BWI Young activists in the campaign driver seat

07 May 2019 06:29


The young activists at BWI’s Global Activist Network Academy got an opportunity to pitch campaign ideas directly to a panel including BWI President Per-Olof Sjoo on the final day of the programme, hosted by FNV in Amsterdam. The youth-oriented campaigns aimed to tackle key issues that affected young workers in their respective regions, including informal work, the rise of Chinese MNCs, migration of skilled workers and the need for mentoring programmes.

“These young workers are absolutely aware that they are at the epicenter of the interlocking issues of inequality, climate change, and urbanisation”, said BWI International Youth Chair Vasyl Andreyev. “It was clear from these campaigns; however, that they can foresee a better world is not only possible but absolutely necessary.”

The panel was in unanimous agreement that the most fully-developed campaign was from the BWI Africa and Middle East region, looking at strengthening workers’ rights in Chinese multinational construction companies.

“This is not a new issue for the Africa and Middle East region, but we are now seeing it expand across the globe and we need to develop a more thorough campaign to respond to this,” said Lebohang Vincent, from South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers and Chair of the Africa and Middle East Youth Committee. “We need to develop a better understanding of the political context in which these companies operate so we can strengthen our organising and campaigning to strengthen the rights of workers wherever they operate, including in mainland China itself.”

The Latin American activists proposed a cross-border mentoring system so that trade unions in the early stages of developing organizing campaigns could benefit from exposure to the organising techniques that had been developed in other countries.

The European campaign targeted creating better and decent employment opportunities to stop the outwards migration of young workers who often find themselves in jobs that pay less than those of national workers in the countries of destination.

The Asia-Pacific delegation focused on creating pathways from informal to formal work for construction workers, including a variety of campaign activities such as education on both reading and writing as well as vocational training, lobbying for better housing and an annual festival to highlight the issue.

BWI President Per-Olof Sjoo noted that all the campaigns were important and highlighted critical work for the BWI. “Our challenge is to ensure that these ideas are integrated into the work our affiliates are already doing and the dynamism of these young activists is harnessed to ensure a more just and sustainable future. I am confident that we are in good hands.”