Innovative unionism pushed in Africa and Middle East

BWI Africa and Middle East held a virtual workshop on innovative unionism on 27-28 May as a response to a world drastically changed by COVID-19. 

The event, which is the first in a series of virtual workshops that will be held by BWI in different regions, brought together 71 participants from 20 African and Middle Eastern countries. 

BWI explained that innovative unionism is the permeating concept that guides the formulation and implementation of its strategic plan, and a reminder to trade unions to constantly revitalise, reinvigorate, reinvent and transform themselves by infusing innovation in their systems, methods, approaches and actions. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said that the region leads the way in innovative unionism. He cited how BWI’s historic adoption of its 1/3 women participation and representation in all of its structures and activities began as part of a debate in its 1997 Congress in Harare, Zimbabwe, and continued in its 2017 Congress in Durban, South Africa. 

The region once again demonstrated its capacity for innovative unionism during the pandemic. BWI affiliates in the region used the issue of occupational health and safety as an organising tool to promote labour rights and trade unionism. 

Recently, BWI affiliates in the region secured 80 joint declarations signed with employers calling on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to recognise workplace health and safety as a fundamental right. 

Yuson reminded BWI affiliates in the region that the collective effort to promote innovative unionism must go hand in hand with a post-pandemic economic recovery program that seriously pushes for decent work and climate justice. 

As such, the workshop participants identified new key areas for trade union organising in the next couple of years.

They are:   

  1. Push workers’ mental health rights and welfare at workplaces.
  2. Use mobile offices (caravans) to reach out to more workers and provide better services.
  3. Organise the unions’ cyber activists to lead the online campaign to defend workers’ rights.
  4. Strengthen union, industrial and sectoral networks. 
  5. Strengthen union actions in the building material sector (cement, quarry, iron, water etc. )
  6. Conduct a SWOT analysis of MENA and West Africa Francophone sub-regions to improve strategies on trade unions development.