‘Why trade unions must innovate in organising members’
Trade unions must address their challenges by adopting more innovative strategies in organising new members and generating resources, the Director of Research at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Prof Dung Pam Sha has said.
Prof Pam added that unions must design new ways of engaging employers and insist on the use of social dialogue in addressing worker-related issues.
He explained that African trade unions must focus on membership drive by organising the informal sector and pay attention to skilling and reskilling workers to respond to new transitions especially in technology.
Speaking on transitions that are taking place within the work environment amid COVID-19 and technological advancements, Prof Pam hinted that key elements of the transition globally that affect work patterns, workers and trade unions include automation and technological changes, shift from manufacturing towards services, environmental changes, informalisation of the economy and the implementation of neo-liberal reform programmes.
He said: “The lockdowns in several African countries affected production processes in industries, thus leading to factory closures. This then led to the loss of members in the private sector, especially in the service industries— aviation, tourism, transport and informal sector operators.
“There are also losses of salaries and allowances or delayed payment of salaries in the public sector in some countries. The lockdown also resulted in a reduction in or non-remittance of trade union dues by employers, thus we witnessed poor services to trade union members by their unions. This has implications for the continued loyalty of members to the unions. Indeed, face-to-face organising during lockdowns became increasingly difficult,” he explained.
He observed that the private sector employers’ response reduced trade unions’ powers in form of collective bargaining and social dialogue and continuing implementation of neoliberal programmes such as increases in taxes, prices of goods and services, electricity, gas in the name of responding to the pandemic.
He added that policies that inflict hardship on the people were introduced because the state believed that the unions were weak and could not fight back.