15 December, 2022In August, Sento Chang was sentenced to 12 months in prison after taking to social media to share discussions the union had with the employer. On 9 December, an IndustriALL delegation met with his family, speaking to his parents-in-law about the very difficult circumstances the family is now finding itself in.
Sento is 25 years old and had been working at E-Toile S.A for six years when he was sentenced to jail over reporting on union elections, the poor food quality at the company, as well as workers’ rights to holidays and sick leave. His union, SVS, says Sento is a wrongly and unjustly imprisoned shop steward, whose rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association have been seriously violated.
Sento’s parents-in-law told IndustriALL about how they have had to indebt themselves to be able to hire a lawyer. Despite regular visits to the court, this has yet to result in any positive news on Sento’s urgently awaited release. The family describes his time in prison as very difficult, with Sento feeling deceived and disappointed.
The family, including his children 3-year-old Alvin and 12-month-old Aticia, try to visit Sento in prison once a week, bringing much needed food. According to an overview of the world’s toughest prisons, the Antanimora prison, a correction facility with a horrible reputation has been found to provide only one meal per day of only boiled cassava, leading to chronic malnutrition for many prisoners.
During IndustriALL’s visit to Sento’s family. SVS handed over a food package to the family to alleviate some of the difficulties.
The day before the meeting with the family, SVS and IndustriALL tried to see Sento’s wife, who has been working at the same company for five years. However, the company informed that she could not come out during lunch time as she was busy.
SVS has appealed to the Ministry of Labour and the Prime Minister in Madagascar, reporting a clear violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. Many other organisations, including IndustriALL, ITUC and ITUC Africa and the ILO have approached the Malagasy government for Sento Chang’s unconditional release, so far without success.
Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary says:
“We are appalled by this conviction and jailing of a trade unionist for reporting to co-workers about discussions at a meeting with management. This is unacceptable, and we would like to remind E-Toile management and the government of Madagascar that they must respect national and international labour standards on freedom of association and trade union rights. The employer and the government should engage in social dialogue with trade unions instead of intimidating workers with trumped up charges and imprisonment.”