Nearly half of the 4 million workers who labor in Morocco’s agricultural fields are women, yet they receive less pay and are granted fewer opportunities to improve their wages or working conditions than their male co-workers.
But through their union, the Confédération Démocratique du Travail (CDT), women workers in Morocco’s fertile Meknes region are leveling the playing field, as a new Solidarity Center video illustrates.
More than 1,000 workers at the Domaines Brahim Zniber agro-industrial complex in 2015 negotiated a landmark collective bargaining agreement that raised wages, and provided access to health care and bathroom and meal breaks.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, the country’s first in the farm sector, “when we are sick, we can go to a doctor,” says Maskini Fatiha, a farm worker on the Domaines Zniber.
Crucially, because women were at the bargaining table, the agreement protects women from being fired when they marry and includes access to maternity leave and time off to care for sick children. Women now can receive training for higher paid jobs, like tree pruning, from which they were previously excluded.
“The gap between male workers and female workers used to be huge,” says Hayat Khomssi, a farm worker at Domaines Zniber. “Men were eligible for bonuses that weren’t granted to women, which made them feel inferior.” Women are now allowed to prune and trim trees, she says, “and enjoy equal wages as men.”
Years of gender equality training by the CDT and Solidarity Center and their ongoing support for collective action led to women taking a strong role in negotiating the agreement, which has set a standard that other agro-industrial complexes are set to follow.
The Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) is encouraging workers to gather at a National Assembly public hearing this week to implore lawmakers to implement a new minimum wage bill affecting 11 million workers, and reject a proposed two-tier minimum wage bill that will rob state workers of a minimum wage increase all workers were promised more than two years ago.
A proposed minimum wage of $83 per month—a 60 percent increase over the current minimum wage–was recommended by Nigeria’s tripartite minimum wage committee following years of negotiations and endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari last year. Workers have seen a steady erosion of their purchasing power caused by rising inflation, with the cost of staple foods rising more than 11 percent last year.
The minimum wage committee’s proposal must be adopted into law by the country’s 360-member House of Representatives in order to take effect, but passage of the law has been imperiled by Nigeria’s state governors, who last week approved a minimum wage of only $74 per month for state workers.
The country’s current minimum wage—$49.60 per month—is not a living wage, say workers, who accepted $83 as a compromise to the $164 per month they said would fairly compensate them and help them survive under hyperinflation.
Nigeria’s unions have been engaged in a years-long effort to increase the minimum wage. A threatened general strike in October 2018 was called off only a few hours before it was scheduled to begin, after the wage committee agreed to increase the minimum wage to $83. A second general strike was called off last week after a new national minimum wage bill was submitted to the National Assembly.
If a general strike is triggered, all public-sector institutions—including schools, hospitals and the oil sector—will be affected.
“We all need to stand ready in a state of full mobilization,” said Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) General Secretary Peter Ozo-Eson.
The global labor community is condemning death threats made against Jean Bonald Golinsky Fatal, president of the Confédération des Travailleurs- euses des Secteurs Public et Privé (CTSP) in Haiti.
Garment union president Jean Bonald Golinsky Fatal is receiving death threats in Haiti. Photo courtesy Fatal
The Confederation of Trade Unions of Workers of the Americas (CSA) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) are calling on the international community to put pressure on the government to take action to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Fatal’s name reportedly appeared on a list threatening five individuals, one of whom was murdered. Lionel Alain Dougé, executive director of the Tripartite Implementation Commission of the HOPE law, was killed in December at his home in Pétion-Ville, Haiti.
Dougé was responsible for ensuring textile companies adhere to Haitian laws, International Labor Organization labor standards and the HOPE law, which guarantees companies tariff advantages when trading with the United States and European Union.
The CSA and ITUC said in a statement that a joint trade union mission to Haiti in 2018 found rampant anti-unionism which translates into “campaigns of persecution and criminalization of trade union members and leaders.” At least 16 women were beaten by police inside a factory for refusing to return to work in May 2017, according to the ITUC 2018 Global Rights Index, which listed Haiti among countries that systematically violate worker rights.
The challenges to forming unions means workers have little opportunity to improve wages and working conditions. Haiti’s minimum wage is two to three times lower than the cost of living, with a liter of milk costing more than half the daily minimum wage. The resulting extreme poverty is exacerbated by increases in taxes and prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene.
Prior to Moyo’s arrest, ZCTU President Peter Mutasa was forced into hiding by a police break-in at his home during which his brother was reportedly assaulted. Mutasa, who was away from his house during the break-in, remains in hiding this week, forcing ZCTU staff to avoid their offices for fear of police seeking his whereabouts, according to union members who spoke with the Solidarity Center.
“We call upon the government to respect labor rights and stop all forms of intimidation and harassment against trade unionists,” said ZCTU today in a press release.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission found that torture of protesters by government forces—consisting mostly of “indiscriminate and severe beatings”—has been widespread. The situation remains tense this week, with soldiers patrolling the streets in most cities, towns and high-density residential areas.
ZCTU has faced other threats from authorities in recent months as Zimbabwe’s economy flounders and inflation and price hikes further complicate Zimbabwean workers’ lives. Mutasa and Moyo—along with 33 other trade unionists—were arrested and later released in October last year during an attempt to stop a national workers’ protest against a financial tax increase and rising prices. Some trade unionists were beaten, ZCTU Harare offices were cordoned off by some 150 police and ZCTU leaders not already in jail were forced into hiding.
The majority of Zimbabwean workers eke out a living in the informal economy, struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. Those with formal jobs often do not fare well either. A 2016 study by the Solidarity Center found that 80,000 workers in formal jobs did not receive wages or benefits on time, if at all. In many cases, they made only enough to get to work.
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