Africa: Unions strengthen organising capacities in Chinese MNCs

BWI, together with the general secretaries, education officers, shop stewards, project coordinators and representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), IndustriAll, the Africa Development Bank, 3F, and other stakeholders, held a two-day hybrid network meeting on how to engage Chinese multinational companies (MNCs) in the region last 28-29 July in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

In partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and part of the “Build Back Better” campaign, the meeting brought together more than 45 participants, including 12 women. They discussed the growing presence of Chinese companies in Africa and the Middle East’s construction and other related projects, and their implications to the region’s economy and trade unions’ organising work. 

The participants shared their strong desire to know more about Chinese MNCs and learn from the best practices of trade unions currently doing successful organising work in MNCs. 

At the end of the meeting, the participants identified key action points that they will seek to accomplish within the next 6 to 12 months. They are as follow:  

  • Ascertain and understand the funding and project agreements concluded between MNCs and governments; 
  • Identify Chinese MNCs that operate in various countries in the region, and establish a network for unions that are organising (or wishing to organise) in these companies, and prepare strategies for recruitment and organizing in the MNCs;
  • Establish a ‘digitalization working group’ that will conduct research on MNCs in developed countries and analyse MNC regional trends, and report back to all regions on how digitalisation has been integrated;
  • Continue pushing for more CBAs and their implementation, as well increase membership. 

Reeaz Chuttoo, Executive Member of the Construction, Metal, Wooden and Related Industries Employees Union (CMWEU) in Mauritius, urged fellow trade unionists to understand better the current political, social, and economic issues that workers face and to “think locally and act globally” in their approach to enforce labour rights in Chinese MNCs.