The Media Workers Union of Swaziland (MWUS) in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) through the LO- TCO project, held a two – day workshop on Freedom of Association and Labour Rights, at the Thokoza Anglican Conference Centre in Mbabane, Swaziland from 6- 7 November, 2014. The workshop brought together over twenty journalists including the entire executive committee of MWUS as well as other members of civil society.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, MWUS President, Nqobile Hlatjwako, emphasized that the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining are fundamental human rights as guaranteed by ILO conventions 87 and 98. She called on all journalists in Swaziland to unionize in order to ensure that their rights and interest are given the priority it deserves by the employers. Concerning female journalists, the President said that there is a need to empower and support female colleagues in the media to climb up the ladder of life. “There should be an end in looking down upon female journalists and they should be treated as equals to their male counterparts”. There is a need for vigorous sensitization of all players in support of the plight of female journalists in Swaziland.
IFJ Africa Office Senior Programme officer, Pa Louis Thomasi, in his presentation at the workshop, reiterated that the right to freedom of association and the right to organize are among the most violated rights in the continent. Thomasi added that one of the main objectives of any trade union is to defend the interest of its members by negotiating with employers on matters concerning their welfare. “Across the continent, there have been some serious impediments as far as collective agreements are concerned. Most agreements signed with private media owners are been consistently violated at will, while most governments prefer to remain mute in the face of these grave violations of the labour rights of their citizens. “While media owners continue to reap huge profits, the majority of journalists in these media houses continued to receive starvation wages without any form of benefits or social security. As journalists, we must never remain silent on the violations of our fundamental human rights. We must raised our voices against these inhume actions and where possible challenge these violations in a competent court of law.
While presenting a paper on “The importance of Communication in Trade Unions” the Secretary General of MWUS, Wandile Motsa, said that journalists and media workers must make maximum use of their communication skills. He emphasized that violations on freedom of association and labour rights should also be brought to the knowledge of the union, so that the union can take the necessary actions. He however, lamented that most of these violations are not reported to the union.
At the end of the two- day workshop, strong recommendations were made concerning a sensitization campaign on the advantages of trade unionism as well as a periodic recruitment drive, which will target in particular, young female journalists coming into the profession.