THREE affiliates of the World Federation of Trade Unions in sub Saharan Africa, held their first regional energy and mining conference in Harare in March 2018.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from South Africa, Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (ZEWU) and Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) met to address the challenges and needs of the working class in the region and come up with an action plan to address the situation which has rendered workers powerless against global capital in their sectors.
The conference which was held under the theme ‘Organising against new challenges facing trade-unions in Africa’ identified issues of concern and came up with strategies of dealing with the pertinent issues of minerals and energy extraction, production and beneficiation.
Participants to the conference identified several challenges affecting their sectors top among them are; dumping of products that was stiffing local industrialization leading to subsequent loss of jobs, climate change and global warming effects which have a bearing on employment.
It was also noted that repressive laws affect the smooth operation of trade unions and activities under pro- capitalistic judiciary system which does not expedite labour matters.
The conference also noted that trade union organizations lack the necessary resources to fund their programmes and activities because of poor economic performance.
The casualization of employment in workplaces that manifests itself through short term contract employment and outsourcing, the cropping up of splinter yellow unions which sometimes use violence and threats to gain and maintain membership and the uncoordinated and disjointed unions efforts in organising against workers’ exploitation by employers were among other challenges faced by the three unions in the region.
It was also noted that workers in the sectors were experiencing job losses due to company closures and down-sizing owing to financial mismanagement and economic depression while governments were accused of frustrating union efforts to get a fair deal for those workers in employment and those that would have been retrenched.
Faced with these challenges, the unions resolved to lobby for economic policies that balance imports and exports to reduce dumping of goods which leads to exploitation of workers.
The unions agreed to lobby governments to enact legislation that protect workers, carry out campaigns taking cognizance of the effect of clean jobs on employment and adopt interventions that create clean jobs and protecting jobs at the same time.
As a way of reducing corruption among civil servants, unions were encouraged to come up with legislation that bars civil servants from doing business with governments and also lobby parliamentarians from the portfolio commission to create laws which accommodate trade union representatives in the procurement entities.
In order to ensure financial sustainability of unions, ZEWU in particular, was urged to broaden its scope of organising to increase membership and explore the issue of creating an investment company as an alternative source of income.
The unions were encouraged to explore widening union scope of coverage and elimination of yellow unions while a robust international campaign against labour brokering, casualization, corruption and nepotism should be put in place.
The conference also resolved that unions should publicise their victories and programmes by using available ICT platforms.
As a way of increasing international solidarity NUM was prepared to help other unions in Africa with educational and technical assistance where possible.
International solidarity was identified as an important weapon for worker struggles especially on issues that cut across countries such as repressive laws which hinder the smooth operations of trade unions including Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Access to Information and Private Act (AIPA) in Zimbabwe.