BWI’s Organising Academy consolidates gains, prepares for expansion

Finishing 2022 strong, BWI’s Global Organising Academy (GOA) on 14 December held an online Organising Forum which was attended by 91 trade unionists from the regions of Africa and the Middle East (AME), Pan Europe (PEU), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and Asia Pacific (AP).  

The forum assessed and consolidated GOA’s initiatives since 2021, which are divided into three tracks: 1) build GOA teams and pilot test training designs amongst identified organisers from selected unions and countries, 2) embark on real organising campaigns, and 3) identify, prepare and mentor trade union second liners as future trade union leaders.

Different presentations on the GOA regional teams’ organising efforts took the first part of the forum. The GOA-AP team reported the following: 1) recruitment of 3 independent construction unions in the Philippines covering over a thousand workers and setting up of unions for 200 project safety officers and building skills trainers and assessors, 2) organised 3 wood factories covering 300 workers in Thailand, 3) 74 crane operators joined Indian affiliate AIKTMS, recruitment of another 100 workers from the Bhopal Metro Project, and registration of 465 workers to the welfare board, and 4) 243 women workers joined India’s UPGMS.

The GOA-AME Team disclosed that a total of 6,989, including 455 women workers, from 17 workplaces based in 9 countries were successfully recruited to the fold of trade unionism. It said that it found new organising success after conducting a regional organising and shop stewards training activity, and a successor generation workshop this year.

Meanwhile, the GOA-LAC Team explained that the region’s democratic backsliding is contributing to the erosion of trade union membership and young workers’ low participation in union activities. As part of its organising efforts, it proposed more technical trainings and continuing labour education to respond to professional job qualifications, and campaigns for better wages, labour rights and benefits, among others. 

For its part, the GOA-PEU Team reported the following: 1) recruitment of 67 members in 3 new construction companies in Azerbaijan,2)  establishment of relations with workers of the VC highway project in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 3) reached out to 500 workers wherein 130 were recruited to trade unions in Georgia, 4) organising of 240 workers from 7 companies in Kyrgyzstan, 5) recruitment of 153 workers in Moldova, 6) 317 new union members from 26 companies in Tajikistan, and 7) built ties with Serbian workers employed at the Corridor X highway project. 

BWI GOA’s successor generation program was substantially tackled in the second part of the forum. BWI Global Youth Coordinator Gulsah Doruk reported that young trade unionists from Kenya, Brasil, India and Kyrgyzstan were mentored as potential trade union leaders in the near future. She expressed high hopes for the identified second liners, noting of their young age and women union members comprising half of the future union leaders.

Moving forward, BWI GOA Coordinator Marlon Quesada said that BWI has developed an online course on trade union organising and research in partnership with the International Federation of Workers’ Education Association based in South Africa. The course has five modules designed for trade union organisers working to organise workers in workplaces outside the usual spheres of organised labour. 

Quesada, who is also the BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Education Officer, explained that the course aims to provide trade union organisers with tools and skills that can help them improve their understanding of their specific contexts, and develop organising plans based on relevant situational information concerning workers identified for possible union recruitment. “These are some of the exciting things that are in store for us in 2023. We will consolidate, and hopefully expand further,” he said. 

Reminding of the crucial role the GOA will play in BWI’s new strategic plan, BWI Education Secretary Tos Anonuevo said that the project is steadily being institutionalised. 

“BWI’s GOA is a fairly young project, but it will play a vital role in our new strategic plan. Organising is at the heart of our work.  As we move forward, we hope GOA will contribute to increasing the density of the trade union movement, provide a platform for our organisers to work together and share ideas, and prepare our unions’ successor generation to sustain our trade union work in the future,” Anonuevo said.