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Malagasy unions prepare for global day of action against precarious work

6 October, 2017As the global day of action against precarious work approaches, IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates in Madagascar, FSTEM-FISEMA, FISEMA, SEKRIMA, FESATI-USAMI, and SVS representing over 30 000 workers in sectors including mining and textile, are wrapping up their five-day publicity campaign which included mobilising meetings, posters, leaflets and radio broadcasts.

Over 3,000 workers are expected to march to the RTA Dome in the capital, Antananarivo, and in Port-Dauphin, on 7 October, after which there will be several union activities and entertainment. The activities will be held with support from FES.

The campaign happens at a time of increasing job insecurity common with short-term lowly paid jobs, long working hours especially in the textile sector, increasing sub-contracting, poor health and safety at work, and non-payments of benefits by most employers. It was also increasingly becoming common for workers to work with neither a contract nor benefits. This made it easy for employers to dismiss workers without fear of the law.

With minimum wages of around $50 per month, most workers in Madagascar are living in poverty. According to the unions, workers needed at least $300 to be able to meet their basic needs.

Although employers deducted social security and pension dues from wages, they did not surrender these to the relevant authorities. This meant that when retirement came workers were not given the benefits due to them. Despite the existence of labour laws, enforcement was low and corrupt employers simply paid bribes to avoid being taken to court.

Confronted by these serious attacks on their existence, Malagasy unions have been fighting back against precarious working conditions. Speaking to Infinity, a community radio station in Fort-Dauphin, first secretary of SVS, Anosy Region, Eugene Chretien, said unions were demanding living wages:

“We are fighting for workers to live in dignity and not in poverty. Workers must be paid enough money, including overtime pay due to them, so that they can afford to buy food, hospital and transport fees. It is unacceptable for workers to walk for 20km from their homes to workplaces. Workers must also have access to clean water and electricity.”

Said Tendai Makanza, IndustriALL union building project coordinator for Sub Saharan Africa:

“We are putting more effort into strengthening organizing and recruitment of workers into unions in Madagascar. With unity and collaboration, the unions will be able to deal more effectively with precarious work that threatens decent jobs”.