Interview with Claudette Etnel - Vice President of the Progressive Trade Union Federation 47 (C47) from Suriname

26 February 2018 14:13


“We want as much male as female participation in our trainings”, interview to Claudette Etnel from C47, Suriname.

Claudette Etnel is the Vice President of the Progressive Trade Union Federation 47 (C47), affiliated to the BWI in Suriname. She is also the President of the Women Secretariat of the same organization.

As part of her daily job, she not only regularly participates on behalf of C47 in the Labor Advisory Board of the Ministry of Labour in Suriname, but also she is instructor on OHS at the Suriname Labor College and lectures on OHS with Trade unions and Cooperatives.

On a different union movement, she is the President of 3 unions in the health sector and General Secretary of 2 other unions in Suriname.

As part of BWI’s effort on highlight the work of great women within the union movement in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mrs. Etnel agreed to answer the following interview.

What are the benefits for male and females from C47 training processes?

The male and females have benefitted from C47 trainings by gaining more knowledge on different topics such as using the learned lessons in their work and social live, learn the equality on the work floor and more respect for each other.

They are being aware about their rights as workers on the work floor. They learn to speak up and make sure that the job they are doing is safe and paid according to their tasks; all of this with no discrimination on the work floor regarding sexes, religion and also race. They are now more equipped and we make sure that they join the shop stewards courses also.

They are being taught that C47 is an affiliate of BWI, so we taught topics such as what BWI stands for and why we joined to the international federation.

We just joined BWI almost a few years now and we already had some women conferences that I attended. The knowledge we gained from those countries about what women and youth workers are dealing with, we try to make sure that we don’t fall into that area. That’s why we try to have the updates sent to the villages, in the interior, so that our workers are also updated and that they can make decisions they can benefit from.

How does C-47 work themes such as equality and gender equality in the sectors linked to BWI?

By making sure that the BWI policies on these subjects are also lectured within C47 studies and trainings. We try to make sure that our workers get to know what their rights are when it comes to gender on the work floor, especially when it comes to promote the rights of women.

Also we teach them they should be treated as equals, because they are doing the same jobs as the men are in the factory. They should get equal remuneration for equal work, and we ask them to report immediately if they noticed anything that is not right.

When it comes to Suriname, our wood activity is in the interior, a 9 hour drive to the max, if the road is bad. The multinationals have the villagers as locals working for them. You have sometimes the whole family working in this factory. That’s why it is also important to let the workers know the difference between the home situation and the workplace situation. We find men and women in different departments within the wood factory. They are also in the wood cutting threes, and sometimes the change from location and have to leave their home for 2-3 weeks; all of this in seeking for a better live.

C47 is trying to make sure we have as much contact with these workers as much as possible. My task is to make sure, women especially, are being treated according to the Labour regulations, ILO standards, and ever since our affiliation to BWI is also our commitment, we live up to those standards as well.

It not easy though, because of the long travels, but through ICT and Mobiles we keep in contact with our workers. We also set high standards when it comes to OHS. Our workers deal with some poison woods which we warned the multinational to be careful and stop this wood cutting. We can´t get sick workers all in one family, now way. So that is one of our main tasks and especially mine: to make sure that our workers have all the PPE’s, the right ones of course, and that the environment is also being look at when factories work in the jungle cutting trees.

We understand C-47‘s main union task is the education of workers. Can you explain what are the emphases given by C-47 to the training process provided to its members?

Our main emphases are gender balance participation, but we also want as much male as female participation in our trainings, but we also want full participation of each participant.

They learn how to communicate with each other and how to use modern technology. We also teach them their workers’ rights that is very important and also the OHS rights. We teach them the ideology of the C47. And why we are affiliated to the international federation as BWI. Another topic is benefits we get out of this affiliation.

We use the learning material in practice and ask for feedback from them. We make sure that everybody understands the materials and handouts, and make sure a good interaction by putting the trainees in working groups and give their presentations on certain topics.

In terms of budget and equal opportunities policies at work, does the C-47 have some aspects that have improved?

Yes we have some aspects. We see that more workers are getting organized and are asking for membership to join C47.

We see an equal amount of men and women and also noticed that some other unions from other federation are trying or asking for membership because they see more potential in our organization. When we look at the budget now it is hardly enough to make end meet, due to our economic situation in the country.

We will have to make sure that we can have the dues increased so that we can do more for our workers.