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Actions to fight HIV/AIDS in 8 African countries

International Confederation Of Free Trade Unions

Workers and employers develop joint actions to fight HIV/AIDS in eight African countries

Brussels, 2 April 2004 (ICFTU Online): Representatives of employers, and trade unions held an unprecedented meeting in Geneva to develop bipartite national action plans for workplace responses to HIV/AIDS. The meeting, running from 30 to 31 March, follows up on a joint policy statement of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) targeting eight countries which are among the worst-affected by the pandemic in Africa.

"This meeting presents an unprecedented opportunity to put aside traditional differences between unions and managers. We must join forces to tackle this disease which is decimating the African workforce". Andrew Kailembo, General Secretary of ICFTU-AFRO, the ICFTU African regional organization. In August 2003 ICFTU-AFRO signed a joint statement on fighting HIV/AIDS with the Pan African Employers' Confederation.

"The lessons learned in this initiative should help us to guide employers, workers and their organizations in other countries and regions. The epidemic is progressing rapidly in other parts of the world and we should be ready to act wherever the need arises" commented Antonio Penelosa, IOE Secretary General. It is the hope of the ICFTU and IOE that this bipartite approach, which initially focuses on countries in Africa, will be replicated in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and the NIS and Asia-Pacific regions.

Employers' and workers' representatives, meeting inside the International Labour Organisation's headquarters in Geneva, made joint presentations on the work they have carried out so far in Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Ghanaian employers and trade unions spoke of progress already made through cooperation, including the development of joint training materials, and guidelines for workplace policies. According to Ampadu Yeboah of the Ghana Employers Federation, "unions and employers realized that the Ministry of Labour wasn't developing the appropriate workplace policies, so we took over. We also jointly trained 220 peer educators from 72 organisations".

Kenyan union representative Noah Chune, spoke of the impact of shopsteward training programmes which have taken place under the ICFTU-AFRO regional training programme. An estimated 30,000 union members have been sensitized on HIV/AIDS in Kenya, where unions use key union events, such as the May Day celebrations, to get the message out.

According to Regina Amadi-Njoku, African regional director of the International Labour Organisation, "we are seeing the birth of a strong strategic alliance of ICFTU, IOE and ILO in the fight against AIDS".

Dr. Jack Chow, Assistant Director General of the World Health Organisation, responsible for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, spoke to participants of the value of joint action by employers and trade unions, remarking that "for many people, at least one third of each day is spent in the world of work. You have an enormous power to act together to really inspire workers and employers to join the fight against HIV/AIDS."

The participants also held discussions on resource mobilisation with multilateral and national donors, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the German technical cooperation agency (GTZ), as well the Dutch and Swedish governments.


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