Worker leaders from textile factories in Ethiopia came together to develop strategies for organizing unorganized workers.
Ethiopia has a large and growing textile sector employing about 45,000 workers. Its strategic advantage is its closeness to the European market that provides quick turnaround production times. The Ethiopian government has identified the textile sector as a key priority for economic development and has attracted more than USD3,5 billion in investment in the last three years.
The 43 worker leaders that participated in the workshops at the end of May 2014 came from five factory based unions that employ about 17,000 workers of which just over half are union members. The workshops were held in the capital Addis Ababa and in Mekelle, 800 km north of the capital.
“We need to strive for fully organized workplaces in Ethiopia, with factory based unions this leads to greater unity at the workplace and strengthens the position of workers, while contributing to the organized power in the sector as a whole,” says IndustriALL regional officer Thabo Tshabalala.
Tshabalala and the national organizer of the Ethiopian Textile and Garment Union (ETGU), Ayalew Ahmed facilitated discussions with affiliates to identify problems they face in union building at the factory floor level. Organizing strategies to overcome challenges were shared and confidence was built by discussing how unionized workers could take forward worker’s rights at the shopfloor.
Participants were assisted with developing factory based plans to organize non-unionized workers, including setting goals and objectives in an ambitious recruitment programme. The programme will be evaluated every three months and progress will be reported to the ETGU that committed to providing support to the unions for the initiative.