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Vanuatu trade union takes stock and maps future

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), through the Government of Japan funded Social Safety Net (SSN) Project, supported the VCTU with undertaking an assessment of its members who lost jobs, linking disenfranchised workers to Employment Services Vanuatu (ESV) and provided hardware to establish their membership database.

News | 01 September 2016
Participants at the Vanuatu worker's capacity building workshop
After almost a year and a half since the destructive category five tropical cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu, the members of the Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions (VCTU) met from 23 to 26 August 2016 to reflect on the impact it had on workers and various recovery programmes implemented.
According to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), it was estimated that Cyclone Pam affected directly and indirectly the livelihoods of about 40,800 households or 195,000 people that live across the four disaster-affected provinces. A total of 504,050 work days and VT 1.6 billion of personal income have been lost.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), through the Government of Japan funded Social Safety Net (SSN) Project, supported the VCTU with undertaking an assessment of its members who lost jobs, linking disenfranchised workers to Employment Services Vanuatu (ESV) and provided hardware to establish their membership database.

“The major learning we got out of this disaster and recovery programmes is that it is only a disaster if we are not prepared,” said Mr Jean Paskcal from the VCTU. He further added that the VCTU and its members were now better capacitated to support its members in future.

Five months after the cyclone, the ILO provided technical assistance to develop and implement strategies to support VCTU to be better prepared and respond to the needs of its members. This meeting also revisited these strategies. The VCTU is also developing a pocket guide on rights of workers and labour laws, towards a joint initiative with the Government of Vanuatu and Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI) to support small scale road contractors.

Retired unionists with workshop facilitator Mr Raghwan (second from left)
The meeting also provided an opportunity for the workers organisation to discuss a progression plan and implement an organising campaign. “We need more young people to step up and take on leadership roles and lead the VCTU to the next level”, said Mr Ephraim Kalsakau, a Member of Parliament and General Secretary of the VCTU. We also invited retired trade unionists to present and motivate the young members, he further added.

Ms Loreen Baniuri who is the President of VCTU said that in this workshop, members have formulated an organisnig plan to not only recruit new members but also inform workers of their rights in order to gain decent work. “This is a follow up to regional trainings organised by the ILO in Brisbane last year and in Nadi a few weeks ago”, she said.

“The lessons learnt from the Cyclone Pam recovery activities in Vanuatu indicated the importance of disaster preparedness. In the context of 2030 Development Agenda of the United Nations, we need to look at carefully what are the workers’ issues in Climate Change”, said Mr Satoshi Sasaki, the Officer-in-Charge for the ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries. He further added that the ILO experience in Vanuatu proved that the trade unions had prominent roles in developing the resilient workplace.