensions.

Yao was initially charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order” and then sentenced in May 2003 to seven years in prison for “subversion of State power” for alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party. 

Strenthening trade union development in the Middle East 

On 13 and 14 March 2009, BWI affiliates from Jordan, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt met in Beirut Lebanon to participate in a sub-regional workshop aimed at facilitating union strategy development, sharing and coordination of trade union activities in the Middle East region. Refering to the negative impact of the global financial crisis on the construction sector, Anita Normark, BWI General Secretary, noted “The global financial meltdown has seen an increase in global migration. In the Gulf States, migrant workers are being sent home, to add to the ever increasing army of the unemployed, since there are no employment opportunities in the home countries.”

Participants shared on how the project supported by FNV Bouw and Mondiaal has facilitated trade union development, growth and strengthening using organising, campaigning and negotiating as project strategies, although most unions still report many challenges. Delegates from Yemen lamented, “The high levels of unemployment will further increase due to the return of migrant construction workers from the Gulf against a backdrop of escalating poverty.” In Palestine, “The priority is still the national cause, although the trade union seminars and activities have played a very fundamental role as some kind of assistance to workers to keep them in touch with the trade union.”

Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan unions expressed satisfaction on how the project has facilitated the development of a network of unions in the cement sector, as well mapping of other key MNCs, although further work still needs to be done to strengthen the cement network and use health and safety as a tool to organise and achieve decent work.

The workshop also planned for the next phase of the project.

Anita Normark and Crecentia Mofokeng, BWI Regional Representatives for Africa and the Middle East also discussed current developments in Lebanon and in Middle East with relevant stakeholders.

Press Release on Global Unions G20 London Declaration for Monday 23 March 2009

Appendix 1:  Trade Unions to G20: Half Measures Will Not Fix Broken Global Economy

Appendix 2:  Global Unions London Declaration

Appendix 3:  Financial and economic crises model letter

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