Saturday, 23 July 2011


African unions are becoming a force to be reckoned with – more and more assertive, capable of organising and mobilising their workers and winning momentous victories. A conference, bringing together in Abuja, Nigeria, 30 leaders of journalists’ unions from all over Africa, came to an end with a united and strong message that the battle is on to end poverty wages and attacks on social rights.

The gathering entitled” The Fruit of our Labour: A New Agenda for Improving the Conditions of Journalists in Africa” opened on Wednesday in the middle of rare scenes of jubilations as the Nigerian labour movement scored a huge victory for workers. Federal and state governments officials were humiliated when they caved in literally at the 11th hour at a meeting with labour leaders representing the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, only minutes before the start of a three-day national strike that would have paralysed the country. The marathon negotiations were over the implementation of the minimum wage of 18,000 nairas monthly (around $3.6 per day).

In the middle of cheers and standing ovations, it was the triumphant leader and not the minister of labour who opened the conference. Owei Lakemfa, General Secretary of the NLC, who is also member of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, gave a magnificent solidarity speech concluding “A good journalist, like a good striker, must have the ability to use both legs: work as a professional and organise as a trade unionist”.

With their spirit lifted, delegates spent the two days debating and agreeing how to build a strong union movement in the media industry. It was not about press freedoms or human rights or killed journalists, it was about how to lift African journalists from poverty so they become a force to be reckoned with.

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