Minimum wages, worker rights for women, collective bargaining and the promotion of health and safety at textile and clothing factories were among the topics discussed at a union building meeting in Ethiopia last week.
The IndustriAll union building project, held in Addis Ababa on 16 November, saw participation from FNV Mondiaal, Solidaridad, and the International Labour Organization (ILO), who agreed to “continue supporting the fight for workers’ rights by women” in the country’s garment and textile sector.
The women are organised by the Industrial Federation of Ethiopian Textile, Leather and Garment Trade Unions (IFETLGTU), an IndustriAll affiliate.
The meeting follows a session earlier this year to train trainers on women workers’ rights. Issues discussed included maternity protection, organising against gender discrimination and sexual harassment, recognition of family responsibilities by employers, and equal pay for work of equal value.
The women said the training boosted their confidence as they no longer feared approaching company management. They will now train colleagues at factories in Addis Ababa and Bishoftu among other places.
Also discussed was the minimum wage, which has been put on the agenda for future negotiations with employers. Collective bargaining agreements that ensure fair wages, the unions say, are important in reversing “subsistence” wages.
The Global Framework Agreements that IndustriAll has signed with global brands including Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) and Tchibo, who both source from factories in Ethiopia, are proving useful tools in protecting workers against poverty wages, the unions added.
“We are committed to improving gender equality, and to ensure union leadership reflected the membership,” says Paule-France Ndessomin, IndustriAll regional officer for Sub Saharan Africa. “Women workers represent their factory issues better when given the opportunity to speak for themselves.”