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Trade unions strategize pathways for human rights due diligence in Africa

D 20 décembre 2023     H 05:00     A     C 0 messages

Sub-Saharan African (SSA) trade unions strategized how human rights due diligence can be a catalyst to achieving their demands for multinational companies to respect fundamental workers’ rights, decent work, living wages, and protection of the environment and community rights. Unions gathered at this conference on 19 and 20 October in Mombasa, Kenya.

The 60 participants from 24 countries included delegates from the Central Organization of Trade Unions – Kenya (COTU-K), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Kenya, IG Metall, IG BCE, Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Southern Africa Resource Watch, and the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association. Trade union support organizations represented were ACV-CSC Belgium, 3F, the International Lawyers Assisting Workers, SASK, the Swedish Workplace Programme, and Union to Union.

The conference deliberated on multi-layered issues regarding human rights due diligence and critical minerals supply chains in the global south. The findings of a research paper on the Just Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe by Tom MacNamara, La Trobe University, Australia which was commissioned by the SSA regional office, was also a focal point.

Participants indicated that Chinese companies are violating labour laws in several African countries like the DRC, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In response to the concerns, a presentation from TUAC said that one of the ways to ensure that Chinese multinational companies comply with human rights due diligence is to use the OECD guidelines because China participates in OECD activities as an observer.

The presentation on IRMA emphasized that the standard requires mine sites to adopt a comprehensive approach to identify, assess, account for, and address potential human rights impacts associated with their operations.

The conference also discussed how the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act will positively influence the enactment of binding human rights due diligence laws in Africa. For example, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria have already developed national action plans on human rights due diligence. Discussions on gender dimensions of human rights due diligence included ending discrimination, violence, and harassment in the world of work.

This conference was part of IndustriALL Sub-Saharan Africa’s weeklong meetings which began with a regional youth meeting on 16 October, a women’s meeting on 17 October, and a regional executive meeting on 18 October which focused on Just Transition and critical transition minerals.

Speaking at the regional executive meeting, Francis Atwoli, COTU-K secretary general said,

“trade unions must be vigilant and militant in defending workers’ rights and interests.”

Rose Omamo, IndustriALL vice president, and secretary general of the Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers said :

“At the African Business and Human Rights Forum in Ethiopia, in September, IndustriALL SSA made demands for the inclusion of trade unions in the African Union processes through social dialogue, and for labour clauses to be integrated especially in the draft policy on business and human rights and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement protocols. We hope the AU will respond favourably to these demands.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said :

“As trade unions we cannot outsource our struggle for demanding the respect for workers’ rights and living wages to others, but must continue fighting the employers and governments to respect these rights. Unions must continue to demand binding legal instruments to protect workers from rights violations by multinational corporations and support campaigns for a binding UN treaty on business and human rights.”