The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body and its Committee on Freedom of Association will in their 326th Session starting today in Geneva, Switzerland, be scrutinising serious & on-going violations of the right to freedom of association and trade union rights by the Federal Government of Somalia.
In November 2015, ILO had summoned the government to appear today before ILO committee to answers questions over specific cases of attacks against human and trade union rights such as clampdown of the right to freedom of association committed by Ministries of Information and Labour; assassination attempt and intimidation of trade unionists; interference in internal trade union affairs; disbanding of trade union meetings, making derogatory & defamatory statements against unions and imposing phoneys on independent trade unions so as to destabilise the existence of free & independent trade unions.
Famously known CFA case 3113, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) and the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) made joint complaint to the ILO to objectively determine facts of these human rights violations and draw conclusions from them so as to provide the basis of an official action.
Due to seriousness of violations committed by the accused Ministries of Information and Labour and the submission of self-contradictory letters by the same ministries without any legal basis but based abuse of public office as well as the amble evidences submitted to the ILO o substantiate these gross abuses, the government decided not to go before the ILO in this session to buy more time and find out way to manoeuvre a breathing space, and therefore to postpone the hearing of the case until May 2016.
NUSOJ, FESTU and ITUC contended that the case should proceed with or without presence of the federal government since the later had adequate time to prepare and present itself before the global tripartite Committee of representatives from governments, trade unions and employers since November 2015, and the case to be heard as scheduled is very much necessitated by the heightened attacks on trade union movement since landmark ruling of the Supreme Court on 4 February 2016, and more time given to government will be perceived as a blank cheque given to the Ministries to perpetrate more human and trade unions rights violations.
We are delighted that the case is proceeding as scheduled at this March session and the ILO will draw its own position.
By denying trade unions their constitutional and fundamental rights of freedom of association and freedom of assembly, and disrespecting the rule of law in the country, we felt compelled to go to ILO’s supervisory mechanism to investigate and find out labour rights abuses.
These two Ministries stripped Somali trade unions of their fundamental rights to run and own their unions freely and independently, directly contributing to a climate of fear in the labour movement and repression of basic human rights. Because of the actions of the two ministries, ILO holds entire government responsible for such violations.
Government statements about restoring peace, social justice, respect for human rights and democracy in Somalia ring hollow when officials systematically violate international standards that protect workers and their union representatives.
In November 2015, same ILO body found the government guilt-ridden for suppressing freedom of association, intimidating trade unions, imposing imposters on independent trade unions and demanded attacks on trade unions ended. ILO full report is available: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_424082.pdf
Although Somalia has ratified all major core ILO conventions, the federal government has consistently has ignored the recommendations of the ILO supervisory mechanisms. This pattern of non-cooperation, coupled with the seriousness of rights abuses, has prompted the call for an ILO to take up this case thoroughly.
Fundamental labour rights protections have been denied for far too long to the workers of Somalia, and there must be accountability for government’s defiance of its international obligations.
We believe in social dialogue, and we engaged the government to reach amicable solution but the officials have not engaged in the dialogue in good faith, and continued their anti-trade union actions.
The struggle continues, victory is certain!
Truth Shall Set Us Free!
Omar Faruk Osman
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)