From the TUC

This Christmas, trade union activity is banned

25 Dec 2008, By

It’s Christmas Day, so I really shouldn’t be writing this. But not all trade unionists will be having the day off – emergency services workers, for instance. And in some parts of the world, they have it even tougher than that. Like Guinea, on the West coast of Africa, where three days ago on 22 December the hated old President, Lansana Conte, died and the army staged a coup the day afterwards. One of the first things they did was to suspend political parties … and, of course, trade unions (it’s always us, isn’t it?)

The reason trade union activity was banned was because the Guinean trade union movement – led by some of the bravest of our colleagues you could find – have been particularly active in campaigning for democracy. Last year, they led the general strikes and demonstrations which forced the President to appoint a Prime Minister for the first time. Several trade unionists were killed in those demonstrations, and the army raided all the union offices they could find, including those of ITUC Women’s Committee Vice Chair Rabiatou Diallo, who runs the largest trade union confederation in Guinea.

The ITUC has already called for democracy to be maintained in Guinea, and the TUC has been in touch with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which like France and Germany maintains an Embassy in the capital, Conakry (with more trade unionists working this Christmas Day to deal with the UK citizens currently in Guinea).

Our thoughts are with Rabiatou and her brave colleagues, who are facing an uncertain future in the world centre of Bauxite production (one reason why people scrap over who rules Guinea). Guinea is rich in natural resources but her people are poor and the main industry is the informal sector. And if things turn sour, they will need our solidarity. If you’ve got any money spare after the Christmas festivities, why not make a donation to TUC Aid, and help trade unionists around the world develop the same sort of strength that gave most of us in Britain a day off every Christmas?