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Young workers organizing drives in Ghana show strength of solidarity

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8 October, 2020Building union strength in the post-Covid-19 workplace is a top priority for trade unions in Ghana. As lockdown regulations become less strict on meetings, unions are going to factories and workplaces to recruit and organize more workers.

IndustriALL Global Union Sub Saharan Africa region and Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Africa and Middle East affiliates carried out joint organizing activities at workplaces in Ahafo, Kumasi, Obuasi, and Sunyani from 28 September to 2 October.

The affiliates are the Ghana Mine Workers Union (GMWU), General Transport, Petroleum and Chemical Workers Union (GTPCWU), Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), and Public Utilities Workers Union (PUWU) - together with the Timber Workers Union that is affiliated to BWI.

The joint organizing drives aim to increase union membership through sharing ideas, strategies, and experiences on how to build union power.

In August, the unions held workshops on developing capacity for social dialogue in the prevention and management of Covid-19 at the workplace, and on how to improve the participation of youth and women in union activities. Often women and the youth are marginalized. Yet they are the solution for rebuilding trade unions.

The joint organizing activities are supported by Industri Energi, a Norwegian trade union for workers in the industrial and energy sectors. Industri Energi has been supporting a lot more collaborative work between IndustriALL and BWI to build collective union power from sharing skills, knowledge, and ideas for improving the organizing and mobilization of workers.

The nine organizers, including six young workers, were drawn from participants who attended online training on organizing.

Agness Ayittey from GMWU, chairperson of the IndustriALL affiliates youth committee in Ghana, who is one of the organizers said: 

“The emerging issues from the organizing drives include union busting by some employers who are stopping workers from joining the union, not paying living wages, and ignoring health and safety standards.”

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa said:

“Global unions are working together on Covid-19 responses because workers are adversely affected by the coronavirus irrespective of the sectors where they work. We hope that by working together, union solidarity will be strengthened in Ghana.”

Crecentia Mofokeng, BWI regional representative for Africa and Middle East said:

“We are satisfied that BWI and IndustriALL affiliates in Ghana are jointly engaging employers and government on social dialogue for better working conditions and wages in most industrial sectors. They have developed more joint actions on training and organizing because issues and challenges are the same across the sectors.”

A youth activist school planned for November will focus on trade unions and activism in the community and will establish a youth activists’ network for the unions in Ghana.