Workers in Ethiopia are being exploited by big corporations, especially in the textile industry, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
General Secretary of ITUC Sharan Burrow, visited Addis Ababa this week and held talks with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn about the challenges workers face when it comes to wages and setting wage floors.
“When you have women, who are earning as little as USD 20 a month, that is amongst the lowest wages in the world. It is a poverty wage and I can tell you that the textile sector can pay four times that and not undermine the competitive base of Ethiopia,” said Burrow.
She further stated that the notion that countries will not be able to attract foreign investment if a minimum wage is implemented is false and there are plenty of countries serving as examples of this.
“If you take countries that are wealthy, such as Sweden for example, they were poor in the 1890s, they built a social protection floor, a minimum living wage, invested in jobs and now they are among the most stable countries in the world, their growth is better than any other western country.”
“We can work with the governments of Africa and particularly with this government given your Prime Minister’s commitment to inclusive growth to the rights and dignity of working people, we can work to build a development model that ends exploitation,” Burrow said.
She also said that the African Union needs to step up and support an African wage floor. “It is not the same wage in every country, it’s a wage where people can live in dignity. But if the African Union leaders don’t demand a development model for Africa that ends the exploitation that is founded on wages on which people can live with dignity and a social protection floor, then we won’t change the rules to allow African people to be respected and valued in the way they should be,” she added.
The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Abdulfetah Abdulah stated that the government will be setting a minimum wage in the future.
“We need to be competitive to attract Foreign direct investment and we need to create employment. The government wants to and has a plan to set a minimum wage, but it needs to be based on research, and it has to be one that puts into consideration the lifestyle of people, the country’s growth and capacity to pay,” the Minister said.
Regarding questions about the conduct of some foreign companies especially from Asia, that have been accused of unfair employment treatment and violations of employees right to association, the Minister stated that, “There are a lot of issues but it is not something that can be resolved in one day, it takes time. In different regions there is labor inspection work being done, our biggest focus is making sure that proclamations are implemented in a way they should be to be able to close some of the gaps. Educating and awareness creation work is also being done.”