See livable wage as your minimum wage-CBTU President

Helen Shok Jok, Abuja


As labour organisations in Africa gather in the Nigerian capital city, Abuja, for a two day meeting,  one of the burning issues discussed is how to effectively organised a push for common goal that will enable workers globally earn a living wage rather than a minimum wage.

The International Trade Union Congress ITUC Africa, during its 4th Ordinary Congress said that the time has come for the working people across the globe to speak with one voice on the issues affecting them.

Also Trade Union Movement across the globe was challenged to strive for a livable wage rather than a minimum wage for workers.

President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in the United States CBTU, Reverend Terrence Melvin who made the call at the Congress while in an interview with Voice of Nigeria, said that CBTU is trying to encourage each union in each country to “look at a livable wage as minimum wage.”

He said that he gets inspired when he sees workers gather in one room to brainstorm on how to further their welfare and that of their members.

 “It inspires me when I see workers coming together wanting to work together, this is a coalition  of unionists from across the African continent, fifty- two countries coming together today saying they are going to be one and that we are united.

“And when they are united, we bring our strength from the United States and we get our allies from Europe,  and South America to come in; We can change what is going on in  everyone of these countries and it is my hope and my dream that we take my continent Africa and move the minimum wage up to living wage  and make sure every woman and every man has maternity and paternity  leave to take care of their families, ” he said.

“Considering the natural and human resources in Africa according to the President, the continent should have no place for poverty,” adding that the labour movement in Africa has a duty to agitate for the well being of all citizens.

“One of the targets of the CTBU is to assist unions to better what they are already doing,” says Reverend Melvin, even though the black unionism  has not had it easy in the United States.

“Black unionism has been difficult for us in the US for quite some time, and we are just starting to really come up to the top, that is why the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists was started in 1972. Black unionists did not have a place in their union nor was the union movement at that time looking out for the interest of black people in our home community.

 So, we created the coalition of Black Trade unionists to have a focal point where we can come and learn how to move up in the labour movement and also force the labour movement to diversify the leadership of the movement and be a part of what needs to be done in our community as well as awaken the issues of our community around the United States,” the CBTU President said.

On whether African unionists are meeting enough to push their cause with a common voice, his response was swift and confident.

“ As a matter of fact we are going to have a meeting on Friday, we are pulling together a group we call ‘the Global African Institute’, and we are looking into bringing together Black trade unionists from across the global to  come to one place where we look at the laws that are affecting our people, wages that is affecting our people, the power leaders affecting our people then we can composition things up, and we can have a connection where anyone of one us from anywhere in the globe can come in and help each other but we will have all in one central location.”

He also spoke on migration and how he said it has affected Africa.

The issue of migration is a global issue because of the companies that are out there, they don’t care about the borders of the countries, the companies themselves all they want to do is make money from workers. So have work moving from continent to continent, from country to country so that they can get the lowest common denominator of worker to do the most work for them.

 “That is why we have to look at this issue as a global issue as trade unionists, what happens in Africa affects England, Europe, and South America, Affects the Irelands and affects what happens in the United States.

“We have to stand together as trade unionists  that is why we are here in solidarity to do what we can to help bring up the lives of the workers here on the continent of Africa, because if we bring up the working condition of the workers here, that would help workers across the globe,” Melvin said.