BWI East Africa affiliates met in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, from 10-13 March 2019 to share their organizing successes, challenges and best practices in the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) funded MNCs infrastructure projects in East Africa Sub-region.
The affiliates reported to have recruited more than 10, 916 new members in 2018, mainly from the IFI- funded infrastructure projects.
In addition, the unions shared advances at the legislative level. In Uganda as a result of aggress lobbying and advocacy, the minimum wage is now under review. STECOMA, BWI’s affiliate in Rwanda was also involved in the review of employment laws on the informal workers’ social security and minimum wage that will benefit the workers in the wood and construction sectors.
The success stories show that the unions have negotiated for the review of 31 Collective agreements with clauses calling for increase in minimum wages and wages as well as improvements of the working conditions. The supply chain has also been a focus by the BWI affiliates in the sub region of which the affiliates have recruited and organized cement industries especially in Tanzania as reported by TUICO.
Despite these successes, the affiliates still face challenges exhibited by the MNCs which include casualization of labour, short term contracts, violation of labour rights, failure to recognize freedom of association and non-compliance of labour laws multinational companies especially China Wu YI working in Kenya and Ethiopia. These violations have resulted in affiliates losing membership through unwarranted dismissals and termination of workers’ contracts without renewal.
The project has seen the trade unions in the sub-region more aware and acquire the new strategies in engaging IFIs in social dialogue meetings to solve the workers working terms like the issue of Kenya where the union intervened to ensure the workers of China Wu Yi in a project funded by World Bank have their wages paid according to national law after it was realized that they were underpaid.
Joe Macharia, Deputy General Secretary of KBCTFIEU stated, “It is not acceptable that any MNC undermines the value of our members’ work and exploits them by giving unfair wages and bad working conditions in Infrastructure project in East Africa.”