This presentation is an effort to trace the trajectory of labour as it has evolved within the changing production modes in Africa. This paper is being delivered within a context of global financial crisis, of capitalism in retreat and the ensuing brutal repression of labour worldwide. Nation states in general and African government in particular, are faced with serious legitimacy crisis as they fail increasingly to respond to the needs of their people. My discussion will explore political systems and their accompanying economic structures that shape production modes within which workers sell their labour power. I shall attempt to highlight the fortunes of labour in Africa, how dominant economic forms shape the African workforce and the implications such emerging structures and forms hold for organised labour in Africa.
The notion of culture means different things to different people. Broadly, we can say that, two types of meaning are prevalent. Firstly, there is the popular understanding and usage of the term to imply habits, customs and legacies, which have a folkloristic feature to them; like traditional dances and music, traditional clothes and other features of the given group, which have exotic characteristics, particularly attractive to voyeuristic minds and tourists. Typically, such features generally find place and are linked more to museums than living or current representations of life. They are indeed selected exoticisms; reified habits and artefacts; the designation of culture to mean fossilized and time-warped institutions and cultural attributes. These selected exotica become ways of inventing “the other”. This “street-level” understanding of the notion is conceptually restrictive and it, as it were, projects “the trivial side-show as the main show.”
Research is, generally, the foundation of social development. It is not only the source of innovations but also the key to economic and social progress. Given the ineffective economic and social policies, the increasing marginalisation of African peoples and the continuous deterioration of their living and working conditions, trade unions need to urgently and continuously do research to support their actions and inform decision-makers about the need to take some measures. Without rigorous research activities on development policies and issues, African trade unions may not be able to fully participate in social dialogue.
If the above-mentioned assumption is true, then to what extent is research important within the African trade union movement? Under what conditions or circumstances do trade union organisations carry out surveys or researches? What are the challenges facing trade union research? What should be done to promote trade union research on the continent?
This study, conducted by ITUC-Africa under its 2008-2011 Strategic Plan through the project "Strengthening ITUC-Africa’s interventions in the area of economic and social policy" with financial support from SASK, the Finnish trade union centre, attempts to provide an answer to each of these questions.
This training manual is developed within the framework of the activities of the project entitled "Strengthening ITUC-Africa’s interventions in the area of economic and social policy" and operationalizes the 2008-2011 Strategic Action Plan.
It is divided into five modules. Each module states clearly its objectives and the various aspects it addresses. The first module deals with industrial relations and trade union economic and social priorities. The second module presents the trade union research methods and procedures. Statistics for trade union actions are discussed in Module Three. The fourth module is devoted to the various aspects related to the functioning of the national economy. The fifth and last module discusses contemporary issues related to economic and social development in Africa.
Paper Presented to the First Annual New Year School of the ITUC (Africa), Lome/Togo, 10th -14th January 2011.
I am happy to be part of the initiation of the idea of an annual NEW YEAR SCHOOL for the pan-African organization of Trade Unions, the ITUC, here in Lome. It will provide a forum for Trade Unionists to share ideas and discuss themes and topics of interest to them as members of organized labour in Africa today. The challenges faced are many and varied, but our education on the issue of the origins and role of labour in African history is crucial for our appreciation of the challenges of the present. I have elected to link in my discussion labour and language because these two historical realities of African society have been closely intertwined from the depths of time. Introduction.
FOREWORD: The core responsibility of every government is to ensure adequate social protection for the citizens. Social protection may take various forms but, generally speaking, it refers to the support provided in the form of income or benefits to the poor, vulnerable and socially-excluded in society with the aim of enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against social and economic risks such as loss of income, illness, death, and other such contingencies. Thus, social protection embraces both social security and social welfare policies and measures such as social assistance for the elderly, support for children and the disabled, as well as interventions aimed at empowering individuals or groups to earn income through employment or self-employment.
The majority of Africa’s nearly one billion people live in poverty, destitution and squalor. Africa’s poor and destitute are mostly found in the rural areas where they are engaged in agriculture and other informal economic activities. Many of them rely on the complex traditional social network for social protection. But the continued weakening of extended family support in the face of harsh economic realities as a result of neo-liberal globalisation and rapid rate of urbanization means many people including children, the elderly and the disabled, are left to struggle for survival.
Today, after many years of relatively high economic growth in Africa, the majority of the African people still lack social protection. In most African countries, social protection exists for only a tiny fraction of the population working in the formal segment of the economy including those employed in the public sector and a few others in the private formal sector. Thus, the sections of the population who desperately need social protection are those who do not have access to it.
Public officials are often ready with answers such as "we do not have enough resources to provide social protection". But recent studies have shown that every government, including those in Africa, can provide social protection for the most vulnerable people in society - children and the elderly, if they get their priorities right. It is also well known that governments never get their priorities right if civil society is apathetic about the public choices made by their governments. In societies where civil society organizations can pile up pressure on governments public choices are made according to the needs of the society. This is where the role of trade unions becomes crucial.
In almost all African countries, the trade union movement is among the most visible civil society organizations with some amount of leverage on public policy choices. Unions must, therefore, ensure that a significant portion of public resources is committed to the provision of social protection for the most vulnerable in society. The ILO Convention 102 (1952) - the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention 102 (1952) provides a good guide for the provision of social protection. Unions must join hands with other civil society organisations to ensure that social protection becomes a priority for governments across Africa.
Before trade unions can shift the attention of government to social protection issues, they should first be adequately informed about the situation on the continent with respect to social protection. This study, which is based on information from ten African countries, provides the information and the lessons required to kick-start trade union campaign to ensure that social protection becomes a priority for governments in Africa. Through this study, the ALRN is calling on all trade unions to lead the campaign for the adoption of the Social Protection Floor (i.e., access to essential services such as water, food, health, sanitation, education and basic income for poor households).
It is important to underline the fact that the only way to ensure social protection on a sustainable basis is to create the conditions for decent work, particularly for the youth and women. Decent jobs guarantee adequate income for workers and their families and, thus, reduce poverty and vulnerability. Therefore, as part of the efforts to ensure the provision of adequate social protection, unions must work with their social partners to create the conditions for decent work. To the researchers in the African Labour Research Network, I say the publication of this book should not be the end of the process which started almost three years ago. You have to assist the trade union leaders in your countries to engage their social partners so that, collectively, we can make social protection a priority issue in Africa.
Anthony Yaw Baah,
Deputy-Secretary of Ghana Trades Union Congress & Founding Member of the African Labour Research Network (ALRN)
This book is the outcome of three years of engagement, collaboration, research and struggle to improve workers’ conditions ahead of, during and after the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) 2010 World Cup. Once the Labour Research Service reviewed the impact of mega sporting events on workers’ conditions, various new insights and perspectives developed. The research initially aimed to inform the response of workers and trade unions for their struggle to improve the conditions of workers, but it was soon clear that this would not be possible without looking at the sporting spectacle as a whole and FIFA’s role in capitalist globalisation and accumulation.
This book provides a holistic analysis and critique of the impact of mega sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup and the developmental paradigm associated with it.
We hope that the lessons learnt in South Africa can be shared with workers involved in preparations for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Football Championship in the Ukraine and Poland in 2012 and the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, among other mega events planned for the near future.
A book by the Labour Research Service (LRS) and Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI)
Edited by Eddie Cottle
Most trade unions in the world exist for historical and ideological reasons of advancing the cause of workers and the society at large. They engage the working social and economic order and may either accept the existing economic order or work within that order to achieve a favourable set of economic terms and employment conditions, or they may seek to overthrow the existing [political and] economic system and replace it with another. In Africa, trade unions emerged as a response to the despotic capitalist colonial order. The post-independence embrace of the enclave economies coupled with the implementation of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in most African countries since the 1980s created a labour market that is characterised by exclusion in terms of low wages, poverty and inequality. The intricate connections between colonialism, post-colonialism and capitalism forced African trade unions to broaden the scope of their struggles beyond the shop floor and embrace liberation, democracy and promotion of economic development and social reconstruction.
Like most other regions of the world, the labour movement in Africa is facing severe challenges from the impact of neo-liberal globalisation. Neo-liberal globalisation has resulted in the erosion of formal employment, the traditional base of trade unions. It is characterised by relaxation and regulation of state authority and a shift to market regulation. In line with this dispensation, many African governments have over the years adopted economic liberalisation programmes. This has had a profound impact on the labour markets and has resulted in massive decline of the labour movement in terms of membership strength. Trade unions are thus facing a formidable challenge in organising workers in these new forms of employment.
This book could not have come at any other right time than now when trade unions are struggling to remain relevant to their members and society at large. The book underscores the important fact that the realisation of the trade union ideals can only be accomplished if they are able to organise their membership effectively and adapt to the current challenges. This means trade unions in Africa need to re-orient their operations so that workers can see the true benefits of labour collectivism and solidarity. Trade unions should thus stimulate and rekindle that spirit of union organization so as to bring workers together, modernise and provide services and benefits that reflect changing needs and times. We therefore require a labour movement in Africa that yearns to translate obstacles into opportunities and workers’ struggles into realism. We need a trade union movement that stands unwavering in the face of current systematic assaults on workers’ rights and human freedoms in the guise of globalisation. Trade unions should reconnect and redefine the workers’ fight and their songs of despair and instil a sense of hope, dignity, self-pride and liberation among the workers.
SATUCC welcomes this book and therefore hopes that it will assist trade unions in the SADC and the whole of Africa to go soul searching for the real and true workers’ victory.
Austin C. Muneku Executive Secretary Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council (SATUCC)
This book considers how workplace democracy can broaden and deepen the democratisation process in Africa. It encompasses many countries including : Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Mali, Gunea, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The book’s main argument is that democracy can only survive if it is participatory, that participatory democracy is a necessary condition for sustainable development, and that trade unions are ideally placed to contribute to the democratisation of the economy
The book is organized in three parts. Part 1sets the background of the research and the underlying theory. Part 2 presents the learning experiences within different countries. The concluding Part 3 considers the broad implications of the research findings for policy making on democratic participation, with a particular emphasis on the role of trade unions
"This book has an astonishing depth and expanse, covering 10
countries and based on over years of experience of research and implementation. It is also compelling in its coherent blend of theory, extensive empirical data and policy prescription.”
Professor Raymond Market, Auckland University of Technology New Zealand
“This study, splendidly written by one of the most prominent international experts in the field, is indispensable for everybody interested in the democratic future of Africa. I highly recommend it."
Professor Manfred Weiss, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University,
ITUC-Africa / CSI-Afrique, Route internationale d’Atakpamé, Centre FOPADESC Agoè-Zongo Téléphone: +228 22 25 07 10 Fax: +228 22 25 61 13 Email : info ituc-africa.org