A five-day workshop has been held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to train women working in the country’s growing textile and garment sector on labour law in bid to help them guard against exploitation. 

Organised by the Industrial Federation of Textile, Leather, and Garment Workers Union (IFTLGWU) with support from the IndustriAll Global Union regional office for Sub Saharan Africa and FNV Mondiaal, the workshop drew 19 participants from women’s committees in textile, garment and footwear factories.

The topics discussed included what the law says on basic rights and the obligations of the workers and employers, freedom of association, labour proclamation provisions, grievance handling, and resolving conflict at the workplaces. It was also highlighted that Ethiopia had ratified ILO Conventions on the freedom of association, protection of the right to organise, and collective bargaining.

In addition, the workshop highlighted some sections of the law the unions would like to be changed. These include unfair dismissals and the call for minimum wages to be included in the amended labour laws, and for rights of workers to be recognised in the industrial parks.

Unions said they will continue fighting outsourcing, which in most instances replaces permanent jobs with precarious ones.

The workshop was facilitated by Alem Abraha, a legal expert from Mekelle University.

“Understanding the labour laws is important to counter situations where employers take advantage of the workers not having a full understanding of the law, and this often leads to their exploitation in the factories,” said Sisay Tulu, IndustriAll coordinator for Ethiopia. “This often changes when workers understand the laws better and are able to stand up for their rights.”

Women constitute more than 80% of workers in Ethiopia’s rapidly growing textile and garment sector. The country is raising the bar on its garment and textile ambitions, targeting exports worth $30bn by 2025.

Last month, local reports said another three parks dedicated to textile and garment production are to be opened in the country, following the inauguration of two industrial parks in Adama and Dire Dawa in December 2017.

Through its five-year ‘Growth and Transformation Plan’ (GTP-II), which runs to 2020, Ethiopia plans to construct 15 industrial parks with a budget of more than US$1bn.