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Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 11:06:36 -0600 (CST)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: AFRICA: Organizing Top Priority for African Unions
Article: 50235
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.19301.19981218181554@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** headlines: 156.0 **/
** Topic: AFRICA: Organizing Top Priority for African Unions **
** Written 6:03 PM Dec 16, 1998 by labornet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 11:45 AM Dec 14, 1998 by ICEM@GEO2.poptel.org.uk in labr.newsline */
/* ---------- "ORGANISING IN AFRICA" ---------- */

Organizing - ICEM African unions' big priority

ICEM Update, No. 98/1998, 14 December 1998

The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):

Organisation-building and capacity-strengthening are the priorities set by African trade unions affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).

Meeting at the ICEM's first African Regional Conference (Johannesburg, 7-9 December), 120 delegates from ICEM unions in 16 countries of sub-Saharan Africa identified three main challenges facing affiliates in the region:

  • The need for greater self-sufficiency
  • Membership decline due to retrenchments, Africa's AIDS epidemic and a lack of union organising
  • The particular need to unite and strengthen trade unions in countries under dictatorships.

The answer, the African unions emphasised, is to "build democratic, powerful workers' organisations". They particularly noted the achievements made, "amid obstacles", by the Southern Africa Electricity Workers' Network. This was set up to promote cooperat ion among electric power unions in the region, at a time when its electricity supplies are being integrated.

The conference based its findings on the research component of the ICEM's "Plan for Africa". As the next stage of that plan, affiliated unions in the region will each design an Organising Strategy. These strategies are, the delegates stressed, to be forwa rded to the incoming ICEM African Regional Executive, which will be responsible for coordinating the work. Each union's strategic plan should incorporate the ICEM's goals of independence, self-sufficiency, internal democracy, the capacity to win real gain s for members and the building of appropriate social alliances.

ICEM project work in the region must be fully integrated into the Plan for Africa, the conference emphasised, and should focus on shop steward development, mainstreaming of women and outreach to the "informal sector" (i.e. the precarious, marginalised job s on which most workers in developing countries are engaged). It must also improve existing ICEM sectoral networks in the region and establish new ones.

Unions in the region must be at the forefront of peace initiatives to end Africa's civil wars and other conflicts. The "resources wasted in war" must be "redirected towards programmes that can contribute to human development". Noting that "in most instanc es, control of mineral wealth is the cause of conflict", the ICEM conference said the union contribution to peace should include monitoring "the role of multinational companies in war-torn countries."

In fact, the African unions pointed out, "neo-liberal globalisation, with its emphasis on the free market and the decline of the nation state, has made the rich richer and the poor poorer on a global scale." To the multinational companies' line of "TINA" (There Is No Alternative), the response of workers worldwide should be "THEMBA" (There Must Be Alternatives).

The African affiliates praised the ICEM's "efforts to find practical alternatives to the TINA propaganda line". The next ICEM World Congress (in Durban, South Africa, next November) should, they said, adopt a "powerful worker response to the negative effe cts of globalisation on workers of the South."

Elected as ICEM Regional Chairperson was James Motlatsi, of South Africa, with Konstanteno Ngandu, from Zimbabwe, as Regional Secretary for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Individual ICEM UPDATE items can be supplied in other languages on request.

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Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer

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