Public sector workers in Swaziland were blocked by police from entering the High Court to hear a case relating to their claim for salary increases.
It came after the government asked the High Court to ban a march by public sector unions to protest that a salary review report had not been released.
The Swazi Government in the small kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, told the court the march would be a breach of state security.
The High Court was due to meet on Tuesday (24 November 2015), but the case could not go ahead because the unions’ lawyers did not have time to prepare their case.
The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga told local media they had not been allowed access to the High Court.
‘We had come here to listen to a case in which we are involved with the government. It is disturbing to find that we are now denied access to the High Court, which is a public place,’ the Swazi Observer quoted him saying.
The protest was to be organised by the Public Sector Associations (PSA). The PSA includes SNAT, the Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants (SNACS), Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA), and Swaziland National Association of Government Accounting Personnel (SNAGAP).
Members of the PSA had intended to go to the offices of the Ministry of Public Service to demand release of a salary review report.
Swazi Government lawyers said the PSA had not consulted the Mbabane Municipal Council and the Hhohho regional police about the proposed march.
In Swaziland at least 14 days’ notice must be given for a march and police permission obtained.
In June 2015, Swaziland was named as one of the ten worst countries for working people in the world, in a report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
A week after that report was issued, the International Labour Organization (ILO) told Swaziland it must stop interfering in the activities of trade unions; ensure workers’ organizations are fully assured of their rights and ensure they have the autonomy and independence they need to represent workers.
The ILO placed Swaziland in a ‘special paragraph’ in its annual report to highlight the deficiencies in the kingdom’s commitment to freedom of association.
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