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Trade unions in Western Africa fight against precarious work

29 October, 2015IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from Togo, Senegal and Burkina Faso have managed to convert several hundreds of precarious workers into permanent workers.

African affiliates have been reporting on concrete victories for years. Participants at a sub regional meeting in Togo in October underlined that one of the main achievements of this project has been raising awareness that precarious work is an issue against which it is fundamental to fight back.

Affiliates from Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal reported the conversion of about 950 fixed-term or daily workers into permanent workers in 2015. In Togo, affiliates organized days of action in targeted companies to force management to respect agreements bargained with the unions on the regularization of the workers. These achievements had been negotiated as a follow up of trainings to affiliates on strategies of collective bargaining to limit precarious work.

In parallel, affiliates have also led or participating in actions to improve their legislation in order to stop the expansion of precarious work. Affiliates in Burkina Faso are negotiating a new mining code.

In Senegal, affiliates are working towards a better respect of the legislation limiting precarious work. They have launched a campaign violation of legislation on the use of daily and seasonal work.

This later campaign is a joint action of the Syndicat National des Travailleurs des Industries Chimiques et Activités Rattachées du Sénégal (SYNTICS), the Syndicat National des Travailleurs des Industries de la Confection (SNTIC) and the Syndicat Unique des Travailleurs des Industries Diverses du Sénégal SUTIDS). Unions rally together with unions not affiliated to IndustriALL, as well as national confederation centers of Senegal.

In Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal there is an abusive illegal use of daily and fixed term contracts. In addition, even though outsourcing is prohibited in the production activities, agency or contract workers are working side by side with permanent and direct workers on production lines.

Before launching organizing and collective bargaining campaigns, affiliates in the three countries have conducted a detailed mapping of the situation of precarious work in targeted companies. It showed that in certain mining companies in Burkina Faso and chemicals companies in Senegal, the whole workforce was composed of daily workers or temporary agency workers.

Precarious workers performing dangerous work rarely get full overtime pay. Salaries are lower than for permanent workers, and they are not registered in any social benefits system.

Many workers in the mining industry in Burkina or Togo do not even have formal written contracts, no holidays, and are not paid for maintenance tasks as they are remunerated on the quantity they produce. Trade unions are denouncing a real exploitative system. 

“But the fight against precarious work is an uphill battle. Every victory is challenged by the employers,” says Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.

The Federation des Industries du Togo told of a mining company, where management in response to an organizing drive led by IndustriALL’s affiliate, fired all the organizers. The entire workforce was replaced by sub-contractors, performing the same jobs than before. The union is not giving up and has submitted this case to court.

The precarious work project in Sub-Saharan Africa, previously supported by SASK, is currently co-funded by IndustriALL affiliates FNV, CSC-BIE and CFDT-FCE.