Collective bargaining is one of the critical skills for Ethiopian trade unions in the chemical, energy, and mining sectors, and the unions are equipping shop stewards through training on what strategies to use when they engage employers.
The National Industrial Federation of Energy, Chemical and Mining Trade Union (NIFECMTU), which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, organized a training workshop in Adama from 20 to 21 February, attended by 23 participants from base unions at 17 factories. NIFECMTU has over 20,000 members including 6,000 members from the Ethiopia Electricity Company, 2,000 from the Ethiopian Energy Company and 800 from the Ethiopian Petroleum and Biofuel Company.
The government’s development policies are focusing on diversifying economic sectors including in the chemical, energy, mining, and oil and gas sectors. With diversification and the rapid growth of the economy at 8.5 per cent in 2018, the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, spurred by infrastructural development and light industrial manufacturing, there is potential for the unions to organize and recruit more workers.
The workshop discussed how base unions can strengthen collective bargaining and organizing skills to improve their capacity to confront strong management teams at plant level. The labour laws and International Labour Organization conventions that Ethiopia has ratified support collective bargaining.
The union at the national level agreed to support the base unions through training of members on financial sustainability, organizing and servicing members, and improving working conditions through better collective bargaining agreements. Further, it was agreed that unions should be more transparent and democratic and should have regular communication with members. Union dues, which make up over 80 per cent of the union’s income, should be used to strengthen organizing and collective bargaining.
Says Sisay Tulu, IndustriALL coordinator for Ethiopia:
“Strengthening the base unions is important for union membership growth because they are the heart-beat of the unions. The base unions are the where workers engage with the unions at the factories and the mines. If the base unions are strong, the union will also be strong.”
Adds Kenny Mogane, regional officer for IndustriALL Sub Saharan Africa:
“Negotiating better deals through collective bargaining improves working conditions and living wages for workers. We will continue to support the NIFECMTU in its efforts for effective negotiations and collective bargaining agreements.”