Saturday, October 22, 2011

#Uint11 The Arab Spring - Update on the Middle East and North Africa

Sat pm: Last presentation was by Nick Crook, UNISON International Officer, followed by a film on Labour Rights in Egypt.

Nick reported that this is a new area of work for UNISON.  We use to work on Palestine and Iraq (and to a lesser extent Iran).  No real mandate  before Conference this year. 
It is called the  “Arab Spring” but also involves North Africa. Events are ongoing. Not only in Libya (Gaddifi was killed only 2 days before) but in Syria and Egypt things are still very much a process. The Army remains in control in Egypt.

A key factor has been social and economic conditions. The role of trade unions has been a core theme. There were marked differences in the region beforehand with regard to unions.  Some such as Tunisia had powerful free trade unions, others such as in Egypt, Syria and Libra they were  government controlled unions while in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, unions were banned. Less widely reported is the protests in Jordon, Algeria and Morocco.  In Morocco the protests forced the King to announce that there will be a  constitutional monarchy. While in Bahrain there was military intervention by Saudi. 3000 trade unionists lost their jobs while several hundred were imprisoned.  Contrast the British Government response to what has happened in Libya and Bahrain. Kuwait also has a crack down on trade union protest. On May day 2011 77 national trade unions across region did sign a "democracy declaration".

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have a new web site (which I can't find?) and Labourstart also has lots of good information and campaigns.  Unfortunately there has been splits in Egypt trade unions which have put UNISON in a difficult position with regard to who to support.

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