Libmonster ID: U.S.-1465
Author(s) of the publication: V. I. GUSAROV, N. V. GRISHINA

Keywords: Africa, trade unions, "Arab spring", protest movements

The beginning of a new, modern stage in the development of the trade union movement in Africa was marked by the events of the "Arab Spring", which began in December 2010 in Tunisia and later spread to other African countries. The analysis of the driving forces of new protest movements and the role of trade unions on the continent was devoted to a round table on the topic "The role and place of trade unions in the modern socio-political life of African countries", held at the Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences in November 2014 under the chairmanship of Candidate of Historical Sciences O. B. Gromova.

The reports were devoted both to issues common to the entire continent in the development of the trade union movement, and to situations that have developed in individual countries and regions.

The general continental theme was raised, in particular, in the speech of Candidate of Historical Sciences O. B. Gromova. In her report "The role of trade unions in the current stage of development in African countries", she noted the general recognition of the great contribution of professional associations to the struggle of the continent's peoples for political independence. Currently, in the new historical conditions marked by important geopolitical changes in the international arena, the globalization of world processes, and qualitative structural changes in all spheres of life, African trade unions are experiencing the impact of these factors, while facing many problems. Among them are relations with the ruling party and the government, difficulties in defending the socio-economic demands of workers in the context of neoliberal economic policies. O. B. Gromova's report paid considerable attention to the interaction and cooperation of trade unions with civil society organizations, issues of achieving trade union unity at the national and regional levels in the context of internationalization of the trade union movement.

The speaker noted the difficulties that trade unions face in protecting the interests of workers in the face of declining living standards, mass layoffs, large-scale unemployment, reduced government spending on social needs, etc.Trade unions are constantly subjected to pressure from the authorities and attempts to turn them into an obedient executor of their will.

At the same time, according to O. B. Gromova, at critical moments in history, trade unions, together with other public organizations, can act as a guarantor of social stability and a source of political tension.

The continent-wide problem was also raised in the report of L. M. Sadovskaya "Methods of trade union movements in Africa", in which she considered issues related to the crisis of the world trade union movement and its impact on the activities of African trade unions. In her opinion, economic globalization has predetermined the globalization of the trade union movement. In November 2007, a meeting of 1,700 delegates from 156 countries took place in Vienna, where it was decided to create an International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to replace the rival International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (CGL).

Thus, economic globalization leads to the formation of international trade unions with a common bureaucratic structure. At the Vienna Congress, an agreement was reached to establish a Council of global Trade unions, which includes ten major trade union centers.

International trade unions are trying to involve African trade unions in their sphere of influence, thus preventing possible splits in their ranks. First of all, this applies to such large regional organizations as ICSP-AFRO and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OAPE).

In 2007, an African regional organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, was established, bringing together 88 trade union centers from 48 countries with a total membership of 14 million. In 2012, the organization's headquarters in Loma, Togo, discussed the possibility of merging ITUC-Africa and OAPE, which is hindered by disagreements between their leaders.

The problems of regional trade unions were discussed in the speeches of N. F. Matveeva and Doctor of Geographical Sciences V. I. Gusarov. In the report "Trade unions in East Africa: the struggle to survive",

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N. F. Matveeva noted that the current conciliatory position of the trade union leadership is largely due to the influence of those trade union leaders whose views were formed under rigidly authoritarian regimes. Thus, the leaders of most industry unions in Tanzania and Uganda are mainly engaged in forming various coalitions and inter-factional struggle.

N. F. Matveeva stressed that the main source of funding for trade unions during the period of market reforms was monthly membership fees, while previously their funds were formed largely due to donor assistance from international organizations. In the view of the rapporteur, all civil society groups should contribute to the development of a genuine labour movement in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

V. I. Gusarov, in his report "Peculiarities of the development of the trade union movement in North African countries", pointed out, in particular, that the main driving force of the "Arab Spring" was young unemployed people, including those who had higher education, some of whom, apparently, were members of trade unions. In any case, the demands of both members and non-members of trade unions primarily concerned solving the problems of unemployment and rising prices for food and basic necessities. Most of the participants in the protest actions were convinced that the reasons for these phenomena were not due to objective economic laws, but to the government's policy, and if the policy is changed, the situation will change for the better. In reality, protest actions, no matter how active they may be, with or without the participation of trade unions, do not create new jobs, but, on the contrary, lead to their reduction.

T. S. Denisova, Ph. D. in History, N. V. Grishina, Ph. D. in History, and I. T. Kofanov, Ph. D. in Economics, addressed the problems of trade unions in the socio-political life of individual countries.

T. S. Denisova in her report "The political role of Nigerian trade unions" analyzed the activities of the largest (in absolute figures) trade unions in Tropical Africa. In particular, she noted that at present, economic actions of trade unions, as a rule, do not develop into serious political actions that could pose a threat to the regime. According to the speaker, there has been a convergence of party and trade union leadership, and trade union leaders often call on their members to cooperate with the Government for national development.

N. V. Grishina in her report "South Africa-the leader of the trade union movement in Africa" drew attention to the fact that today, despite the global decline of the trade union movement, in South Africa, on the contrary, it is gaining strength. The special role of the so-called COSATU coalition, represented by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the African National Congress and the Communist Party of South Africa, is highlighted.

South African trade unions have made significant strides in the fight for workers 'and employees' interests, in particular by organizing a number of large-scale workers ' demonstrations.

I. T. Kofanov's report "Contemporary problems of trade unions in Tunisia" emphasized that the Trade Union Confederation in this country plays a role similar to that of the army in Egypt. During the protests in late 2010 and early 2011, trade unions actively supported the opposition. According to the speaker, the General Tunisian Workers ' Union (VTST) is the most powerful civil society organization in Tunisia. The joint actions of trade unions, the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Crafts, the Bar Association, the League for the Protection of Human Rights and some other associations led to the resignation of the Islamist government.

Candidate of Economic Sciences A. A. Tkachenko in his speech noted that it is necessary to give a generalizing assessment of the modern trade union movement in Africa, but excessive generalizations can be erroneous, since all countries of the continent have their own unique features. In many African countries, trade unions exist only on paper. On the contrary, in North Africa, they are an authoritative, well-organized force with a real ability to influence the policy of the authorities.

According to the speaker, the strengthening of the political role and organizational strengthening of trade unions will occur in parallel with the acceleration of economic development in African countries.

During the discussion, the participants of the round table came to the following conclusions: the activity and degree of influence of trade unions on the socio-political life of modern Africa cannot be assessed unambiguously. While trade unions are very active in North Africa and South Africa, in most countries in Tropical Africa they do not represent a real force capable of protecting the interests of workers. It was noted that large trade unions often enter into an alliance with the authorities, which leads to the loss of independence by trade unions and contributes to the spread of corruption in the ranks of trade union leaders.

Overview prepared by

V. I. GUSAROV, Doctor of Geographical Sciences

N. V. GRISHINA, Candidate of Historical Sciences

Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences


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