TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Swaziland: 'Government silence is deafening' - Unions

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 Published: | MUSA SIMELANE

Source: Times of Swaziland

Workers' unions are perturbed by government’s silence as only five working days now remain before the country loses its eligibility to AGOA.

They are worried that there are no signs or anything giving hope from government concerning the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), yet the deadline is on May 15 (Thursday). AGOA provides trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry for specific African products into the United States market.

Losing or renewing eligibility will surely depend on whether government has played its part in fulfilling the five benchmarks for workers’ rights.  The benchmarks include; full passage amendment to the Industrial Relations Act allowing for registration of trade union and employer federations and also; full passage of the amendment to the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Since the visitation of a United States delegation to the country about a month ago, there relatively has been silence from government. Sabelo Dlamini from the Government Public Relations Office, yesterday said there was nothing so far that can be communicated on AGOA. He said the media will be notified when there was something.

It is upon this backdrop that the anxiety of the unions was rekindled. Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) Secretary General Vincent Ncongwane yesterday expressed alarm at government’s silence, which he felt spoke volumes. “If there was some urgency on the AGOA issue, the tripartite (employers, employees and government) should not have slept last weekend. But there is no hurry in Swaziland. Government must understand that it will not have its way all the time,” said Ncongwane. He also observed that since the Industrial Relations Bill was tabled in Parliament for amendment in February this year, there has been no progress. Ncongwane was of the view that it appeared that government no longer cared about AGOA.

He recalled that in the year 2000, when the country was on the verge of losing its eligibility to the Generalised System Preference (GSP), government ran from pillar to post in the last minute. “Don’t we learn from history after all?” wondered Ncongwane. National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) President Quinton Dlamini said there was nothing much that could be done by unions as it was all up to government. He said the loss of AGOA will have implications beyond the textile industry.

It will breed a society of impoverished people. “But let’s wait and see what happens until May 15,” Dlamini said. Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga hoped for a miracle, looking at the few days remaining. He said the nation was waiting with bated breath. 

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