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(Equal Times) — There are two things that Girma Getachew, 25, does not like about his work in a tannery Chinese leather on the outskirts of the city of Sululta. The first is his salary he considered insufficient; and the second is the stench that prevails. ” Working there is not a cakewalk , “he said. ” The smell is unbearable and unhealthy air . ”
It’s been three years since Girma works in environmental security service in the factory China-Africa Overseas Leather Products.

He works six days a week for a salary of 25 birr ($ 1.25) per day.
” The price of leather continues to fluctuate; this is why we can not make more money , “he said, adding that the company provides them with opportunities for promotion, offer compensation for sick days and, if appropriate, supports the medical expenses of its employees.
Foreign companies are important for Ethiopia; officials hope to transform the Horn of Africa into a hub for manufacturing.
In a country of over 90 million people, where more than 80% of the population works in agriculture, the government recognizes that the only path to sustainable growth is that Ethiopians pass jobs for higher productivity , able to attract foreign investors and add value to what is now an export commodity market.
But protecting the rights of workers is difficult when facing foreign enterprises determined to make the most of a low labor cost, says Berhanu Deriba Birru, general secretary of the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions, an umbrella organization of 819 unions representing nearly half a million workers.
” Foreign companies give us a lot of trouble , “he said.
” They want to exploit workers and thus resist unions because if workers are organized they will want collective bargaining. ”
Many Chinese firms, Turkish and Indian have chosen to locate in Ethiopia, despite bureaucratic nuisance and tedious trade terms in terms of logistics.
More recently, some Western companies have also started to test the Ethiopian ground. The giant ready-to-wear Swedish H & M now caters to three Ethiopian factories, while Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch behemoth of FMCG plans to open its own factory near the capital Addis Ababa to Over the next few months.
Meanwhile, a British company has taken a good step ahead of its competitors. The company Pittards, leather goods manufacturer, has trade relations with Ethiopia over the past century; in 2009, it acquired the industrial tannery Ethiopian Tannery Share Company, in the city of Modjo, and in 2011 it opened a factory in Addis Ababa.
With its workforce of around 700 employees, this site now produces an average of 100,000 pairs of gloves per month, in addition to fashion gloves, handbags and jackets.
Despite the losses suffered by Pittards during its first year of operation in Ethiopia, the situation has gradually stabilized and the company starts to record a modest profit, according to CEO Reg Hankey. The company provides its employees with slightly above-average wages, but can not do better than that this time.
Tingurt Sheferaw, 32, mother of two, worked for two years at the plant where it assembles Pittards thumbs work gloves.
His base salary is 550 birr ($ 27.50) per month, but according to her, if we add bonuses as incentive pay and allowances, gross salary can reach 1,150 birr ( $ 57.60). ” It’s a chance for me to work here because I have to feed my family , “she said.
At the other end of the room is Habtan Mandefro, 26, who works in the factory for eight months. She cuts pieces Fleece liners gloves to women. It also affects 550 birr per month. ” That’s not enough; if I wanted to rent a room, I would not have enough to pay the rent , “she said. ” But working here is better than staying at home! ”
Salaries are lower in Ethiopia than in Britain, said Hankey, but in terms of workers’ rights, the standards are the same.
” What is good in Ethiopia is that labor law is well developed , “he said,” unlike some countries in the Far East where it is heavily dependent on the company. ”
He stated that the Modjo tannery is now equipped with a dining hall and a clinic, and the company has leased land to build similar facilities near the plant in Addis Ababa.
Pittards is also trying to hire workers with disabilities, to provide opportunities for promotion and ensure that all employees have recourse to voice their grievances.
Generally, Ethiopian law requires employers to limit the normal working week to 48 hours, to allow sick leave, prohibiting child labor, to respect the safety and prevent sexual discrimination.
But it was not a secret that labor at deflated prices is one of the main attractions for foreign firms; without this incentive, Ethiopia would struggle to develop its embryonic manufacturing.
And if they complain of low wages, workers recognize, willingly or unwillingly, that every job created is a good thing.
” It does not bring in enough , “said Getachew, about his job in the Chinese tannery. ” But without it how would I survive? There are not spoiled for choice, so I continue to work here. “

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