Southern African unions gear up for COP 28, push for increased worker’s health and safety

Thirty one (31) construction trade unionists, including seventeen (17) women leaders, from seven (7) countries met from 25 to 27 October to broaden their knowledge and awareness on climate change as well as on a broad range of other important issues such as justice and finance, technical and vocational education, and training institutions (TVETs); mental health; and occupational health and safety (OHS). The event was organised a month before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 28 in Dubai. BWI, under its “Heat up workers’ rights, not the planet” campaign, is pushing for increased workers’ health and safety protection from extreme weather events caused by the global climate crisis. 

The gathering was made possible by BWI-affiliated construction unions in Southern and East Africa that have recognised the urgent need to address climate change and the significant impact it has on workers in their industry. These unions are advocating for the adoption of just transition policies and practices that  will ensure a fair and equitable shift to a low-carbon economy. They understand that responding to the climate crisis shouldn't come at the expense of workers' rights and livelihoods. Instead, they emphasise the importance of finding solutions that prioritise social justice, job security, and decent work for all. The trade unions also underscored the need for workers to truly benefit from a transition to a more sustainable future, and no worker should be left behind in the process. 

Participants to the event benefitted from the various presentations given by government and civil society leaders, employers’ organisations, and trade union representatives. The participants were also privileged to visit the BWI-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) Elijah Barayi Memorial Training Centre and Academy. During the said visit, the study group was familiarised with the scope of the skills trainings being offered by the centre.They also appreciated, through a guided tour, the political and strategic importance of the founding of the union and its training/educational facilities. 

“With the wealth of information that we have gathered and the capacity that lies inherent in SACONET and KBCTFIEU, I am confident that we will not only cascade information to our affiliates, but also successfully push for the implementation of more worker-friendly and progressive frameworks related to the workshop’s themes,” said the newly elected SACONET Chairperson Jane Ragoo, who is also currently an Executive Committee member of the CMWEU.