Somali government tries to take over trade union movement
We’ve reported before on some of the terrorist outrages that make trade unionism in Somalia more difficult than we could possibly imagine. Despite those next-to-impossible obstacles, the TUC’s equivalent in Somalia, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU), is tackling issues like informal sector work and organising with the help of TUC Aid and the Turkish development agency. But now, the new Minister of Labour – Abdiweli Ibrahim Mudey – is trying to replace the independent and free trade union movement with a state-run organisation. He’s even trying to take over May Day.
Earlier this month, the Minister of Labour decided that it was his call who represented Somali workers at the Kuwait-based conference of the Arab Labour Organisation (the ILO in the Middle East and North Africa). We joined international protests to the Somalian Prime Minister.
Yesterday FESTU received with a shock a letter, dated 15 April 2015, from Minister of Labour in which he appointed an organising committee of 12 members for the country’s May Day celebrations, headed by Deputy Minister of Labour, Osman Libah. The letter also told FESTU that the federation would not be allowed to organise the commemoration of international labour day but that its affiliated unions were generously offered the opportunity to make a financial contribution to the costs of the event!
FESTU General Secretary Omar Faruk Osman described this as “an appalling move to extort money from our affiliates so that they beatify and bankroll the Ministry’s illegal activity, … [a] gross abuse of power and deliberate violation of workers’ human rights and of rights of independent trade unions.”
The union movement has been informed that there are plans to use security forces in order to disband any FESTU-organised International Labour Day commemorations, under the pretext that the Ministry of Labour had not given green-light for the event to happen, despite there being no legal requirement for workers to get prior permission from the Minister of Labour to hold such celebrations, which are now all the more vital to rebuff the attacks on union independence. Osman says:
“Workers of Somalia have had high hopes that our country will recover from ‘Failed State’ and will peacefully and progressively transition to “Democratic State”. But we see that such Minister wants to take the country from ‘Failed State’ to ‘Police State’.”
The African regional organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation has protested to the Prime Minister, and the TUC backs that protest.