Construction workers’ network capacitates trainers on OHS and CBA

In a three-day intensive capacity-building workshop on 29-31 August, BWI trade unionists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia were capacitated as trainers and organisers on how to navigate occupational health and safety (OHS)  and anti-asbestos campaigns in challenging workplaces. 

The workers, who are all part of the Southern Africa Construction Network (SACONET), also discussed key trends on collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). 

The participants were reminded that while many countries have banned the production and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials, there are those that continue to allow the importation, exportation, production, and handling of the hazardous material. This, combined with the lack of information surrounding the presence and effects of asbestos, places workers and communities in the line of danger every day. The unions recognised this danger and prepared an action plan that includes the following actions: 

  • Expose workers to regional and international OHS and asbestos-themed treaties. 
  • Push unions to attend OHS inspections and capacitate their health inspectors.
  • Negotiate and push for unions to have a larger voice in deciding which companies receive infrastructure tenders based on their history of implementing OHS regulations. 
  • Draft and distribute a ‘Workplace Health History Check Sheet’ to each worker in every workplace. 
  • Establish a Health Registry to capture the OHS standards and effects across sectors and companies. 

 The workshop then proceeded to discuss the participants’ experiences in CBA negotiations and implementation. It was assessed that in countries where governments have shown commitment to labour rights and collaboration to work with unions, workers and their unions have better chances of securing CBAs.

It was deemed important for BWI’s affiliates in the region to create and maintain a regional CBA database that unions can use for educational and research purposes, and draw up better CBA strategies. 

The last part of the training discussed the importance of digital organising, especially amidst a pandemic and similar other crises that create challenges to workers’ traditional ways of gathering and moving around.  The attendees committed to push their unions to develop their own digital applications that our responsive to the needs of their organisations, sectors and countries. 

Crecentia Mofokeng, BWI Regional Representative for Africa and Middle East, opened the workshop. She challenged the participants to “own labour spaces, and think and strategise new ways of doing trade union work.”