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CNV Internationaal - A World that Works


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CNV Internationaal’s purpose is to contribute to positive change in people’s lives through the programmes we implement with trade union partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

In "A World that works”, journalist Frank van Lierde and photographer Bas de Meijer make the results of CNV International’s
work vivid through a number of personal stories gathered from interviews with working people from four continents.

Published in: News & Politics, Career
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CNV Internationaal - A World that Works

  1. 1. Internationaal
  2. 2. the story of Elsa Paez Garcia page 25 the story of Seynabou Dieng page 6 the story of Ion Poia page 30 the story of Angela Ciocirlan page 33
  3. 3. the story of Sokhna Fall page 9 the story of Niver Alegria Florez page 22 the story of Athit Kong page 17 the story of Srun Sothy page 14
  4. 4. 5 CNV Internationaal’s purpose is to contribute to positive change in people’s lives through the programmes we implement. In "A World that works”, journalist Frank van Lierde and photo- grapher Bas de Meijer make the results of CNV International’s work vivid through a number of personal stories gathered from interviews with working people from four continents. > Foreword The core of international trade union work remains the same regardless of where in the world it is found or how different individual circumstances may be. It revolves around a decent standard of work that enables people to provide for their own needs, in order to live a safe and healthy life. They should be able to send their children to school and be assured of an income if they are ill and when they retire. Decent work means treating people fairly and respecting their rights. I am very proud to say that CNV not only seeks to promote decent work in the Netherlands, but look beyond our borders as well. You can read the stories of Sokhna and Seynabou from Senegal, Srun and Athit from Cambodia, Niver and Elsa from Colombia and Angela and Ion from Moldova. They describe the impact on their own lives of the programmes that CNV Internationaal implements in cooperation with local organisations. What is it like to work in a factory like that? What do they struggle with? What remains of their childhood dreams? What does trade union work mean to them? Where do they find the inspiration to keep going? Pieter de Vente Chairman of CNV Internationaal General Secretary of CNV Trade Union Federation Change in people’s lives
  5. 5. 6 > Project country Senegal The story of Seynabou Dieng Age: 42 Occupation: fish processor Children: 4 sons, 1 daughter Organisation: Cooperation affiliated to UDTS Seynabou Dieng is 42 and lives in a small town on the coast of Senegal. She works in the fishing industry, just like her parents and grandparents did before her. It is hard work for little money, no contract, no job security, and no social security. The burden of fear was lifted from our shoulders y father died when I was seven. As a girl, I wanted to be a midwife or a teacher, but I left school when I was 10. I’m married to a fisherman. Two of my sons work with me in the fish processing and the other two work on the boat with my husband. My daughter is married.” Seynabou is a member of a cooperative of 250 women and 50 men, all fish processors in the same coastal town. “Thanks to the help of l’Union Démocra- tique des Travailleurs du Sénégal (UDTS) and our cooperative, we’ve made a lot of progress. We obtained financial support and were able to buy materials for work.” “I’ve seen big changes in the fish- processing industry. Today cooperative members have broad wicker tables on which fish are laid to dry. We even have smoking ovens. When I was younger we didn’t have these facilities. My older sister and I went to the sea every morning with my mother. We’d smoke the fish in the same place we sold them. The smoking process wasn’t hygienic and not profitable either. Fortunately times have changed.” “When we still had to borrow money from the bank we had to pay an interest rate of 18 per cent. The bank wasn’t for poor people and in all the years this hasn’t changed. If you had nothing, you could borrow nothing. That was the case for most of us. If you wanted to borrow money, you had to provide collateral that was worth more. Borrowing meant living in fear. No, in Senegal you can’t rely on the bank to help you build an independent life. For that you need group solidarity, It’s African logic. If you are not part of a group you are nothing; the history of the one is the history of the other.” “Thanks to the UDTS we were allocated land on which we could work and given a cooperative savings and credit fund M The union makes us stronger, keeps us on our toes, offers us protection and helps us in our struggle against poverty
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  7. 7. 8 that we had to manage ourselves. We pay an interest rate of 3 per cent. There’s just no comparison with the 18 per cent we used to pay. We no longer need to rely on the bank. The burden of fear was lifted from our shoulders.” “This helped to buy fish and the materials we needed: buckets, bowls, wheel- barrows, gloves, boots, tarpaulin, drying racks, cement wash basins... Individually we would not have been able to buy these things. But now we have them and we make collective use of them. We work more hygienically, have boosted our production and the quality is better. Before, people looked down on the work that women did. Nowadays, we make a significant contribution to the family income and people look at us a lot differently.” “The union makes us stronger, keeps us on our toes, offers us protection and helps us in our struggle against poverty. We’re all working in the fish industry in the coastal area. We are supportive competitors. Together, we think about how we spend our money, what materials we should buy and the best ways to get customers. We’d like to reduce the number of middlemen and get more direct access to the markets. This is a struggle we’re taking on with the help of the union. In the meantime, we agree pricing among ourselves and we speak with one voice. It’s a way of protecting us from middlemen who try to impose their pricing on us.” “I can hardly imagine what it would be like not to have to work for a whole week. I think I’d spend time caring for myself and enjoy some rest. I would also like to modernise the smoke ovens be- cause they are bad for our health. Ovens that run on solar power would be great.” And what is Seynabou’s long-term dream? “In ten years’ time I’d like to own several smoke ovens so I could lease them to other people. I’d then be able to stop working myself because this work is just too demanding.” > Project country Senegal Nowadays, women make a significant contribution to the family income and people look at us a lot differently Seynabou Dieng My husband and 2 sons work as fishermen Together, we think about the best ways to get customers
  8. 8. 9 The story of Sokhna Fall Age: 51 Occupation: Trader in small building materials Children: 7 (between 10 and 30 years) Organisation: “Book Ndey”, a savings and credit group for women, affiliated to UDTS Together we’re not afraid of anything The union taught us how to manage money ust like my sister, I started buying and selling stuff. That’s how it all started.” Nowadays Sokhna has seven children, all between 10 and 30 and she deals in building materi- als such as cement and paint. Sokhna: ““Working in the informal circuit in Dakar is tough and dangerous. There’s a lot of pilfering in this area. Our vul- nerability lies in the fact that we’re not recognized legally. I’m not registered, I pay no taxes and have no export license. As a result we have no protec- tion, no social security, no pension and we’re stuck in the informal economy.” When asked why she joined the union Sokhna beats her chest. “It’s something I really wanted to do. In addition to improving my own situation I wanted to help other women too. There are so many women like me who have never been to school and need support. We’re re all in the same boat.” “The union holds us together. We work together and help one another. UDTS fights for dignified work, which for me means having food on the table, a house to live in, and being able to help my family and the people around me.” Sokhna chairs the savings and credit cooperative called Book Ndey (‘having the same as your sisters’). “We have 36 members, all of them have union cards. With loans from the UDTS we buy food and household items in bulk such as oil and soap and pay less than you’d have to pay in the shop. Because we all store everything centrally group members also save on transport costs. We called it ‘Food Solidarity’.” “The union also taught us how to manage money. Today we are not afraid of the bank, because now we manage our money ourselves. Together, we are not afraid of anything. I see the people > Project country Senegal “I still remember the first time I arrived in Dakar. It was all very modern! Electricity, telephones, so many cars! I married in 1983 and my husband took me to Dakar. It was amazing, but I had no idea what kind of work I could do, without education. I was prepared to tackle any kind of job.” J
  9. 9. 10 I work with as family members. Toge- ther, we make sure that nobody is left wanting and that we stay one group.” “I never went to school, but today the union is my school. We get to learn a lot about union work, management and financial matters. UDTS makes us more independent. We’ve also learned to make our businesses more visible to a larger audience, to develop new sales strategies and to think about the financial feasibility of our plans. All this makes us better entrepreneurs. This is important if you work in the informal sector.” “The Union and our savings and credit group have changed much in my life. My business has grown, I find it easier to buy food than before. I can better cover household costs, like healthcare or other things that my children need. This gives me more self-esteem and respect of others.” “But we still have a long way to go. When I hear that a minimum wage level and effective social security systems exist in other countries, I realise that this can serve as a good example for us to follow. I feel it’s important to bolster national and international solidarity to achieve the same things in Senegal.” “I really hope that with our women’s cooperative we’ll achieve a lot more. In 10 years time I’d like to think that we’ll all have our own businesses, along with all the necessary paperwork and permits. And that we can then help other women along the same path and make the union movement stronger and bigger. That’s what we > Project country Senegal The union has changed much in my life. My self-esteem and the respect of others have grown Sokhna Fall The union is my school In ten years I hope we will all have our own businesses
  10. 10. We are supportive competitors. Together, we think about how we spend our money, what materials we should buy and the best ways to get customers 11
  11. 11. 12 Key facts and figures Senegal Senegal Capital city: Dakar Population: 13.7 milion The Netherlands: 16.8 milion Area: 196.190 km2 The Netherlands: 41.526 km2 Income per capita Senegal $ 2.000 The Netherlands $ 41.500 Life expectancy Senegal 59.6 years The Netherlands 80.8 years Statistical data: UDTS In Senegal, CNV Internationaal works with the Union Démocratique des Travailleurs du Sénégal, one of the nation’s largest trade unions with a presence in all corners of the country. Diverse professions Workers from a very wide range of professions have organised themselves through the UDTS: transport, industry, food and agriculture, textiles and clothing, education, public services, trade, lumber and construction. Cooperation The UDTS has taken the initiative to establish cooperation between the four largest unions in Senegal on certain issues. This has brought them a strong position in discussions with employers and authorities.
  12. 12. 13 Human develop- ment index Senegal 154 of 187 The Netherlands 4 of 187 Gender equality index Senegal 115 of 187 The Netherlands 1 of 187 Literacy Senegal 49.7% The Netherlands 99% Open to those without fixed contracts Only 250,000 of Senegal’s 6 million- strong workforce have a fixed contract of employment. The UDTS is very active in helping to organise those without a permanent job who earn - for example - their living as street traders, market vendors or taxi drivers. Social security Just 10% of the working population currently has access to social security. The UDTS is working to combat this via the Mutuelles de Santé. To place this problem high on the national agenda, the UDTS is collaborating with other trade union organisations to lobby and raise awareness. Social dialogue at a business level The unions affiliated with the UDTS also maintain a social dialogue with individual employers at a business level. The results vary from simple conversations with regard to working hours and wages to extensive and detailed collective labour agreements including arrangements for e.g. maternity leave and safety at the workplace.
  13. 13. 14 > Project country Cambodia The story of Srun Sothy Age: 31 Occupation: Garment worker and union leader at Chus Sing factory Children: 1 son Organisation: independent garment workers’ union CCAWDU worked from seven in the morning till eleven in the evening, for 30 dollars a month. No holidays, sick leave was exceptional. And I was frightened of ending up in the sex industry. Some girls just disappeared. When I was 20 people tried to lure me into it. No way, I said, I’m nobody’s possession.” After three years in the factory Srun becomes a member of CCAWDU. Srun: “It was the first independent trade union for garment workers in the country. What a difference it made! We were given trainings, were informed about labor rights, workers held meetings, formulated demands. We got the feeling that as workers we could change things and solve problems.” And problems there are. “Thousands of women, many of them with children at home, worked in exhausting and un- healthy circumstances. Poverty forces them to trade in their days off for extra salary. But what if your child is sick? What if you’re sick yourself? The management is not very willing to grant care leave. And then there are the work accidents. Needles going through fingers, fingers lopped off in cutting machines, electrocutions, respiratory problems, exhaustion. Every week a few women faint. The union trained me in health and safety at work and my colleagues know where to come when the need arises.” In 2009 Srun was elected CCAWDU union factory leader by about 1,000 union members. Sometimes her posi- tion causes her problems. “In the begin- ning I received threats. ‘We have a gun and bullets, and we’re going to kill you’, that sort of thing. I just carried on.” What has Srun achieved with her union I The union prevents workers from sinking further into poverty No time to be homesick When her father fell ill and lost his job, Srun Sothy had to quit school. There was only one option: go to Pnom Penh and earn money. That’s what she did. “I stitched trousers in Chus Sing Factory. I was a peasant girl in a huge city. I felt lonely but had no time to be homesick.
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  15. 15. work these past few years? “We are now more free to exercise our rights, we’re less harassed. It’s more demo- cratic in the factory today. We’ve been able to extend maternity leave; women receive three months full pay during their maternity leave, cash-in-hand when leaving the factory. The minimum wage for garment workers was raised to 61 dollars a month. It was so exciting to stop work and protest at the factory gates. It felt great to represent 1,000 people and get the crowd on your side.” Asked what she wants to achieve in ten years, Srun replies: “In ten years, I hope we’ll earn a real living wage, that workers will be able to build up some pension, that the ventilation system works properly, that workers can live in decent accommodation, that food remains affordable for them.” Enough work to be done as a union leader. One would almost forget that in addition to her union work Srun has a job. For fourteen years she has been working in Chus Sing. Together with her son and husband she lives in a three- by-three metre room in a tenement block a stone’s throw from the factory. What has union work given Srun on a personal level? Srun: “CCAWDU has made me a stronger person. I can now express myself forcibly, mobilize people and hold my own when negotiating with the management.” When asked where she finds the energy to keep going, as a union activist, as a worker and as a mother, tears well up in her eyes. “It’s the first time in my life that someone asks me what I think and feel. It’s difficult. I’m constantly stan- ding up for the rights of others, but nobody is there for me when I have a problem. Being a union leader is lonely work. It’s also difficult because poverty is constantly overtaking us. Every time we win a pay rise, the costs of living also go up. Through hard work and negotia- tion we’ll prevent ourselves from sinking further into poverty, which is a lot in itself. But it’s not enough to pull ourselves out of poverty.” > Project country Cambodia In 10 years, I hope to earn a living wage and be able to build up some pension Srun Sothy Working conditions are exhausting and unhealthy The trade union has made me a stronger person 16
  16. 16. 17 The story of Athit Kong Age: 33 Occupation: Started as garment worker at laundry of a jeans factory, Vice- chairman of CCAWDU Children: 1 daughter Organisation: Independent garment workers' union CCAWDU Sweat, struggle and dreams Union work has increased the participation of millions of workers. It made this country a more social and democratic place e knows what factory life is like. “When I was 17 my parents were too poor to let me continue my education. I went to the city and started to work in a big garment factory. I had nothing, not a dollar, no employ- ment contract, nothing to eat. I shared a room that was just three square metres with seven other people. I was ashamed to be so poor. The first year I worked for 365 days, from seven in the morning till ten at night. I didn’t have a single day off. Sick leave was non-existent.” Labour conditions were terrible. Athit: “I washed pairs of jeans with abrasive sto- nes, bleaches and dyes. You had to put up with chemicals, the stench and being wet all day long. I earned 30 dollars a month.” “Like everybody else I didn’t have a clue about workers’ rights. But I knew what was human and what wasn’t. I saw mana- gers swear at workers and fire them for no apparent reason, and employees who worked themselves to a frenzy just to meet their production quotas. Every- one there was at the mercy of the boss. Who wouldn’t protest at that? I did.” In 2000 Athit joins a union. “I did learn the basis of union work: listening to people, formulating complaints and demands, defending workers in negotiations.” In the same year Athit loses his job. “I found my notice of dismissal on the factory gate.” Athit had defended the case of 90 middle-aged women who worked part-time. “They did very heavy work in the washing section. When production levels fell they were laid off for three months, without salary. I raised the issue with my boss. The management thought I was a troublemaker. One day, during nightshift, security people came for me. That’s when there were still armed guards at the factory. For a year I was jobless and completely broke.” Athit Kong is driven by a dream. “I want to live in a country where people can live and work in decency, not in a country that’s ruled by the need for growth and export and where most people have to slave away for 80 hours a week without making ends meet.” > Project country Cambodia H
  17. 17. 18 In the year he lost his job, Athit and five others start up a new trade union called CCAWDU. Athit: “We had one objective: to set up a union that would not be controlled by the employer or by political parties. We wanted the people who toil on the deafening, stinking and oppressively hot work floor to have a real say in what goes on in the plush offices of directors and ministers.” Athit, 20 at the time, is the youngest founder of CCAWDU. Today this trade union boasts some 50,000 members, working in 60 factories. It’s not the biggest union. But according to Athit it’s one of the few trade unions in the garment sector that can claim to be really independant and democratic. We accompany Athit on a visit to Sut Lick Trading, one of the biggest garment factories in Phnom Penh. “This plant was built for a few thousand workers,” explains Athit. “A lot less than the 7800 people working here now. The workers have an average working space of just over a square metre each.” In the base- ment, where the electricity is generated, truckloads of tree trunks disappear in roaring furnaces, “You’re looking at the most powerful union department,” shouts Athit. “If they strike here the whole factory comes to a standstill.” Bare chested men tell us what CCAWDU has achieved in the six months they have been active in Sut Lick. “Minimum wage has increased and we can get sick leave. But most importantly, we are now per- mitted to organise ourselves, and say what we want. A year ago this conversation with you would have been unthinkable.” The Sut Lick company lawyer is someone who knows Athit very well. “CCAWDU is the union that costs me most of my time,” concedes the lawyer. “It’s more active and applies more pressure than the other unions. But sometimes union members overstep the mark though, and break the law. That’s wrong.” Athit replies: “Young garment workers want quick solutions because they are very poor. Yet democratic processes and negotiations need time. As a union you need to learn to cope with this tension. The starting point is always to maintain a dialogue with the employer, and at a higher level with the government. But if the management stonewalls our demands several times, then we resort to action. Sometimes that will be in the form of minor protests in the factory, other times it can escalate to national strikes.” Aside from Sut Lick, how has CCAWDU changed workers’ lives in the 60 other factories? Athit looks back at more than a decade of struggle. “Before, there was nowhere they could go to report anomalies or to complain. Workers were little more than wage slaves, working 15 hours a day for 25 dollars a month. Today they are allowed to unite and defend their interests. The minimum wage has increased to 71 dollars, workers get 7 dollars a month rent allowance, they receive an attendance bonus if they work for 26 consecutive days. They can get sick > Project country Cambodia Roaring furnaces generate electricity for the factory We are now permitted to organise ourselves
  18. 18. 19 leave. Before, being sick meant dismissal. The factories are still unhealthy and un- safe, but they are a lot healthier and safer than they were. These are all milestones.” “Union work has increased the partici- pation of millions of workers. It made this country a more social and democra- tic place. But it’s only with good gover- nance and good political leadership at the highest level that we can really rise above poverty, injustice and corruption.” “You know what really inspires me? Dutch cycle paths! I see them when I visit CNV Internationaal. For me they are an expression of everyone’s right to a safe and pleasant living environment. In and around the factories in Pnom Penh there is a lot of stench, chaos and insecurity. That’s when I think about the Dutch cycle paths. They remind me that it is possible to live in a society without corruption, poverty, exploitation and environmental pollution. As long as I can contribute to make this a reality in Cambodia, I’ll keep on fighting and dreaming.” > Project country Cambodia The first year I worked for 365 days, from 7 in the morning till 10 at night. I was only 17 You know what really inspires me? Dutch cycle paths! For me they are an expression of everyone’s right to a safe and pleasant living environment. Athit Kong “
  19. 19. 20 Talking Dress App CNV Internationaal has also contributed to the develop- ment of the Talking Dress App by Marieke Eyskoot, alongside ASN Bank, which makes it easier for Dutch consumers to find Ethical Fashion in their local area. Employment The clothing industry is by far the major source of employment in Cambodia, mainly employing young women. The economic decline in the Western world currently has a direct effect on employment in Cambodia. CLC and C.CAWDU CNV Internationaal supports the work of the young trade union federation CLC in Cambodia.The Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) was founded in 2006 by the clothing sector union C.CAWDU. This Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union has only existed since 2000. Cambodia Capital city: Phnom Penh Population: 14.8 milion The Netherlands: 16.8 milion Area: 181.035 km2 The Netherlands: 41.526 km2 Income per capita Cambodia $ 2.400 The Netherlands $ 41.500 Life expectancy Cambodia 63.6 years The Netherlands 80.8 years Statistical data: Key facts and figures Cambodia
  20. 20. 21 South-south cooperation CNV Internationaal is helping the young CLC organisation through the facilitation of “south-south cooperation” with comparable trade union organisations that are further developed, such as the SBSI in Indonesia and the KCTU in South Korea. Living minimum wage C.CAWDU has grown from 5,000 members in the year 2000 to over 50,000 today! They are working step by step to improve the working conditions of clothing factory labourers. A minimum wage - though very far from a living wage - has since been established in the textiles sector. WellMade Alongside the development of trade union organisations around the world, CNV Internationaal retains an active presence in the Netherlands, working with the Fair Wear Foundation to take the initiative in organising WellMade workshops at fashion fairs across Europe (see WellMade explains to clothing purchasers at European fashion stores what they can do to improve the situation in factories they procure from. The Well- Made project is co-financed by the European Union. Human develop- ment index Cambodia 139 of 187 The Netherlands 4 of 187 Gender equality index Cambodia 96 of 187 The Netherlands 1 of 187 Literacy Cambodia 77.6% The Netherlands 99%
  21. 21. 22 > Project country Colombia The story of Niver Alegria Florez Age: 36 Occupation: started as miner, Construction worker, sugarcane cutter in the Cauca valley Children: 2 daughters Organisation: Trade union for sugarcane workers Sintraindulce iver now has a well-paid job as a safety inspector at Mayaguëz, a medium-sized sugar refinery in the Valle del Cauca employ- ing 4,400 people. It wasn’t always like this. “When I was six me and my family looked for gold in the open mines. It was dangerous. One day I fell into a deep crevasse. When the mines were exhaus- ted, we moved to Puerto Tejada. I was 10 years old when we left. The only possessions we had were the clothes on our backs and our bus fare.” In the new town, 10 year old Niver takes on one job after the other. “I carried bricks in a brick factory, worked in a supermarket, dredged sand from the river for a building company. When I was in pain, I always thought to myself: ‘it’s not about today, it’s about tomorrow’. The prospect of a better tomorrow is what has kept me going all my life.” For seven years Niver combines working and going to secondary school. In the meantime he’d started courting Lisa, a girl from the same street. “She was 15 and I was 16. We fell in love.” They married, moved in together and had their first daughter. Niver: “We lived on a dollar-and-a-half a week. The elec- tricity was often cut off, meat was too expensive and our friends had to raise money to help us survive. Fortunately, a friend helped me find full-time work stacking shelves in another supermarket. I got fired there. I was 23, had a child and was at my wit’s end.” Niver’s father, an experienced cortador or sugarcane cutter on the Mayagüez sugarcane plantations and a member of the Sintraindulce union, helps his son by finding him work as cortador. Niver: “It was new and I had to be very careful how I used the machete. Sometimes I was cutting for 15 hours a day, through the baking heat, through cold hailstorms.” N I thank God, my father and the union that today I have a house and a good job, sugarcane worker Colombia The boy who always thought of tomorrow Niver and his family live in a small house not far from the road that serves as a demarcation line between FARC guerillas and para- militaries. Remnants of houses that were robbed and wrecked by criminal gangs are scattered here and there.
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  23. 23. 24 But Niver is an indirecto, he works for middle men, not for Mayaguëz. As such he has hardly any rights. His father urges him to join the union. It was the only way he’d be eligible to get a direct employ- ment contract with the employer. Niver: “Once I was a member of Sintraindulce everything changed. I obtained a direct contract with Mayaguëz and earned almost four times as much for doing the same work. The work was also much safer. I was given gloves, leg pro- tectors, a uniform and safety shoes too. Something else I’d never experienced before were the excursions organised by Sintraindulce for workers. I was in my mid-twenties, I’d worked for almost 20 years and for the first time in my life I could go to a finca, or park, go swim- ming with other workers, enjoy an ice cream, together with my wife and daughter.” “Thanks to the union there was some- thing else I was able to do what pre- viously had been unthinkable: borrow money, first to buy a house, later to study. The employees at Mayaguëz ran a credit cooperative, with which the union collaborated closely. This is how I was able to buy this house here in Florida eight years ago.” Niver’s house is located in a tough neigh- bourhood. “Until three years ago it was quite safe. That’s when young strangers with guns started arriving. They terrori- sed families and burgled their homes. Sometimes they wreck houses and sell everything they can: doors, windows, even the roofs. They tried to rob me too, but the fact I am a member of a strong union deterred them. There’s a great deal of solidarity among union members. We stick by one another.” In 2003 Niver embarks on a one-day-a- week university education programme on occupational health. “The union encouraged me to continue studying and arranged an additional loan.” At work he was twice promoted before he graduated. Today he is responsible for the safety of all Mayaguëz’s harvesting activities, which include some 800 cortadores.” This last promotion poses a difficult dilemma for Niver. “When I received the contract I was told that the position precluded me from remaining a member of the union. I didn’t want to leave the union, but I had no choice. It’s particularly painful because it’s thanks to the union that I got this job. Sintraindulce changed my destiny; I’m not the same. My life has changed.” > Project country Colombia The union encouraged me to continue studying Today Niver is responsible for the safety of 800 sugarcane cutters I obtained a direct contract with Mayaguëz and earned almost four times as much for doing the same work. Niver Alegria Florez
  24. 24. 25 The story of Elsa Paez Garcia Occupation: Teacher in the Buen Pastor women’s prison and chairperson of UTP. Children: 2 daughters (deceased) and 1 son Organisation: UTP trade union for penal insitution workers Living in the shadow of death Thanks to the union, prisons have become more humane places f the need arises she’s not afraid of accusing prison directors and senior government officials of being corrupt and abusing power. Over the course of the years Elsa lost 18 union compañeros, all murdered Once there was a dead chicken on the doorstep with a message attached: “This is how you’ll end up”. Another time a wreath was delivered to her home with a message of condolence, for her own death. It got really bad when she was chased by paramilitary hit-men. Or the time they tried to kidnap her daughter. Today, she doesn’t leave her house without body guards, virtually living the life of a guarded prisoner, living in the shadow of death every day. She is the chairperson of the Unidad de Trabajadores Penitenciarios (UTP), the result of a recent merger of 44 smaller unions representing workers in Colombian penal institutions. Elsa: “All UTP members work in prisons, either as prison officers, in administra- tive jobs, or as teachers like me. We know what really goes on behind these walls. From our office, located in the building of INPEC, the central govern- mental body that’s responsible for the prison system, we denounce the corrup- tion, abuse and human rights violations that go on in Colombia’s notorious prisons. Usually corruption is in the prison management, and so we some- times denounce senior managers, our own bosses, people from the army and the government.” It is not surprising that Elsa and her fellow unionists sometimes encounter strong opposition. “In 1999 and 2000 we were forcibly ejected from our offices and we were all fired. The CGT, the confederation of Colombian unions, For 28 years Elsa Paez has worked and battled in what are the world’s most corrupt and dangerous penal institutions. She’s a single mother and she’s lost two daughters and a husband. She works over a hundred hours a week doing three jobs. > Project country Colombia I
  25. 25. 26 defended us all the way up to Geneva. We won.” The union is Elsa’s life. Here UTP colleagues are unanimous: without the fighting spirit and leadership qualities of Elsa Paez there would no longer be a critical, independent union in the Colombian prison system. It is amazing how long Elsa has been able to endure the hardships of the prison system. More than that, she became a leader in that world. At home though Elsa does not have that many people to fall back on. “My youngest daughter died of cancer three years ago. Before that, my first daughter also died, shortly after childbirth. My husband succumbed to sickness and died after just seven months of marriage. Juan Diego, my adopted son, is all I’ve got.” “I was 19 when I started work in the notorious Picota prison in Bogota. It was really scary. I was surrounded by murderers, psychopaths and guerrillas, The situation has improved as result of our whistle-blower role and human rights courses for penitiairy workers Elsa Paez Garcia Usually corruption is in the prison management, and so we sometimes denounce senior managers, our own bosses, people from the army and the government.
  26. 26. 27 people that are commonly treated as the ‘dregs of society’. I thought I’d be able to stick it out for a few months, but I’m still here after 28 years. First I worked as a secretary, later as a teacher. I am not a prison guard, I don’t need to act repressively towards inma- tes. I can be humane towards them. If you don’t have any experience of what life is like in the tough prison world you can’t imagine the effect that a simple smile can have.” But sometimes things go wrong. In 1986, for example, she was taken hos- tage by inmates. “We were held in the classroom and threatened with knives. Earlier in his criminal career, the ring- leader had murdered a nun. Fortunately we were released after nine hours.” On average Elsa works more than one hundred hours a week. A third of her time she works as a prison officer at Buen Pastor. Elsa: “Officially I’m a teacher, but in practice I’m a teacher, social worker, psychologist, lawyer and confessor all rolled into one. A special part of my work is with female inmates who live in the prison with children up to three years old.” “But most of my time is spent on UTP union work, improving living and working conditions in all prisons. I also work as a human rights specialist for the CGT, the confederation of Colombian unions. And one day a week I give lessons to street kids between the ages of 8 and 16.” “With the UTP we register complaints in prisons throughout the country. All forms of abuse, fraudulent practices and human rights violations are addres- sed and exposed. The last major case we dealt with was in May last year. The manager of a small prison outside Bogota had embezzled money that was meant for inmates’ social programmes. In the end he was dismissed. Of course, I received telephone calls with anony- mous threats at the time. Then there are the prison guards who extort inma- tes or physically abuse them. Thanks to our efforts many of them have been disciplined, fired or prosecuted.” What have been the main results of Elsa’s union work? “There are many results,” she says. “To start with we’ve been able to avoid the privatisation of INPEC. 16,000 people would have lost their jobs. It’s also thanks to the union that prison officers are still entitled to a full pension after 20 years of service. President Uribe wanted to raise it to 30 years of service.” “Thanks to the union, prisons have become much more humane places. They are still odd pockets of violence and corruption but the situation has improved. This is a result of the whistle- blower role played by the union and the many human rights training courses we organised for prison officers and other personnel.” > Project country Colombia We denounce corruption and abuse in prisons Officially I’m a teacher, but in practice I’m also social worker and lawyer
  27. 27. 28 Broad social movement The Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT) is a broad and politically independent social movement with 819,200 supporters, from street traders to large farmers’ associations. The CGT incorporates over 300 affiliated unions and associations divided into 6 regional organisations. This is unusual as Colombia is globally acknow- ledged as the most dangerous country for union members; 26 were killed for defending workers’ rights and 13 leaders escaped attempts on their lives in 2013. Provincial member base The CGT sees itself as a broad social movement that not only deals with labourers on the shop floor, but accommodates their social environment as well. A considerable proportion of the members have no permanent employment, but make their living through street sales. A number of farmers’ associations and working-class districts are also affiliated to the CGT. Colombia Capital city: Bogota Population: 45.6 milion The Netherlands: 16.8 milion Area: 1.138.914 km2 The Netherlands: 41.526 km2 Human develop- ment index Colombia 91 of 187 The Netherlands 4 of 187 Literacy Colombia 37.9% The Netherlands 99% Statistical data: Key facts and figures Colombia
  28. 28. 29 Result-oriented CNV Internationaal has developed a system for planning, monitoring and evaluation (PME) with a clear focus on union work. This helps the work of trade union federati- ons such as the CGT and its asso- ciated bodies to be result-oriented and financially reliable. The CNV has trained up local PME coaches to disseminate good practice wit- hin their own organisations. Impunity Why is there no end to the anti-union violence in Colombia? Impunity is a major stumbling block. If you can’t find who’s done wrong, you can’t help. Legal powers are very limited and justice doesn’t function, because of this the offender is almost never found and prosecuted. Growth ‘CNV Internationaal is important to us’ emphasises CGT leader Julio Robert Gomez Esguerra. ‘Nobody believed in us thirty years ago when we were just another sapling. But the CNV had confidence in us and their support has enabled us to grow.’ Income per capita Colombia $ 10,700 The Netherlands $ 41.500Gender equality index Colombia 88 of 187 The Netherlands 1 of 187 Life expectancy Colombia 73.9 years The Netherlands 80.8 years National level The CGT is a very active and major partner in bipartite and tripartite discussions focussing on social security and the minimum wage.
  29. 29. 30 > Project country Moldova The story of Ion Poia Age: 35 Occupation: former migrant, and now advertising entre- preneur in Ungheni Organisation: Fundatia Muncii oldova, former Soviet state between Romania and Ukraine, is the poorest country in Europe. It gained indepen- dence in 1991, but the communists were in power till 2009. EU membership could provide opportunities, but so far Fort Europe has not opened its gate. Many young Moldovans try their luck abroad. One of them is Ion Poia, a single man in his thirties. Ion: “There are so few opportunities for young people here. Unemployment, alcohol and poverty… that’s about all that’s on offer. About 70 per cent of my friends are currently abroad.” Ion lives in the city of Ungheni, near the Romanian border. From his third-floor apartment he sees the village where he grew up. “It was good during the Soviet era. The adults had jobs and the kids had fun. My father worked as a tractor driver for the kolkhoz, or farming col- lective. My mother was a receptionist for a horse-breeding company, also state-run. But it wasn’t healthy work. My father sprayed pesticides. In 2001, he started having respiratory problems and lost his job. He was 50. Now he has cancer. He gets an invalidity pension of €40 a month, along with his pension of €80 a month.” As a child Ion is crazy about sport, especially football. “My brother was the national 800-metre champion. I started doing athletics when I was 13 and went to a sports boarding school till my 19th birthday. It was prestigious but it also very tough and strict.” Ion’s athletic prowess is such that the state university offers him a contract. “Running for the university meant being able to study for free. I agreed, studied accountancy and took part in athletics competitions.” Around that time Ion starts his first job. “I’d buy cognac and we’d sell it for double the price, all illegal.” “My first real job was with the police. M Fundatia Muncii helped me to seize opportunities in a very difficult labour market. You don’t learn that in school or in university I learned to think in terms of opportunities “I dreamed of having my own house and family. But on just €200 a month it was an impossible dream. I had to leave.”
  30. 30. 31
  31. 31. 32 They asked me to represent them compe- titively in all sorts of sport. I became a police officer, was given an employment contract, but didn’t do any police work. I was a kind of sports slave, for €200 a month.” When he is 23 Ion decides to go abroad. “I dreamed of one day being able to live in my own house with my girlfriend and having children. But on just €200 a month it was an impossible dream. And I dreamed of being a professional foot- baller. A friend of mine had contacts in an Irish club. So I left on a tourist visa to Paris, then to Spain and then entered Ireland illegally.” The Irish adventure lasts for three years. “I broke both my knees, one after the other, playing football. My dream was shattered. In the mean time I earned nothing. I started doing odd jobs to buy food, like trimming hedges. My world imploded, my girlfriend and I broke up and I started drinking more. But I pulled myself up, delivering flyers for Domino’s pizzas in all the districts of Dublin, working in the building trade, lifting concrete blocks between eight in the morning and five in the afternoon.” All the while Ion’s stay in Ireland is illegal. He has no social security, no pension, no health insurance. Only after he finally gets his Romanian passport, something a lot of Moldovans apply for, Ion is given a working permit. “My last job in Ireland was as a security guard. It was a good contract, my pay was €2,000 a month. I saved more than half of it. But after a year I was fired. Last in, first out. With my savings I returned to Ungheni, the city near the village where I was born.” “But what was I to do in Moldova? My degrees wouldn’t get me a job anywhere there. My savings quickly dwindled and like most returned emigrants I felt forlorn, depressed and desperate.” Then one day, at the end of 2009, Ion watches a campaign film by Fundatia Muncii the job opportunity programme of the FACLIA youth organisation. Ion: “I took a course there for five weeks. Five key weeks that gave me a new perspective of the future. Employers and entrepreneurs gave workshops, I learned how to present myself, improved my CV. Something changed inside of me. I learned to think in terms of opportunities and to believe in myself.” Ion went to work for his sister’s adverti- sing business in the capital and assisted by Fundatia Muncii he starts up his own advertising business in Ungheni. Busi- ness is going well. Ion’s printing work can be seen on every street in the city centre. Ion: “Without Fundatia Muncii I wouldn’t have managed it. They provide training, give you confidence and help you to seize employment opportunities in a very difficult labour market. Things you don’t learn in school or in university.” He lives in a small, one-person apart- ment but he hasn’t abandoned his dream of one day having his own house and a family of his own. “I’m working on it. I’m saving hard, I have a good job and I’m my own boss. And my future wife? > Project country Moldova Ion’s advertising business is going well Five key weeks gave me a new perspective of the future
  32. 32. 33 The story of Angela Ciocirlan Age: 42 Profession: Teacher, now driving force behind Faclia and Fundatia Muncii Children: 2 daughters Organisation: Youth centre Faclia Torchbearer for change 600 new jobs for young people are 600 victories for Moldova ngela Ciocirlan is the director of Faclia (‘torch’), a youth centre she founded in 2004 in Ungheni, a provincial town near the Romanian border. “We help young people to stay in Moldova and make something of their lives. We give voca- tional training and help them to find a job. We’re the only NGO in the country doing that.” Angela is a bridge builder. She helps young people to span the gap between an out-of-date education system and a difficult labour market. But she’s also helping a small country to make the transition from communism to an unstable free market economy. It’s also the transition Angela made in her personal life. “I grew up in a small village where the kolkhoz, the state owned collective farm, ruled everything. Every household would listen on the radio to the revised production targets and instructions. Mostly it was waiting for your name to be called. If you did better than was expected, you’d be praised. If you’d turned up at work late or worse, drunk, you’d be humiliated, over the radio! People lived in constant fear of what the neighbours, managers or colleagues might think of them.” At age 14 Angela goes to a boarding school in the provincial town of Calaraj. “Here too there were strict rules. If you did something wrong you’d be humiliated in front of the class. It was just like a kolkhoz.” “Eventually I started teaching in a boarding school for orphans in Ungheni, a town near our village. When I was 19 I married a local boy from our village. 25% of all Moldovans work abroad, legally or otherwise. “What do you expect?” asks Angela Ciocirlan. “40% live under the poverty line. Factories are closing down, farmers are struggling with export barriers. People never learned to seize opportuni- ties during the communist era. That’s something I want to change.” > Project country Moldova A
  33. 33. 34 I gave birth to my first son, Igor, that same year. My husband worked as a vet at the kolkhoz.” “I wanted to start a revolution in educa- tion! Away with dogmatic learning by heart, away with the priviliges of rich kids! I’d lay out the school desks in a criss-cross manner, invited people from the village in the classroom, I’d organise musical performances and discos. To earn more money I was teaching at the primary and secondary schools and working at a crèche too.” By the end of the nineties Angela is divorced, has two small children and three jobs, which earn her just 100 dollars a month. The former kolkhoz economy had fallen apart and nothing replaced it. Angela: “I decided to leave; we were hardly earning enough for the basics. My mother agreed to look after Octavio, who I was still breast-feeding at the time. I got sick on the way. My breasts hurt and I had a fever of 40 degrees when I arrived in Moscow.” Angela stays in Russia for three years. “I worked as a nanny for a rich couple who were journalists. Those years in Moscow were tough; but they opened my eyes. In the end I missed my children too much and went back.” Companies now realise that it makes sense to invest in the training of young people I wanted young people in my country to learn to think more openly and more freely. Angela Ciocirlan
  34. 34. 35 > Project country Moldova “Back home in Moldova there was nothing but poverty. We lived off the money I’d saved in Moscow. That’s when I realized what I wanted. I wanted young people in my country to learn to think more openly and more freely. I wanted to set up my own organisation. Eventually it became Faclia.” Angela enters into a public-private partnership with the city council. Ungheni gives her an abandoned school building and pays the water and energy bills. Angela’s team give the building a facelift, attract young people and trainers and run the youth centre. “We started with a fitness centre and a computer room. Something for the body and something for the mind.” In 2008 Faclia starts to work with CNV Internationaal; together they set up Fundatia Muncii, a youth employment programme. Angela: “Fundatia Muncii serves as a springboard for young job seekers. Our training courses are short, a few months at the most. Job seekers badly need money and want to find a job as fast as possible. We work closely with local businesses and employers. They need people, we make the match. We were hoping to help 300 young people find permanent jobs in four years. We managed to do so for 600.” With Faclia and Fundatia Muncii Angela is not only changing the lives of young Moldovans, she’s changing Ungheni society. “You now see more and more young men and women in leading positi- ons with companies and government institutions. Companies now realise that it makes sense to invest in the training of young people.” If it’s up to Angela and her team, Moldova is a country that will reinvent itself. “During the Soviet era everyone lived to please others. What did the neighbours think? What did the boss think? What did your father think? Everyone spied on everyone else. As long as you stuck to the rules you’d be able to breathe. But real change comes from inside yourself. Who am I? What do I want? Where can I find the opportunities? This also applies to Moldova. To realise the change we want, we shouldn’t just wait for that dream of EU membership to materia- lise. To make the transformation, we must get to work ourselves. That’s what we are doing with Faclia and Fundatia Muncii.” The training courses serve as a springboard for young job seekers We work closely with local businesses and employers
  35. 35. 36 CNSM CNV Internationaal also supports trade union organisations in a number of East European nations. In Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, CNV is collaborating with the Confederatia a Sindicatala din Moldova (CNSM). Key facts and figures Moldova Moldova Capital city: Chisinau Population: 4,3 milion The Netherlands: 16,8 milion Area: 33.843 km2 The Netherlands: 41.526 km2 Income per capita Moldova $ 3.400 The Netherlands $ 41.500 Ageing Unemployment is high. Too many people in the prime of their lives are leaving the country to seek employment elsewhere. Entire countryside villages are emptying. This creates a huge problem in terms of the ageing population; every worker currently has to support two pensioners. Colleagues from the cleaning sector As part of the international support provided through collective labour agreements, the Dutch cleaning sector contributed to a three-month course in domestic cleaning services of group of women from the countryside last year. Dutch training materials were also translated so they could be used in Moldova. Statistical data:
  36. 36. 37 Development Social dialogue and independent union work are still in development in this former Communist nation. Independence Moldova, a former Soviet state lying between Romania and the Ukraine, is the poorest European country. It gained independence in 1991, but the old Communists remained in power until 2009. Human develop- ment index Moldova 130 of 187 The Netherlands 4 of 187 Gender equality index Moldova 49 of 187 The Netherlands 1 of 187 Life expectancy Moldova 69.6 years The Netherlands 80.8 years Literacy Moldova 98.5% The Netherlands 99% Springboard CNV Internationaal has worked with the Moldovan organisation Faclia to found the Fundatia Muncii, an unemployment programme for young people. “It’s a springboard for young people looking for work. Our training courses are short, a few months at most. We work closely with local businesses and other employers. They’re looking for staff, we match them up.” Sharing knowledge and experience CNV Internationaal’s support is not limited to financial contributions. CNV union leaders also share knowledge and experience with their peers in other countries. Siward Swart from CNV Trade Professionals and Arie Kasper from CNV Service Professionals have provided training for Moldovan union colleagues. “We showed them the importance of involving members throughout the negotiation process.”
  37. 37. CNV Internationaal P.O. Box 2475 3500 GL Utrecht The Netherlands T 31 30 751 1260 E I Facebook: Bank account for donations: IBAN NL16INGB0001255300 This text is written for CNV Internationaal Interviews: Frank van Lierde Translation: John Widen Photography: Bas de Meijer Editors: Corita Johannes, Eugène Litamahuputty Design: Rick van Westerop, WAT ontwerpers Printing: Sauterelle Statistical data: Copyright CNV Internationaal February 2014
  38. 38. A World that works As the second trade union federation in the Netherlands, CNV is committed to its members and workers in the Netherlands. However, our commitment does not stop at the border. Through CNV Internationaal we also strive for decent work in countries where conditions are often much more difficult and where most workers have very limited resources. CNV Internationaal currently supports trade unions in 16 countries. We promote decent work both financially and through lobby and campaigning activities, we also share knowledge and expertise with our partner organisations. In A World that works journalist Frank van Lierde and photographer Bas de Meijer illustrate how the work carried out by trade unions supported by CNV Internationaal, has changed peoples lives. What does union work mean to Sokhna and Seynabou from Senegal, Srun and Athit from Cambodia, Niver and Elsa from Colombia, and Angela and Ion from Moldova? How did their lives change? How do they manage to provide for their livelihood? What do they struggle with? What motivates them to keep going? What are their dreams? Internationaal