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Southern African Trade Union Declaration on Hong Kong


Windhoek, Namibia, December 6-7, 2005

We, the representatives of the trade union fraternity from Southern Africa (from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) under the auspices of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC), joined by representatives of ICFTU-AFRO, ITGLWF-Africa, UNI-Africa, IUF-Africa and SEATINI;

CONCERNED about the levels of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion in Africa; the lack of access to education and training, health, proneness to diseases and mainly HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other related infectious diseases; protracted conflicts in some countries; the risk of not attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); the lack of social protection which affects particularly women, youth, persons with disabilities, the aged and children, and the exposure to poor occupational health and safety conditions of the majority of workers, particularly in the informal economy;

ALSO CONCERNED that massive unemployment has been effected due to economic liberalization, retrenchments, and company closures in a number of countries has led to high dependency ratios;

AND that the trade union movement is under attack from governments, multinational corporations, and from institutions promoting a neo-liberal agenda, leading to informalization of our economies and falling membership of trade unions;

FURTHER CONCERNED about the unregulated globalization that is leading to increasing inequalities, the erosion of workers’ rights, jobless growth, increasing numbers of “working poor” particularly in the informal economy, privatizations, reduced role of the state, devaluations; removal of subsidies, cost sharing in health and education; and deregulation of labour markets;

AWARE that the current phase of globalization is anti-worker and anti-poor, particularly against those in Southern Africa;

ALSO AWARE that the current trade regime works to the disadvantage of the poor developing countries, particularly those in Southern Africa, and economic liberalization has not been accompanied by broadly shared economic growth and social development;

REAFFIRM our commitment to the Philadelphia Declaration, in particular, that: i) Labour is not a commodity; ii) Freedom of expression and of association is essential to sustained progress; iii) Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere; and iv) The war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within each nation;

SUPPORT the recommendations of the Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All, and the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and its role in poverty alleviation and the global economy through the four strategic objectives – fundamental principles and rights at work; employment; social protection; and social dialogue;

REKINDLE our commitment in the pursuit of the principles and objectives of the African Charter for Human and Peoples Rights;

COGNISANT of the fact that trade union action must not be exclusively aimed at the workers in companies, institutions and sectors, but also at improving the position of the informal-sector workers, the unemployed, poor migrants, women, youths, the disabled, older people without social protection, the excluded in general;

NOTE with concern that increased trade liberalization including increased exports, a number of countries are experiencing food insecurity, de-industralization, falling employment levels and low export revenues;

ALSO NOTE that preferential trade access by developing African countries is being threatened by the agreement on agriculture and NAMA;

FURTHER NOTE that the deteriorating working conditions, casualization of employment, and pressure on wages in a number of countries as a result of laxity in enforcement of international labour standards and national legislation, among other things;

ALSO NOTE that a number of countries have put in place export processing zones in which poor working conditions – low wages, long working hours, denial of workers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, forced overtime – are prevalent;

FURTHER NOTE with concern that NAMA negotiations have the potential to i) negatively affect production and employment in a number of non-agricultural sectors; ii) lead to loss of jobs; iii) decrease policy space for governments; iv) lead to loss of government revenues from tariffs; and v) increased preference erosion;

AWARE that a poor person usually has only their physical and intellectual assets to offer and hence employment and decent work are the best way of fighting poverty;

ALSO AWARE that Africa’s ability to fight poverty, unemployment and inequalities is being undermined by the unfair and unjust trade patterns;

DISMAYED by certain WTO rules that pose threats to public services posed by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and reaffirms that vital public services – notably education, health, water, public transport and other essential public utilities – must be excluded from negotiations on trade liberalization under its auspices, with governments retaining the right to regulate and protect in the public interest;

PARTICULARLY AMAZED by the fact that life saving drugs (for diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria) cannot be accessed by the poor due to developed countries’ insistence the need to safeguard « intellectual property rights » in the implementation of TRIPS;

DO HEREBY RESOLVE as follows: -

1. African countries should put the creation of jobs and decent work at the center of their trade policies and development;

2. The Hong Kong Agenda should reaffirm the unfulfilled promises of the Doha Development Round that contains provisions on development and the creation of decent work for all;

3. Call on our governments to avoid a race to the bottom, whereby they are compelled to compete against one another, and in the process lead to lowering of labour standards, in order to attract foreign direct investments;

4. Call on our governments within the SADC framework to consult and involve trade unions in trade negotiations and particularly in the delegations to the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong;

5. Developing countries should not be pressured into binding their tariffs as well as lower their tariffs (under NAMA). In this way our countries would be able to use industrial policies for development given the policy space, and would not lose trade revenues from tariffs;

6. With regard to Mode IV (temporary cross border movement of natural persons), support migration that are orderly, incorporate migrant workers’ rights, encourage full integration and prevent all forms of discrimination;

7. On agriculture, we call on developed countries to eliminate all forms of tariff and non-tariff barriers to products from the South, and that the Agreement on Agriculture should ensure the respect of agricultural workers, and enhance food security for all;

8. On services, in order to safeguard vital public services from further liberalization and privatization, public services should be excluded from further negotiations in Hong Kong and beyond;

9. We call on the 6th Ministerial Conference of the WTO to take action to propose a joint Ministries of Labour and Trade Ministers’ Meeting, with full participation of the trade unions, employers and the ILO;

10. We call for more transparency and democracy in the international trading agreements, including decision-making processes at the WTO, and accessibility of the WTO to trade unions and representatives of other democratic organizations.

Finally, we would like to thank the FES, SATUCC and LaRRI for the financial and technical support provided to the Symposium.

Adopted in Windhoek (Namibia) on this 7th day of December 2005.