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Swaziland bans trade unions

17 October, 2014Swazi Minister of Labour and Social Security, Winnie Magagula, has announced a Cabinet resolution deciding that, pending legal reforms, all federations should stop operating immediately. All trade union and employer federations will be effectively banned, a clear violation of ILO Convention 87, ratified by Swaziland, guaranteeing freedom of association for workers and employers.

Federations were called upon to submit reports of their operations to date, including their prepared audited financial statements to the Commissioner of Labour. This decision affects not only TUCOSWA and ATUSWA, affiliating IndustriALL members SATU, SESMAWU and SMAWU, but also the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce, and the Federation of the Swazi Business Community.

Tripartite bodies such as the Wages Council, Labour Advisory Board, Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission, Swaziland National Provident Fund, Training and Localization Committee and the Social Dialogue Committee will stop functioning as a result.

Article 5 of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize recognizes the right of workers’ organizations to establish or to join federations and confederations of their own choosing.

In response to the complaint filed by TUCOSWA and the ITUC on 23 May 2012 (Case No 2949), the Committee on Freedom of Association recommended that pending legislative reforms TUCOSWA is able to effectively exercise all its trade union rights without interference or reprisal. An ILO High-Level Fact Finding Mission that visited the country in January 2014 recommended the registration of the worker and employer federations by end of April 2014.

The Swazi government has ignored the recommendations and repeated calls from the international trade union movement to respect rights guaranteed under international conventions ratified by Swaziland. Instead they have suspended workers’ right to freely associate and to carry out trade union activities completely.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina says:

“This decision also goes against the decision of the Industrial Court, which recognized that TUCOSWA could operate in terms of its own constitution.

“We urge you to revoke the decision to dissolve TUCOSWA and ATUSWA and to start engaging in a genuine dialogue with unions about legislative reforms that will ensure that workers’ rights are respected in line with Swaziland’s international obligations without any further delay.”