Sierra Leone's unions get organised
By John Stirling
Sustainable strategies are often easy to develop but a lot harder to implement. Two new developments have recently come out of the TUC's DFID project with the Sierra Leone Labour Congress that formally ended in 2010.
The first is the signing of a 'recognition agreement' (a right to bargain) by the Sierra Leone government with a newly constituted union of civil servants. This is a major achievement as civil servants have not been effectively represented before and the new union comes from an intensive organising campaign.
It is particularly important that unionisation spreads across all sections of the workforce as Sierra Leone's outdated labour laws currently prevent union membership for those workers considered to be supervisors or managers. The campaign to change the laws has been supported by Thompson's solicitors and the TUC in the UK and the government has agreed to a review.
Secondly, in a 'first' for Sierra Leones' trade unionists, they are to become University students. As a result of an initial capacity building project, trade union leaders expressed a demand for English language training. English is the country's official language and is used by employers, government bodies and NGOs, so proficiency is important in building leadership and influencing policy and bargaining outcomes.
The British Council funded a pilot project and on Friday 21st October interested trade unionists were interviewed and selected as the first set of students studying for a Certificate in English for Trade Unionists at Fourah Bay College in Freetown. They believe their course could be a model for other African trade unionists and open the door for further training owned and run in national educational institutions.
John Stirling was the consultant on the TUC-SLLC project 2007-2020.
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Issued: 31 October, 2011