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MENA unions build power by strengthening cooperation

27 March, 2014Lively debate on democratic development and workers’ rights dominates IndustriALL Global Union’s regional conference for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in Jordanian capital Amman.

More than 70 union leaders from 17 countries attended IndustriALL’s MENA regional conference which was held on 24-25 March 2014 in Amman with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES). The hosts welcomed affiliated unions from the region including Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Kuwait and Yemen. Potential affiliates from Bahrain, Somalia and Egypt, as well as partner unions from Spain, France, Germany, Norway and Turkey were also present.

Discussions focused on the ongoing fundamental political changes that are taking place in the region and IndustriALL Global Union’s goals and key strategies until the 2016 Congress, as endorsed by the executive committee in December.

Delegates evaluated actions taken since the regional conference held in March 2013, and looked at how to build union power and confront global capital in the region. Specific attention was given to active campaigns in Egypt and Iraq.

Trade union freedoms and rights including equality were subject to considerable debate. The delegates agreed to actively work on gender issues with creation of a women’s network in the region. Many panelists voiced concerns about problems with migration, as security problems in countries such as Syria and Iraq force people to move to other countries in the search of proper jobs. Jordan has around two million migrant workers, of whom 1.2 million are from Syria, 500.000 from Egypt and 200.000 from Iraq. A sizable portion of migrant workers are employed in the textile and garment industries.

The conference exchanged experiences on building strong, democratic and sustainable trade union structures, as the backbone of democratic societies. Growing population, mass unemployment particularly among the youth, inequality between men and women, lack of education, health and public services and unhealthy economic structures were indicated as major barriers to building sustainable economies and industries.

The participants welcomed IndustriALL’s worldwide initiative on sustainable industrial policy. Textile, garment and oil sectors were identified as targets for strengthening union capacity and social protection, particularly to guaranteed decent work with a living wage.

Trade union networks and global framework agreements were recognized as important tools for building solidarity. Unions from the MENA region need to be involved to facilitate organizing and collective bargaining.

At the end of the conference, the delegates discussed priorities and actions in the region, and endorsed a plan for the future.

General Secretary Jyrki Raina said:

IndustriALL Global Union is excited about the expansion of its family in MENA region into new countries such as Libya and Somalia. Our actions and campaigns will help our  affiliates grow stronger.