Labor Delegation Meets with Union Federation in South Sudan

Representatives of the East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)-Africa, Solidarity Center, and International Labor Organization (ILO) visited South Sudan last week to assess worker issues and trade union developments in Africa’s newest country and to identify areas of support and collaboration. They found workers and their organizations looking toward the future and motivated to develop a prosperous South Sudan that will benefit all of its people.

On the delegation, which took place May 2–4, were Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, ITUC-Africa general secretary; Emmanuel Nzunda, EATUC executive secretary; Mamadou Diallo, ITUC Brussels; Federick Parry, workers specialist for the ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV); and Hanad Mohamud, Solidarity Center Eastern Africa country program director. They met with leaders of South Sudan’s Workers Trade Union Federation (SSWTF); Hellen Achiro, Labor Ministry undersecretary; and representatives of the South Sudan Business Union and South Sudan Civil Society Alliance.

“The independent trade union movement is clearly young in South Sudan, but it is also eager to establish itself and make its contribution to the development of the new nation-state,” Adu-Amankwah said. “The need for capacity building was a recurring theme in all the encounters we had. The international trade union movement has to coordinate its effort in providing solidarity and support in order to achieve maximum benefits for our South Sudanese counterparts.”

The SSWTUF was created in August 2010, with delegates attending the founding conference from 10 states of South Sudan. They elected three senior officials: Simon Deng, chairman, from Great Upper Nile region; Mohammed H. Abdallah, secretary general, from Equatoria region; and Claudio Francis, secretary treasurer, from Bahr el Ghazal region. Currently, the federation has 65,000 members, 60 percent of them women, primarily from the public sector.

The federation has participated in drafting bills on trade unions as well as on labor and industrial relations. Those bills, currently stalled, present one of the challenges faced by the federation and its members. Federation officials also told the delegation that they are concerned about labor law compliance; organizing more women and young people; strengthening social dialogue; fighting child labor; and minimizing discrimination, harassment, and stigma.

“The South Sudanese labor movement is geared up to make a positive contribution toward the development of the country,” said Mohamud of the Solidarity Center. “Everywhere you go in South Sudan you get a sense of a country building for the future, and the labor movement is no exception. Our international labor delegation learned a lot on this trip, and we are looking forward to continuing to partner with the South Sudan Workers Trade Union Federation in the future.”

South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation and most recent member of the United Nations and the African Union. It gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011. The total population of South Sudan is about 8 million.