Sub Saharan Africa: Unionists push for gender lens in collective bargaining

BWI Africa and Middle East held a successful two-day webinar from 15 to 16 October on how trade unions can put gender analyses and policies as integral parts of collective bargaining negotiations. 

The online educational event, which was supported by FES TUCC and facilitated by the Labour Research Service (LRS) of South Africa, gathered 28 trade unionists (16 women and 12 men) representing 15 unions from 13 countries.

The participants all agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened violations of workers’ rights, particularly the rights and welfare of women workers. They observed that between February and April 2020, more women workers lost their jobs compared to men, accounting for two-thirds of the total net job losses. Meanwhile, women workers who managed to retain their jobs suffer from unpaid childcare and had more work hour reductions than that of men.

The trade unionists also pointed to the increasing number of gender-based violence (GBV) during the implementation of hard lockdowns in many countries. They expressed serious concerns that as the pandemic continues, the number of women and girls who are experiencing GBV will continue to rise with multiple impacts on their sexual, reproductive and mental health.

“We need to have a strong gender perspective in our collective bargaining negotiations to ensure that women workers are not victimised by gender-based violence and discrimination. We will demand a gender audit to make sure that the jobs and salaries of women workers are not undervalued and compared unfairly to those of men,” BWI Africa and Middle East Regional Representative Crecentia Mofokeng said.