To coincide with the International Labour Day celebrated on May 1, this issue focuses on a wide range of labour issues – from the blatant violation of workers’ rights to the lethargic trade union movement in various African countries.
Kenya’s labour movement has been toothless over the past forty years. Political interference by the then governing party Kenya African National Union [KANU] has been a major contributor to the dwindling performance of trade unions. But even fifteen months after the National Rainbow Coalition [NARC] took over the reigns of power, nothing seems to have changed. Our Kenya correspondent Fred Oluoch traces the history of the labour movement and shows how the once vibrant movement has over the years slid into a toothless talk shop.
Trouble has been brewing in Kenya’s Export Processing Zones [EPZs] – factories that manufacture textiles for export to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA]. Numerous cases of workers’ rights violation have been reported, including sexual harassment, poor working conditions and measly wages. But as our new correspondent Roseline Orwa writes, the government is caught between a rock and a hard place – whether to champion workers’ rights or protect the much -needed foreign investors.
The Zambian workers had nothing to celebrate on Labour Day. Instead, a simmering row, which has been brewing between the government and the largest labour movement – the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions [ZCTU] – reached a crescendo. As Singy Hanyona writes, the main bone of contention has been the government’s decision to freeze wages against a backdrop of the spiraling cost of living.
Convinced that their grievances are not being addressed adequately by parliament, the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions [BFTU], the umbrella organization of seven trade unions in the country, is now seeking to be represented in parliament by one of their own. As Rodrick Mukumbira reports, the umbrella union has approached president Festus Mogae to reserve one of the four nomination seats for it in the forthcoming general election.
After a long absence in the trade union movement, Ghanaian women are now making their presence felt, thanks to the Trade Unions Congress, the workers’ umbrella organization that has encouraged women to take leadership positions in order to adequately address the plight of female workers. Santuah Niagia has the story.
In our Action and Contacts section, Rodrick Mukumbira reviews a book, “A continent for the taking: The tragedy and hope for Africa”. The book, written by Howard W. French, an African American, attempts to bring out the aspect of exploitation of Africa by the west and the tendency to turn a blind eye when conflicts threaten to destroy the continent.