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ICEM HIV/AIDS e-bulletin - No. 81, June 2012

14.06.2012

In this last issue of the ICEM HIV/AIDS newsletter, we cover aspects of the ongoing HIV/AIDS project, which comes to an end in December 2012. A new project proposal for sub-Saharan IndustriALL affiliates is being developed. Since 2005, the ICEM HIV/AIDS project has covered much ground. But without question, there is still much work left to be done.

Dear Readers, Friends, Comrades

As announced in the May issue, this is the last issue of the ICEM HIV/AIDS e-bulletin.

We thank all readers for their interest and hope that we have succeeded in making a contribution to the dissemination of useful information over almost seven years.

Next week, the ICEM, the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) will hold their dissolution congresses in Copenhagen. Immediately after that the Founding Congress of the new Global Union Federation, IndustriALL, will take place.

Editor: Hans J Schwass, ICEM HIV/AIDS Consultant

HIV/AIDS is a Workplace Issue; Unions Have Central Roles to Play

This has been the leading message of the ongoing HIV/AIDS project, which has been running since 2005. The first phase of the project was sponsored by LO/TCO Biståndsnämnd, Sweden, and FNV Mondiaal, Netherlands, and ran from 2005 to 2008, with an additional project year in 2009. After a thorough internal assessment in 2008, a new project was approved, running from 2010 to 2012, sponsored by SASK of Finland and FNV Mondiaal. ICEM affiliates in these countries gave strong support and contributed financially to the project.

Throughout the project periods, national HIV/AIDS coordinators were trained in regional workshops. At national level, activities started off with peer education and awareness and prevention campaigns. Increasingly, however, VCT campaigns were organised and thousands of workers, their families and members of the community queued up to know their status.

Some progress has also been made on the adoption of workplace policies and the insertion of HIV/AIDS clauses in collective bargaining agreements. Despite a sometimes adverse relationship over conventional bargaining issues, companies must be seen as partners in the fight against the epidemic since an effective HIV/AIDS policy cannot be implemented without the participation of employers.

HIV/AIDS workplace policies should also draw on the resources of companies for skills training, awareness and prevention campaigns and for VCT and ART services. Cost-benefit analyses have shown that even small expenses by companies for HIV/AIDS activities result in reduced costs for medical schemes, higher productivity, and reduced expenditure for training. Unions must continue to convince employers that it makes business sense to invest in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

At the heart of the ongoing HIV/AIDS project are annually-approved national HIV/AIDS programmes that run in each of the 11 project countries. These “projects-within-a-project” are applied for by the national coordinators to the Sub-Saharan HIV/AIDS project coordinator, who discusses, approves and monitors all these individual national plans for action.

Women issues in relation to HIV and AIDS also received a boost with two women-only sub-regional workshops in 2010 and 2011. Women’s empowerment in taking control of their reproductive rights and dealing with issues such as violence at home and sexual harassment at the workplace were at the heart of these workshops. The use of female condoms was also promoted. The sub-regional workshops in turn led to women activities organised at national level. Several of these were not only relevant with respect to HIV/AIDS, but also strengthened unions by integrating more women in their union work and by recruiting more female members.

Fighting HIV and AIDS is a national policy matter. All target countries have national policies to fight the pandemic and a National AIDS Commission, which coordinates the efforts of all stakeholders. It is important that trade union activities fit into this general framework. For this to happen, unions must be recognised as partners in national policy implementation and, subsequently, they have to actively seek contacts with national HIV/AIDS bodies.

As part of the fight against the pandemic, trade unions should also seek the participation of NGOs in their activities and build alliances with them. NGOs often have more expertise and experience as they concentrate on one issue. Of utmost importance is the involvement of organisations of People Living with HIV/AIDS to reduce stigma and to demonstrate that HIV and AIDS should be treated like any other condition or disease.

From its adoption by the International Labour Conference of the ILO in June 2010, ILO Recommendation 200 concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, was promoted at in regional and national ICEM HIV/AIDS events. This is the first international human rights instrument to focus on HIV and AIDS and the world of work. All workers are protected by the new labour standard, including those in informal economies. As Recommendation 200 becomes more widely known and accepted, it has the potential to develop into a tool for unions to use.

The Global Action Plan for the implementation of R200, as adopted by the ILO Governing Body in March 2011, seeks three outcomes for the period 2011 to 2015: reduction of stigma and discrimination, increased access to services, and scaled-up action by world of work actors.

In our work, we also made a link to the broader ILO Decent Work Agenda, which is central in efforts to reduce poverty and to make occupational health and safety an integral part of the Decent Work Agenda. Important in this, as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned, is often not so much the job itself, but the conditions around it that can lead to behaviour that puts workers and their dependents at risk of acquiring HIV, such as working and living conditions of workers in remote mining areas, which contribute to an increasing infection rate.

At global level, good cooperation was established with ILO/AIDS. Technical cooperation was not only extended by the ILO Head Office in Geneva but also by country offices where activities were organised. Special mention must be made of the cooperation with the ILO Delhi office, which greatly contributed to the success of the HIV/AIDS project in India, and of the collaboration with the ILO Pretoria office, which gave a boost to work on the ILO Decent Work Agenda and Recommendation 200.

Work was initiated with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank (WB AIDS Campaign Team for Africa) and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC against AIDS) with the objective to promote the concept of public/private partnership and co-investment with the involvement of unions. The dictum has been that the private sector is business and organised labour, i.e. trade unions. When skills training, knowledge transfer and other assistance are extended to management, it should also be offered to unions. No HIV and AIDS interventions at the workplace are effective if workers and their representatives are not included. Unfortunately, these organisations have not been responsive to such legitimate demands.

An HIV/AIDS e-bulletin has been published monthly since October 2005. A dedicated HIV/AIDS website provided access to useful materials and links to other websites. Materials have included a leaflet, a manual for collective bargaining on HIV and AIDS issues, and a guide for resources and finance for HIV/AIDS activities. Very important for union work at the national level, a model union policy and a workplace policy on HIV/AIDS were developed.

Another element of the work at global level has been the successful acquisition of additional funding to expand the project beyond Africa. Corporate partnership and solidarity contributions from affiliates made it possible to run HIV/AIDS projects in India, Trinidad & Tobago, Mongolia, and Colombia. Supplementary funding was also obtained for Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly earmarked for VCT campaigns in Tanzania and Nigeria. The Danish LO/FTF supported a three-year project (2009-2011) in the mining sector in Ethiopia.

While a lot has been achieved in the past years, much more still needs to be done. It was therefore decided to seek a continuation of the HIV/AIDS project and look at developing a new project proposal for sub-Saharan African IndustriALL affiliates for the years 2013-2015. Discussions are ongoing with the donor community on this.