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Energy workers of Southern Africa building power

23 October, 2014Meeting together in Mid-Rand, near Pretoria, 13-14 October, 2014, IndustriALL Global Union’s Southern African Energy Network (SAEN) resolved to focus on recruiting new members through increased regional cooperation to strengthen and build power in the unions.

Bringing together energy affiliates of IndustriALL from Botswana, DRC, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, South Africa Zambia and Zimbabwe, the SAEN, supported by the Friedrich-Ebert- Stiftung (FES), debated at length the future strategy in the face of concerted employer attacks on trade unions in the sub-region. Unions decided that they needed to increase communication between themselves in order to develop a common analysis of the Energy sector at both regional and national levels. Social media and electronic communication will continue to be used in the future, and unions needed to identify two contact persons for each union so that both leadership and a representative at the workplace can be contacted by other network members.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary, Kemal Ozkan, stated that,

This network can be an example of best practice to other regions and industries. Your focus on union organizing and strengthening all member unions is to be commended. That is the way to increase and build union power.

With the external assistance provided by the Labour Research Service of Cape Town (LRS), a database of company, particularly South African-based Eskom, and contract information is being built up. Delegates recommitted to providing the required information when requested and timely to allow the resource being built to be useful and comprehensive.

The network has an established structure, and needs to focus on its vision and mission. The network will produce a sectorial analysis of the industry in the sub-region which will form a basis for the determination by the network of a regional energy policy, that all members can identify with and promote.

The Network emphasized that problems and difficulties described at previous meetings, and reported on globally to the Madrid World Energy Conference of IndustriALL, earlier this year continued with many unions faced with their workers being classed by governments as “essential services” and subject to strike prohibitions. Increased casualization was increasing precarious work in several countries and putting pressure on union efforts to ensure decent work and maintain a living wage.

The network was able to focus on successes as well. From Swaziland, network chairperson, Churchboy Dlamini, spoke of how they had succeeded in eliminating temporary contract worker contracts and all employees at the national electric company were now permanent employees. In Zimbabwe the network had supported ZEWU workers under attack and dismissed by electric power company ZESA. Many of these workers had been reinstated. Angeline Chitambo, the ZEWU President and IndustriALL Executive Committee member, remained dismissed and despite court decisions calling for her reinstatement the company was still prolonging the issue in the courts and attempting to avoid reinstatement. The network stated their full support to her struggle for reinstatement and will continue to support other workers facing similar challenges.