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Home » Historic Victory for Somali Trade Unions at the ILO

Historic Victory for Somali Trade Unions at the ILO

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The Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), at its 328th Session in Geneva, Switzerland, has today collectively approved powerful recommendations made by the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in favor of Somalia’s independent and free trade union movement against Somali government.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) and the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) lodged a complaint backed by incontrovertible evidences against the Federal Government of Somalia for committing flagrant and systematic violations of the right to freedom of association, interfering in internal trade union affairs, intimidating trade union leaders & members, conducting smearing campaign against trade union leadership and restricting trade unions’ legitimate work.

ILO’s tripartite Governing Body said it “expects the Government to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court concerning the leadership of NUSOJ (February 2016) and it urges the Government to refrain from any further interference in NUSOJ and FESTU internal affairs, and ensure that the elected leaders of the unions – in particular Mr Osman, until otherwise indicated by the union members themselves – are free to exercise the mandate given to them by their members in accordance with the unions’ by-laws. The Committee trusts that the Government will recognize the leadership of NUSOJ and FESTU under Mr. Omar Faruk Osman without delay.”

A letter obtained by Somali Minister of Information Mohamed Abdi Hayir on 20 July 2016 from the new Chief Justice concerning NUSOJ with the intention to rubberstamp government’s wish against union members’ will was put aside since it does not constitute a legal ruling and there has never been a due process and fair hearing conducted by the Supreme Court.

Expressing serious concern over the independence of Somalia’s judiciary, the ILO’s 56-member global executive body “is deeply concerned by the complainants’ allegation that the Chief Justice, namely Dr Aidid Abdullahi Ilkahanaf, who handed down the ruling in favour of Mr Osman – and against the Government’s position – has since been sacked by presidential decree. Observing that an independent judiciary is essential to ensuring the full respect for the fundamental freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, the Committee urges the Government to ensure full respect for this principle and to ensure that Dr Aidid Abdullahi Ilkahanaf is not subjected to threats for discharging his duties in accordance with the mandate bestowed upon him. The Committee requests the Government to reply in detail to this allegation.”

Concerned about intimidation of journalists and union leaders, the ILO “urges the Government to provide without delay full explanations on the reasons for the arrest on 15 October 2016 of Mr Abdi Adan Guled, Vice-President of NUSOJ.

Moreover, the ILO “urges the Government to provide without delay detailed information on any police investigation and judicial inquiry in relation to the assassination attempt against Mr Osman on 25 December 2015. More generally, the Committee urges the Government to ensure the protection and guarantee the security of FESTU and NUSOJ leaders and members, and establish a full and independent judicial inquiry in the event of any complaints relating to intimidation and threats affecting them” and “calls on the Government to take all necessary measures to investigate urgently the assassination of Mr Abdiasis Mohamed Ali, a member of NUSOJ, and to keep it informed of its outcome.

Apart from using State institutions to repress NUSOJ and FESTU leaders and members in order to succeed its campaign to stifle freedom of association and fundamental trade union rights, Government officials set out to carry out reprisals and a smear campaign as an effective political tool in order to cast an important shadow of doubt over moral and integrity of the trade union leadership in front of the only tripartite U.N. agency, that brings together governments, employers and trade union representatives of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and adjudicate violations of freedom of association.

But the ILO “considers that this background information (malicious information) is not of a nature as to put into question the serious acts of an anti-union nature by the Government in this case and the recommendations made thereon,” and “firmly recalls that union leaders should not be subject to retaliatory measures, in particular, arrest and detention without trial, for exercising their rights which derive from the ratification of ILO instruments on freedom of association or for having lodged a complaint with the Committee. The Committee expects the Government to ensure full respect of this principle.

“In spite of continued pressure and repression of our human and trade union rights, our unions have won an important victory against our government which elected to suppress its citizens, deny unions their constitutional rights and decided to breach international human rights law” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

“We are beyond thrilled to say that we have won. It is time for Somali government to realize that it had reached the end of the road and all it committed against trade union movement could not stand international legal scrutiny and must accept and implement ILO decisions in good faith” added Osman. “There is no way we shall give up our fundamental rights”.

“We applaud ITUC and representatives of the trade unions in the ILO governing body for their undivided support and solidarity for our struggle. This is a victory for all those who stand for full respect of freedom of association and trade union rights. It is a positive precedence for all trade unions” declared Osman.

ILO decided not to close the case on Somalia, contrary to what the Somali government requested. Furthermore, ILO has again summoned Somali government to come before ILO Committee on Freedom of Association to explain why it committed fresh violations of freedom of association.

On top of their written submissions, both Somali government and complaining trade unions went before ILO’s quasi-judicial body to defend their submissions and provide legal justifications.