Seven trade unionists from Ethiopia recently visited Cape Town to learn and understand strategies about collective bargaining and social dialogue.
There cannot be a better country than South Africa to understand the concept. The garment workers in South Africa earn US $ 230 per month, which is much above the national minimum wage. In Ethiopia, it is paltry US $ 30 per month.
South Africa has been able to pay high wages from gains in collective bargaining that have been made over the years.
The meeting was held between Industrial Federation of Textile, Leather and Garment Workers Union (IFTLGWU) from Ethiopia and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) from South Africa, together with the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions.
Although both countries have different collective bargaining and social dialogue systems, the garment sector in both the countries consists of majority of women workers. One of the core discussion points was then to make maternity benefits and childcare facilities accessible at all garment factories.
Besides, there were also talks to increase wages.
“We are willing to help our comrades from the IFTLGWU. They can learn from our strategic unionism approach which recognises collective bargaining, job creation, service to members and membership growth as important activities for the union. Through international solidarity, we will grow together and help each other as trade unions,” said Andre Kriel, General Secretary SACTWU.
Both the unions agreed to cooperate on improving negotiations at factory level bargaining through training.
The centralised bargaining, which allowed SACTWU to sign collective agreements in clothing, textile and leather sectors, will also be further explored in the coming months.
Additionally, there were discussions on how centralised bargaining could be beneficial for IFTLGWU and become a part of Ethiopia’s labour laws.
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