Africa and Middle East: Shop stewards and organisers sharpen skills, prepare for “new normal”

As part of the BWI Global Organising Academy’s (GOA) aim to further enhance and develop unionists’ expertise in strategic organising and increase membership in various sectors, shop stewards and organisers from Africa and the Middle East met in Johannesburg, South Africa for a workshop on 25-26 July.

The workshop imparted knowledge, tools, and skills to unionists on how to improve the contextual understanding of their sectors, and develop suitable plans for organising in their countries and unions. The activity also trained unionists on how to effectively plan (with practical milestones, success indicators, and lack of success indicators), gather and maintain relevant information, analyse gathered information, and acquire critical competencies to identify sources of union power against multinational companies, including Chinese MNCs.

The face-to-face activity encouraged the participants to share experiences, find common grounds and find sustainable solutions to their challenges. The group identified three areas (i.e., organizing, organizing internationally, and resources management) that must be reimagined in order to ensure the protection of labour rights and the survival of the trade union movement now and beyond. It was assessed that unions will need to identify the available means that are used to organize workers, identify and implement new ways of organising, as well as tailor-fit messages and campaigns to attract more youth, women, and other neglected workers in industries where BWI is present at.

“Knowledge is power. Without it, there is no power.” This was the message given by BWI Regional Representative for Africa and Middle East Crecentia Mofokeng at the workshop. She encouraged the participants to avail of the activity’s practical step-by-step guide on how to create electronic information-gathering methods which can be converted into a tool for recruitment, database/information maintenance, and analyses for different areas of interest. 

To narrow down the information gap and strengthen negotiation strategies, the participants were encouraged to refresh their knowledge on international, regional, national, and union policy and founding documents. They were also encouraged to create their own collective bargaining and global framework agreements database which could be used to extract fundamental provisions for use during negotiation purposes. 

Lastly, the participants were introduced to the “BWEye App,” an information-monitoring-networking platform developed by BWI for its affiliates worldwide, which also gives focus on MNCs and infrastructure projects.

At the end of the two-day training session, the participants were strongly urged to not only implement the tools and skills received, but also share their newly-gained knowledge with their colleagues and workers in general. 

A total of 24 trade unionists participated in the activity, which was put together with the help of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and TUCC.