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Date: Sat, 12 Sep 98 11:09:17 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: GLOBALIZATION: The Complicity of African Elites
Article: 43000
Message-ID: <bulk.18831.19980913181531@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 177.0 **/
** Topic: GLOBALIZATION: The Complicity of African Elites **
** Written 11:45 PM Sep 10, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 4:09 PM Sep 10, 1998 by newsdesk@igc.org in africa.news */
/* ---------- "IPS: AFRICA: Who's To Blame For Neg" ---------- */

Who's To Blame For Negative Impacts Of Globalisation?

By Judith Achieng'
7 September 1998

NAIROBI, Sep 7 (IPS) - Globalisation would not have produced much negative impact in Africa if governments consulted with trade unions to ensure that economic programmes meet social requirements like the workers welfare, according to trade union officials here.

The officials, attending a three-day seminar on Freedom of Association which opened here on Monday, blamed African governments for "blind complicity" with forces of globalization in developed countries, which they claimed have eroded the power of African governments to control and run their economies and improve the living standards of their people.

"The dangers of a globalised economy is that investors come into our countries, give conditionalities and governments accept them without consulting their social partners," said Andrew Kailembo of the Nairobi-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

Kailembo, who is ICFTU's secretary general, singled out the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) which, he said, violates workers' rights and contravenes international labour laws.

He said hundreds of thousands of workers have been laid off under the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), and that thousands of others, in EPZs, are made to work long hours and not allowed to form labour unions.

"We are not saying there shouldn't be SAPs and EPZs, but social partners should be consulted when such programmes are being implemented," said Kailembo, criticising EPZs' human faceless. "We know that globalisation was inevitable, but the way it has come, it is lacking a human face, and this is what we are fighting".

The seminar is being attended by about 30 top East African and International Labour Organization (ILO) officials. "The parley is seeking ways in which workers in the region can enjoy more freedom of association by joining trade unions of their choice and be able to determine the way they are run," according to a document distributed by the organisers here.

Participants said the EPZs had not only violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified in 1948, but also ILO's 87th convention adopted the same year, which recognises the rights of workers to association and also protects their rights to organise.

The ILO celebrates its 5Oth anniversary this year.

The EPZs is not, however, the only challenge facing the labour unions in the region. The impact of globalisation on labour rights has further been worsened by the conflicting labour laws in the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

In Kenya, for example, more than 150,000 school teachers are threatening to go on strike in October if President Daniel arap Moi's government fails to implement a salary increment which it had earlier promised. It will be the second strike by teachers this year.

The strike notice comes barely a month after bankers downed their tools to protest a new tax on their fringe benefits. Last year, both teachers and nurses took to the streets demanding better pay. The government declared the strikes illegal, although the authorities were served with a 21-day mandatory warning notice required by Kenyan laws. "This is a sign that available legislations don't provide for proper dispute settlements," an ILO official said.

Unlike Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda's government has abandoned the idea of establishing EPZs after objection by unions. This, however, does not mean that Ugandan workers enjoy freedom of association, according to Wilson Okello of Uganda's National Organization of Trade Unions (NUTU). "The government wants investors, but it does not push them hard when their interests clash with workers' rights," he said.

ILO's East African regional director, Ali Ibrahim, sees the region's labour problems in colonial contexts. "I think the three countries (which were ruled by Britain) have similar union problems because their national labour laws came from the same colonial background," he said.

"Some of the labour legislations seem to be out of step with reality, and need to be brought back to reality after 30 years or so of independence," he added.

For instance, labour laws in East Africa still require a national trade union, to which others are affiliated. This monopoly, according to the ILO convention, is a violation of ILO's recognition of union diversity.

Kenyan trade unionist, George Odiko, agreed. "Perhaps we should find how our governments can instead of using their old legislations, incorporate international conventions which are very clear on the rights of workers," he said.

There are already signs that East African governments are modifying their constitutions. In Kenya, a parliamentary committee has been set up to medernise labour laws, while in Uganda, a similar technical committee has started working on the revision of outdated labour legislation. And a new trade union bill will soon be tabled in Tanzanian parliament.

"We are also seeking to harmonise our labour laws so that investors don't get a chance to play East African countries against each other to compete for investments at the expense of workers," said Okello.(END/IPS/JA/MN/98)

[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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