Mr Kofi Asamoah, Secretary General of Ghana Trades Union Congress has called on the labour unions in Africa to be at the forefront of advocacy.
He said the Regional labour unions should also join hands with others to promote alternative policies to global market forces to free the people from poverty.
“We can only do so when we build union power and by building our capacities on international trade and development issues. African trade unions should lead and redirect focus of national debates and public discuss issues of economic and social importance to bring relief to the ordinary man and woman on the streets,” he said.
Mr Asamoah made the call when he opened a two-day meeting of the West African Sub-regional committee of the International Transport Federation (ITF) in Accra.
The participating countries are from Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Sierra Leone.
The objectives of the meeting was to build the capacity and leadership role of the regional committee of the union representatives to engage in dialogue and coordinate union bargaining campaigns at the regional level and to enable unions to organise and service members effectively along the regional transport corridors and hubs.
It was also aimed at evaluating the Committee’s three-year (2009-2012) project on “Strong Unions – Sustainable Transport”, which involved road transport unions from 10 countries in the West Africa sub-region including Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Burkina Faso.
The meeting would adopt the resolution of the African Regional Conference (ARC) 2009 Dakar in the sub-region; receive reports, ITF participation in the sub-regional governmental and employer’s organisation and the preparation towards ARC in Maputo from April, and the ITF 43th congress.
Mr Asamoah said in the past 30 years African economic policies have been based on a philosophy that view the market forces as capable of solving all development problems that confront the countries.
He said countries were advised and in some cases forced to embark on sweeping import liberalisation, privatisation of state-owned enterprises, liberalisation of financial markets (interest rate), external payment that made it easy to transfer resources out of African countries and deregulation of labour markets among other policies with the desired aim of high economic growth, creation of quality jobs and reduction of poverty on sustainable basis.
He said the policies set back the clock of development in many areas in the society.
The Secretary General said global inequity has risen in the past three decades and to the great majority of people in Africa, globalisation has become almost a nightmare.
He said Africa’s real per capita GDP is lower today than it was in the 1970s.
“The number of Africans living in poverty almost doubled between 1981 and 2002 and that despite the hype of halving poverty from its 1990 levels as envisaged under the Millennium Development Goals, the UN estimates that by 2015 more than one-third of the world’s poor will be in Africa compared to one-fifth in 1990,” Mr Asamoah noted.
Mr Asamoah said: “It is difficult to reconcile these uncomfortable statistics with the promise of neo-liberal economic policies that were forced on our countries at the beginning of the 1980s and for the past 30 years our economic policies have been based on a philosophy that view the market forces as capable of solving all development problems that confront our various countries.”
He said trade unions fight for equity, socio-economic justice, eradication of poverty and economic development to the benefit of the people.
He said the unions must organise not only to avoid extinction but more importantly to ensure that they remain relevant to the members and to the working people they represent.
The Secretary General said the labour movement could influence national policies and decisions at workplaces only if it was strong and therefore charged the unions to sustain the interests of their existing members and as well recruit new members into their fold.
Mr Emmanuel A. Mensah, Vice President of the ITF in his welcoming address expressed satisfaction for the choice of Ghana.
The meeting unanimously adopted the resolutions of the African Regional Conference 2009 on “Strong Unions – Sustainable Transport” in Dakar.