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Sub-Saharan Africa sets ambitious union agenda

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16 October, 2019More than 200 trade unionists from 40 countries attended the Sub Saharan Africa regional conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 10-11 October to reconstitute the regional executive committee and endorse a series of action plans.

The conference was a culmination of a week of meetings designed to build common purpose among IndustriALL Global Union affiliates on the continent: the Youth Conference, the African Mining Summit, the African Industrialization Conference, and the Women’s Conference.

Each meeting, under the overarching theme of Sub-Sahara African unions in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, considered a particular aspect of trade union work on the continent and developed an action plan which it brought to the executive meeting for adoption and endorsement.

The regional conference was opened by IndustriALL co-chair Joseph Montisetse and vice president Issa Aremu. After a detailed overview of trade union struggles on the continent by IndustriALL regional secretary Paule Ndessomin, affiliates raised problems of workers’ rights violations and called for support.

General secretary Valter Sanches stressed the importance of solidarity. He said:

“We deal with violations of trade union rights like firefighters. We need to be systematic.

“We raise issues with the ILO and the OECD. But institutions won't save us. What works is solidarity. We have had a number of successful union wins over the past few years. In every case, it was because of an international solidarity campaign.

“We are developing a roadmap of instruments to fight violations. But the key is building stronger unions.”

He also stressed the importance of global framework agreements, which are a very powerful tool if used well.

The young workers presented their structure and action plan to the conference. The affiliates formally recognized the youth committee, and committed to improving youth work on the continent.

The women’s committee presented its proposed structure. This was adopted by the conference, which committed to campaign for the ratification of ILO 190 and to strengthen national women’s structures.

Executive committee member Ousmane Diop of Senegal reported on the African industrialization conference. Affiliates resolved to implement IndustriALL’s action plans on industrial policy and trade, and to support the regional energy network.

IndustriALL mining director Glen Mpufane reported on the mining summit. Affiliates resolved to promote the African Mining Vision at national level, and campaign for the ratification of ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in mines. They also pledged to campaign for AngloGold Ashanti to sign a global framework agreement, to support diamond miners in Lesotho and to work towards regularizing and organizing small scale and artisanal miners.

Affiliates resolved to establish a task team to identify emerging issues and develop responses, and to develop policy on industrialization, mineral pricing and beneficiation.

They resolved to support unions in Eswatini against rights violations, and campaign against attacks on workers by multinational corporations. They condemned the abuse of workers’ rights by Chinese-owned companies while also noting with disappointment that companies with African origins also violate the rights of workers.

Valter Sanches concluded:

“One year from now we will have our Congress in Cape Town. We have set an ambitious agenda for the continent. Let’s work together so that at Congress we can demonstrate the power of unity in struggle.”