BWI OnLine – February 16, 2010


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The BWI has 328 affiliates worldwide.


International Trade Union Reaffirms Support for Burmese Workers

Representatives of the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), ITUC and its affiliates along with Global Union Federations and several Trade Union Solidarity Support Organizations reaffirm their commitment to support FTUB’s work in ensuring labour rights for all Burmese workers. Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ITUC stressed the importance of coordinating the international trade union’s efforts to support the FTUB and bring about genuine democracy in Burma, through concise strategies and campaigns.

Maung Maung, General Secretary of the FTUB outlined the political landscape of the current situation in Burma highlighting the immense difficulties faced by Burmese workers and their families due to the economic hardships further precipitated by the authoritarian rule of the military junta. Maung Maung’s presentation further supported sceptics who doubt the sincerity of the announcements made by the Burmese military junta to hold national elections as a “step toward democracy.”

Various strategies ranging from continuing the campaign for divestment of foreign investment in Burma, to addressing the strategy at the ILO to strengthening the FTUB were heavily discussed, assessed and incorporated into an overall future strategy that will be decided at the ITUC Congress to be held in June in Vancouver, Canada.

The conference participants agreed to the following areas:

  • in the absence of constitutional change and dialogue, the upcoming elections cannot be considered to be legitimate;
  • opposition to the 2008 constitution adopted by the regime, and a call for meaningful dialogue before elections are held;
  • reaffirm the conclusions and the solidarity expressed in 2007 during the 4th Burma Conference held in Kathmandu and called for a strengthening of the commitment undertaken in 2007 for the restoration of democracy and to combat the use of forced labour in Burma;
  • follow-up on the call by the ILO to Governments, Workers, and Employers to take all “appropriate measures to ensure that the said member cannot take advantage of such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labour referred to by the Commission of Inquiry…and report back in dur course and at appropriate intervals to the Governing Body” within the framework of its Resolution adopted in 2000;
  • reiterate the international trade union movement’s support for the struggles of the Burmese people and their capacity through the FTUB to carry out their just flight for democracy and workers; rights; and
  • develop a plan of action to strengthen the capacity of the FTUB by providing support for a reinforcement of its structures.

    The meeting was held in Tokyo, Japan from 11 to 12 February 2010. The two–day conference was hosted by the Japanese Trade Union Congress (RENGO).


Blending Coffee Ceremony to HIV/AIDS Workplace Coalition Strategy – Case of Ethiopian Affiliate

Fostering partnership with members of the Business Coalition, sharing tact among companies and using the widespread network of the National Centre (CETU) is emerging as important aspects of improving the results at workplace in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Ethiopian Federation of Construction, an affiliate of BWI has succeeded in organizing leadership commitment workshop, establishing workplace committees that include women, youth and in some cases solidarity funds established to assist workers living with HIV/AIDS. Joint actions have been developed at Kaluti Construction and Prefabricated Building firm. VCT services have been provided and several workers linked to professional advice from medical counselors.

Lessons emerging from collaborating with the National Centre (CETU) so far show that experiences from other sectors such as transport are important and can be replicated by BWI sectors especially in reaching workers that are based in remote areas. Peer promoters have been trained by resource persons from the National Centre and at the same time thousands of condoms distributed in various construction sites in remote areas through the existing network of the national centre that captures remote federal regions in Ethiopia.

Workplace based coffee ceremonies are increasing being held at workplaces, where professional counselors are given opportunity to address workers and distribute information and materials on HIV/AIDS.

Out of 82 basic trade unions affiliated to federation of construction, only 20 basic trade unions have so far established HIV/AIDS committees at workplace and the Union targets to increase its catchment in the year 2010.

Key challenges that still need to be addressed in the fight include reaching the huge number of unorganized workers in BWI sectors where so far about 75% mostly unorganized in Road and Dam construction have yet to get meaningful information on HIV/AIDS prevention and the world of work. Significant numbers of employers in private sector still see HIV interventions as voluntary and have no obligatory responsibility to be involved in HIV interventions at workplaces.

“Joint approach initiated under workplace policy between employers and the union is bearing good results and situation can be improved if clauses on HIV/AIDS are integrated.” remarked Ole-Kristian Paulsen of Energi Industri of Norway. Also in attendance was Amalie Hilde Tofte of Energie Industri, BWI Africa Education Secretary Paul Opanga and Unions top leadership Bro Zegeye Haile Selassie, Belete Haile and shop floor representatives. The visits took place on 8th and 9th February 2010.

Workplace visit at Wanza Wood Furnishing Industry confirms that workplace policies are effective when employers are committed where a case of 5 person HIV/AIDS committee meets once per month. The Wood industry provides free ARV to workers living with HIV/AIDS, in addition it pays them 200 Birr (20USD) per month as part of implementing HIV/AIDS workplace policy agreed upon. Visit at Construction Design Company reaffirm that better results can be achieved when the CBAs is mainstreamed with HIV/AIDS clauses. To the professional staff in construction sector, use of internet was highly recommended in disseminating information on HIV/AIDS.

In a country where the prevalent rate is estimated at 2.2%, the support of Energie Industri to the BWI affiliate is being felt at various levels and the future lies in joining hands with other actors especially in reaching workers in remote construction and forestry sites and in sharing the information with other federations at the national centre.


Colombia:  The European Parliament Must Suspend FTA Negotiations

“The global trade union movement cannot tolerate that the Colombian Government organizes a lobbying campaign at the European Parliament in an attempt to mislead the European Parliament members in particular, on the situation of human rights in the country so as to promote an early conclusion of the negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).” says Klaus Wiesehügel, President of the BWI. “If the international community does not take proper action now, trade unionists in Colombia will continue to die and those responsible for so much violence will continue to enjoy absolute impunity.” The BWI President has sent a letter to José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, President of the EU on 4 February 2010.

Unrepresentative trade unions, UNALTRASAP (agro-industrial and livestock sector) and SINTRACONTEXA (textile and clothing sector), have asked to speak at different Hearings on Colombia about the so called advances made by Uribe in the field of human rights and in its fight against impunity and of how the FTA is going to benefit Colombian workers.

The position of ITUC affiliates – CUT, CGT and CTC, who legitimately represent the real aspirations of working people in Colombia, is the exact opposite of what Colombian civil society and the Global Union movement are committed to in their permanent efforts to improve the conditions of the people of Colombia, and when they ask the European Parliament to support the interruption of negotiations.

Colombia accounts for 60% of the assassinations of trade unionists around the world. Despite the government’s security drive, there was a 25% increase in cases of anti-union violence, with 49 trade unionists assassinated, 16 of whom were union leaders and four of whom were women. Nor has there been any decrease in assassination attempts, disappearances and death threats, or in impunity, since sentences have been minimal.