Organising workers in the wood and forestry sector in Africa is not an easy task. However, the Union of Construction Workers, Public Works - Sawmilling and Veneer (UTBTPBSP) of Gabon has shown that it can be done through a number of successful organizing drives since 2018.
On 5 March 2019, the union notified Shengda Investment Company Limited, a Chinese wood and processing company that it would go on strike and outlined sixteen specific demands. Recognizing that the union was determined to fight better living and working conditions for their members, the local management agreed to engage in collective bargaining negotiations.
From 7 March to 2 April, the union and the local management underwent intensive negotiations resulting in agreement on 2 April under the mediation of the Special Labour Inspector in charge of the forestry sector in Gabon.
With the signing of the CBA, the local management of Shengda Investment agreed to recognize the 346 workers as permanent workers with an employment contract. The company also agreed to provide proper work clothing to all workers, periodic free health check, wages with pay slips and social insurance.
The workers' commitment to strike was the tipping point that we needed for Shengda Investment Company to negotiate and sign an agreement with the union,” stated Leon Mebiame, President of UTBTPBSP. He continued, “This is the first CBA we have signed with a Chinese MNC in Gabon and it will not be our last as this success will open the door for potential more CBAs with other Chinese MNCs operating in the Economic Protected Zone of Nkok in Gabon.”