Issue date
06 Jun 2007

Trade unionists promote sustainable development, democracy and good governance in Guinea- Conakry.

TUC Aid is appealing for contributions to support a development co-operation initiative spearheaded by the ITUC which aims at capacity building and provision of material support - office equipment, mobile phones and means of transport etc - with a view to strengthening trade union structures, institutions and networks in Guinea. Trade union officials in Guinea are in urgent need of training in labour code, social protection, wage policies, ILO standards etc.

A major international trade union conference on Sustainable Development held from 23 to 24 in Conakry, organised by Guinea's four main trade union centres -CNTG, USTG, ONSLG and UDTG - with the support of the ITUC and the African regional organisations - AFRO and DOAWTU - concluded with the adoption of a road map for sustainable development for Guinea . The document endorsed by over

180 trade unionists from Africa and other continents and civil society delegates, leaders of the government and national institutions, employers' representatives and religious leaders reflects a national development strategy favoured by the trade union movement and civil society in Guinea. Representatives of the ILO, World Bank and IMF also took part in the Conference which addressed three key themes- social and economic development, good governance and human rights. Mr Lansana Kouyate, Prime Minister of Guinea, also attended the Conference and was presented with the document adopted by the delegates.

The Conference marks an important step in a series of efforts by the international trade union movement led by the ITUC to promote democracy, peace and reconciliation in the West African country emerging from a serious social and economic crisis. In January 2007, following a demonstration held in support of a general strike, security forces resorted to brutal repression which resulted in, according to some estimates, over 100 deaths and left hundreds of protestors injured. Moreover, the buildings housing national trade union centres were attacked by the security forces and their offices ransacked with valuable office equipment being destroyed or stolen. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) condemned the violent reaction by the authorities to a peaceful demonstration.

'This violent reaction to legitimate action by Guinea's trade union movement is totally unacceptable, and constitutes a flagrant violation of freedom of association', said ITUC General Secretary, Guy Ryder. Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO, in a letter to the President of Guinea, Lansana Conté, expressed his grave concern at the "exceptionally serious" events of 22 January while the ITUC requested the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the European Union (EU), to impose severe measures on Guinea if the negotiations failed. The ITUC also demanded that President Lansana Conté immediately order the police and armed forces to stop shooting live bullets at trade unionists and other civilians.

On 27 January 2007, the Government and the unions signed an agreement ending the general strike. The Agreement also provided for the appointment of a new 'consensus' prime minister proposed by the unions, the reduction in the prices of rice and fuel, a freeze on the export of essential products, increase in retirement pensions and an improvement in terms and conditions of employment of teachers.

In February, the ITUC Mission headed by the General Secretary, which included the trade union leaders from the African region, undertaken in technical collaboration with the International Labour Office in Geneva, emphasized the need for consolidation of democracy, good governance and for combating corruption and urged the Government to engage in social dialogue and national reconciliation with the trade union movement and civil society in line with the Agreement.

The Republic of Guinea-Conakry, which gained independence from France in 1958, had enjoyed relative stability until recently, although it had been adversely affected by political upheavals in neighbouring countries. In 2000, Guinea became home to up to half a million refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Guinea-Conakry, with a population of some 9.4m, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy at birth was 54.1years in 2005. Infant mortality rate was 97.4 per thousand for the same year. Though endowed with abundant natural resources including some 50% of the world's known bauxite reserves, the growth in the economy has been slow. Per capita GNI was only USD 420 in 2005.