02 January 2021
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the goals requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King
Withought a doubt the year 2020 remain to many and equally to the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) the most difficulty year in recent history. It is in that vein that ATUSWA wishes to applaud the workers and in particular the members of our union for doing everything within their means in protecting one another, their families and the society against the spread of COVID-19. We wish to implore the workers to continue exercising great caution and restraint as the COVID-19 pandemic clowd hangs above each and everyone’s head.
In 2020 we saw our progress being derailed and delayed as our focus shifted from a fighting to a survival mode and we had to adjust. In February 2020 ATUSWA had already reported a dispute on wages and other conditions of service to the Concilliation Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) which it certificate of unressolved dispute is in our hands as we were already preparing what would have been a mother of all strikes in the garment industry. Our demand for E15 per hour remains on the table and if it is not met this year through table negotiations, we shall have no option but to demand for more.
As we close 2020, through ATUSWA deployees in the Wages Councils, in particular the Manufacturing Industry we have sorted the thorny issues around working hours, overtime, compassionate leave and in part maternity leave. We proud ourselves for being able to determine where and how we should fight our battles as a union. All we await now is for governnent through it agencies to publish the agreed new regulations which will address a lot of concerns from workers and ATUSWA members.
We applaud the ATUSWA family for fighting together in ensuring that our livelihood is protected during the lock-down that was impossed by governement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a fact that it is true and also true that it is a fact that had ATUSWA also accepted that the employers, government and ENPF had no obligation to come to the aid of workers during the business lock-down, workers would not have received the relief fund from Lidlelatfongeni and we are grateful to those bodies for finally acceding to the workers demand. We are quite aware that the E400 per month that was given to an individual worker is too little but the 25 Million that was donated by ENPF would have made a major impact had it been handled differently, in paricular in the manner that we have suggested as a union. We say shame to all emplloyers who saw the COVID-19 pandemic as means to further cheat workers by reducing their wages. We are quite aware that the COVID-19 Regulations favours the employers but we believe responsible employers should not use the pandemic to cheat workers. We further believe that government should have done more to protect workers whose gains are reversed by employers.
Since the unfortunate Industrial Court of Appeal judgement on SMAWU vs ATUSWA, our organization has never neglected the workers who are organized under SMAWU and we hope the legal battle would soon come to an end. We trust that the workers constitutional right to dertermine how they want to be organized would be protected by all of us wherever we are.
It is a pity that the ministry of Labour through the department of labour continue to neglect its responsibility. Despite the ministry having undertaken to investigate general refusal by employers to grant recognition to ATUSWA, the ministry has not decicively acted on their undertaking except to call the leaders of ATUSWA to a meeting to make presentations on a topic that is well documented. We call on the Commissioner of Labour to speed up this process. Actually it is this kind of attitude that ferment dishamorny in the labour space and robe the ministry the kind of respect it should ordinarily enjoy.
We recognize and appreciate the efforts and support from our international allies who have assisted ATUSWA to meet it strategic objectives. Without their efforts in 2020 we would not have been able to conduct the very important leadership training that was held around November and we would not have been able to conduct the research that has opened our eyes regarding worker rights violations in the garment industry which remains our highly organized sector yet the union is less recognized by employers who are mostly anti union. We are saddened that our efforts working with TUCOSWA have not yielded the desired outcome from government which continues to stand on the side of the employers who refuse to recognize that workers are human beings. Even our efforts with some good employers to make Swaziland attractive to significant buyers has hit a snag because of goverment failure to appreciate the importance of recognizing rights of workers and working together.
In appreciating TUCOSWA as a result of the federation granting ATUSWA exemption we wrote “the federation afforded our union a fighting chance and the support was a morale boosting on the leadership of our organization. We trust and hope that other unions that are and or would face the same challenges as ATUSWA, would be exempted so that they can stand on their feet again.” We again stand by what we said in November 2020. We are encouraged that TUCOSWA is vibrant again. The mere fact that affiliates of the federation are able to speak and support one another is a clear sign of a maturing TUCOSWA. TUCOSWA shall never again be an organization where views of an individual and his friends are beyond reproach. TUCOSWA should and we shall fight that it is trully a festival of ideas in a true democratic spirit rather than being a populists platform where unprincipled individuals are given the latitude to do as they wish without being challenged. Despite the double challenges of inside and outside forces we hope TUCOSWA will have an opportunity to reinvent itself in its coming Congress and we wish our federation a very succesful 3rd Quadrenial Congress.
We wish to remind workers and our people that COVID-19 remains a very big threat to life at this point in time, that it is a duty of each and every individual to protect one another from the virus. We wish to applaud, as we do all the front line workers, in particular the nurses as organized under our sister organization, the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU). To them we say, being accused of thieving while protecting our lives should not defocus them from their founding principles as a proffession. In the same vein we take off our hats to those whom we have lost due to COVID-19 and demand that the vaccine is made available to all citezens of Swaziland.
In the same spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King when he spoke about human progress, we implore workers particulary our members that we march side by side in buidling ATUSWA to be a mean, fighting machine which would deliver to all workers a better tomorrow. In so doing we should make sure that the unity and coercion that exist within our union is maintained and enhanced.
On behalf of the National Office Bearers, our staff and the entire leadership of the union we send our profound revolutionary greetings and wish our members, all workers; organized and unorganized, our legal team, our TUCOSWA family and our International allies a prosperous, peaceful and happy new year, 2021.
Issued by
National Office Bearers
May be an image of 5 people and people standing
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