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Building strong unions remains IndustriALL’s focus in Africa

23 October, 2014Leadership of affiliates in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) heard reports of IndustriALL’s work in the region focussed on organizing and growth, and discussed the need for economic and social justice in order to build Africa.

Around 150 trade union leaders from 28 African countries met at the IndustriALL SSA Regional conference in Pretoria from 14 to 16 October 2014. Whilst there was much internal reflection on the need to build strong unions as well as unity amongst workers at national and international level, external factors affecting social and economic progress on the continent came to the fore in discussions. 

Participants stressed the importance of manufacturing as an engine of growth in national economies. Affiliates committed to prioritize industrial development by taking up the issue with their national centres and seeking to influence their governments on the matter. Affiliates recognize that it will be key to build trade union strength and capacity to demand comprehensive and strategic industrial policies, including educating members and raising public awareness to campaign for policies that benefit working people. At a regional level there is an undertaking to develop joint policies towards regional intergovernmental bodies such as SADC, ECOWAS, EAC, CEMAC and the African Union; and mobilizing regionally on Africa Industrialization Day on 20 November.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:

This vibrant conference hosted by the South African unions will inspire IndustriALL affiliates in the whole continent in our joint struggle to build a strong industrial base across Africa to provide good quality jobs for workers and forge societies based on social and economic justice.

There is grave concern for the level of precarious work in the region especially at multinational companies that are not being held accountable for poor labour practices. Poor health and safety standards are also worrying. Another African concern is low wages, in some cases even below poverty levels, which can be found in all the sectors organized by IndustriALL’s affiliates. The Conference resolved that Africa and the world needs an immediate pay rise. Affiliates will continue to mobilize, organize and defend workers’ rights to ensure sustainable employment and living wages in safer and healthier workplaces.

Women’s involvement and participation in trade union activities at all levels was discussed in depth.  The Sub-Saharan African Women's Conference was the third region to call for a 40 per cent quota for women at all levels of IndustriALL. Delegates committed to intensify their efforts towards ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 183 on maternity protection. Since adoption of this convention 14 years ago, only three African countries have ratified it.

The Conference strongly condemned the Government of Swaziland for dissolving the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) and urged the Government to revoke this decision, and to start engaging in a genuine dialogue with unions about legislative reforms that will ensure that workers’ rights are respected in line with Swaziland’s international obligations without any further delay.

The Conference underlined the importance of peace and stability in the region and called on all African governments to ensure the existence of peace and stability in the region. Delegates agreed that Ebola is also posing a real threat to human life and economic stability in West Africa, which requires an international response to eradicate.