NCEW Solidarity forum: Participants’ Point of View
The solidarity forum was held at the NCEW conference hall on March 24 and 25, 2016. High ranking Eritrean officials, ambassadors, as well as trade union leaders and delegates from various continents participated the conference. The main agenda of the conference included topic related to labor migration, employment opportunities, forced labor and regional integration. We were able to talk to some of the participants, including Mr. Tekeste Baire, General Secretary of the NCEW, on the importance of such a forum.
Mr. Tekeste Baire, explaining the importance of the forum said, “The distinctiveness of this conference is that it has been jointly organized by the national confederation of Eritrean workers (NCEW) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). This is a rare occasion which brings together various trade unions and avails them with the opportunity to raise and discuss current issues.”
“The trade union leaders who have been present in this event are drawn from various continents. As such, we have diverse and rich experiences which emanates from the diversity of our respective places and special country and organizational conditions .There is no doubt, by exchange of ideas we shall undertake on the diverse challenges, which are going to result in the creation of a strong force in our organization and in our effort to find solutions to the challenges we are invariably encountering.”
Mr. TyoTyo James is the Deputy President of the South African Congress of Trade Union. “The objectives of this solidarity forum is to organize all African trade unions in solidarity with the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers, which is not only focusing on Eritrea of course, but throughout the continent, except that the national confederation here has arranged this conference which is very important,” he said about the forum.
He went on to say, “Our expectations from this forum is that you are the first to hold this solidarity conference and from this we are going to learn a lot in fostering unity among African workers generally and establishing relations with other national federations of the African countries in particular. For instance we don’t have good relations with the French speaking unions. We need to address that because the relations are influenced by the language we speak. They speak French because they were colonized by the French and we speak English because we were colonized by the British. The colonizers languages should not divide us, after all, they are not our languages.”
As regards to the NCEW, Mr. James added, “As a South African, the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers is a very important trade union to South African workers union. We value this national confederation very much. It has coherent leadership and coherent organization on the ground.”
Mr. Dill Formosan, representing German Trade Union expressed his view about the peace and stability in Eritrea. He said, “Even though I am used to the warm hospitality of the Eritrean people, it still surprises me every time I come here. The peace and safety of this country doesn’t change, you can move anywhere you want without fear. What interests me more is that though the country is in such difficult situation, it puts so much importance in educating the youth, bringing up social welfare, on building hospitals and all kinds of infrastructure and so on.”
Mr. Dill Formosan’s understanding about the solidarity forum is, “It is very enchanting, very interesting and very inspiring to see all the unions coming from the other African countries to talk about the challenges of organizing the people here in Africa, especially from Eritrea, since there are huge challenges everywhere in Africa. This conference basically will try to work out some ways to handle these problems by means of getting into serious discussions and fixing the things which are needed in the near future and work on how they should fulfill the interests of the working people on the changing world, challenges of globalization and other things which are bellowed from outside.”
British representative, Mr. William spring on his part pointed out, “I think hosting this conference at such time in Eritrea is a great thing, because at such times, Eritrea comes together, brings everybody together. I am here to learn about the situation in Eritrea, you cannot have effective trade union movement with only one employer. So, in order to create an effective movement you need to create a variety of work. The transnational companies are not ambitious enough to take people on so we need to analyze the situations slowly then they will be there only when we can get somewhere. There has always been work but equally Eritrea and the countries of Africa are in great need of action by the rest of their industries.”
The main purpose of the solidarity forum was to bring together national, regional and international trade union organizations as
well as prominent trade unionists to discuss, raise common understanding and reinforce their unity and enhance their resolve in the fight against violation of workers’ rights.
One aspect, which was heavily highlighted during the conference, is the worsening of working conditions worldwide. In regards to workers, the era of globalization has not benefited workers around the world. As a representative of trade union from the United Kingdom (UK) highlighted, the role of trade unions seem to diminish at global scale and it is becoming difficult to monitor and evaluate working conditions due to the number of outsourcing and home-based job leaving office spaces empty.
In its unremitting endeavors, the NCEW has over the years hosted similar forums and the outcome of this solidarity forum as always clearly showed its success and the international conference passed its resolution towards the promotion of decent work in Africa.