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Trade Unions and HIV/AIDS

FEDUSA to picket against HIV/AIDS discrimination

“Our organisation could not believe that a South African journalist was dismissed, detained and deported from Qatar simply on the grounds of his HIV positive status,” said FEDUSA General Secretary, Dennis George.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) will be picketing against HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace tomorrow afternoon at 13h00, 1 Park Road, Richmond, Johannesburg. FEDUSA joins the calls of the International Trade Union Council (ITUC) and SECTION 27, a South African human rights organisation, in urging the authorities of Qatar to end discrimination on grounds of HIV status in their country.

“Our organisation could not believe that a South African journalist was dismissed, detained and deported from Qatar simply on the grounds of his HIV positive status,” said FEDUSA General Secretary, Dennis George.

The journalist, who wishes not to be named, underwent medical tests in order to attain his work permit, but was not informed of the nature of the tests, or informed of the results. On discovery of his HIV positive status his employer, Al Jazeera, ensured he was detained in Doha State Prison, dismissed and immediately deported. The journalist was only informed of his status upon returning to South Africa.

FEDUSA is both shocked and concerned about this humiliating violation of human rights and will join the protest outside of the Al Jazeera offices to show its support for the intervention of the ITUC in this regard.

The applicable laws in Qatar do not align with international standards, and rather than promoting non-discrimination in recruitment and continued employment on the grounds of HIV status, they do not prohibit discrimination or dismissal on such grounds. The laws of Qatar allow the detainment and deportation of any individual who may be a threat to public health. The ITUC has written a letter to the Emir of the State of Qatar and to the Minister of Labour of Qatar urging the government to ensure that they introduce the necessary policies to extend protection to workers on the grounds of real or perceived HIV status.

FEDUSA’s HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STI) workplace policy, adopted at our National Congress in 2008, acknowledges that HIV and AIDS are “surrounded by ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and stigma” and that “in the workplace, unfair discrimination against people living with HIV and AIIDS has been perpetuated through practices such as; pre-employment HIV testing, dismissals for being HIV positive and the denial of employee benefits”.

“It is therefore one of our primary objectives is to promote equality and non-discrimination between individuals affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. FEDUSA believes this incident must be brought to an international audience and pressure applied for Qatar to change is discrimination policies and the journalist reinstated. ,” said George.

Despite numerous letters and appeals, the government of Qatar and the management of Al Jazeera have not yet responded, for this reason there will be a picket outside the Al Jazeera offices in Johannesburg today to hand over a memorandum outlining the demand for re-instatement and a formal recognition of the violation of the aggrieved journalist’s rights.

- ENDS -

FEDUSA is the largest politically non-aligned trade union federation in South Africa and represents a diverse membership from a variety of sectors in industry. See www.fedusa.org.za for more information.

For more information:

Dennis George (General Secretary)
084 805 1529
011 279 1800

Anja Muller-Deibicht (Media & Communication Officer)
073 713 6173

SECTION 27: Nikki Stein (Attorney)
011 356 4118
stein@section27.org.za