NAHWUL received the award for its bravery in fighting for basic trade union rights for a group of workers who have been particularly vulnerable during the severe pandemics that have hit Liberia in recent years.
During Ebola, health workers had very poor working conditions. Ten percent of the country's health workers lost their lives. While the world has applauded the efforts of health workers' in fighting against Covid-19, in Liberia they have lacked protective equipment, received low wages and their right to organize has been attacked.
Espen Løken, advisor for Industri Energi and secretary for the prize committee, announced PSI affiliate NAHWUL and its leader George Poe Williams as the winners of this year during PSI's SUBRAC meeting for English-Speaking Africa on 7 April.
Liberian Health Workers' Union wins the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights
The union NAHWUL and their leader Williams have fought for the right to organize and collectively bargain. They saw a strong union as essential to improve the working conditions.
Espen Løken, advisor for Industri Energi and secretary for the prize committee, says that the government of Liberia sees the union's growth as a threat, and Williams and several of the leaders have been fired from their jobs.
After a global campaign, Williams and his colleagues got their jobs back, and NAHWUL was promised a number of improvements and that the union would get the right to bargain. In 2020, the health workers took action, and the authorities threatened to send security forces against them and imprison Williams. Williams was abroad at the time, and has since been in exile. Several government employees and shop stewards have been harassed and killed.
The award of the "Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights" will put pressure on the Liberian authorities to recognize NAHWUL and Williams as representatives of the health workers in the country, with the right to negotiate on behalf of their members. But first, Williams must return safely from exile and have the opportunity to help lead the health workers further.
The award will contribute to NAHWUL's campaign for better health services and better working conditions for health workers in the country.
Espen Løken also says that the prize also should be seen as a recognition of health workers around the world. They have had very demanding working conditions during the pandemic.
The award ceremony will be in Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, 15th of June.
The «Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights» is presented to a person or organisation that has worked predominately to promote trade union rights and/or strengthen trade union organizing around the world. The prize amount is NOK 500.000
Read more at https://www.svenssonstiftelsen.com/home