EI Africa held a webinar on union renewal on the 24th of June. It was attended by 104 participants and the presentations, discussions, and the experiences of EI member organisations from across Africa and globally proved that union renewal is an absolute must for the survival of education unions.
In his welcome remarks, Christian Addai Poku, the Chairperson of the EI Africa Regional Committee said that the webinar was meant to reflect and share strategies for renewing and strengthening unions and their members who work in very challenging circumstances. “Indeed, our members and our unions have to navigate severe health, security, economic, political, and environmental crises as well as other humanitarian disasters every day. Democracy is under threat; human and trade union rights are violated in many countries across the continent”, he said. 
David Edwards,  EI General Secretary, confirming that the world was in a convergence of crises, went on to demonstrated that union renewal was central to EI goals as it is one of the four strategic directions of EI. He said that it answered the ‘what’ and was intended to be purposeful and therefore required action. The other strategic directions being ‘system’ which defines where we work, ‘status’ or how we work, and the why in answer to the rights and democracy.
Asia Pacific Research
Anand Singh,  EI Regional Director, Asia Pacific, shared the research on union renewal carried out by his region. He reported that unions viewed renewal from different angles. Renewal depended on the presence and activity, capacity to engage Government, collection of dues, and represent members on issues of mutual interest  or workplace issues or professional issues or social justice. Union renewal involved increasing union membership and participation, developing members skills as professionals and unionists, and promoting teacher’s professionalism and union identities.
“Union experiences in the Asia-Pacific suggest that it isn’t enough to have better organisations”, he said adding that there is need to change the rules of the game and the tendency to take a narrow perspective and fail to develop the linkages, alliances and broad vision required to build political power.
Youth Voices
Genevieve Ngo Djon, a youth representative member of the trade unionist FECASE of Cameroon, counselled that to engage the youth unions must learn to think like the young members and give them the platform to express themselves and gain the necessary experience. She described the young as the spear of the nation whose energy, creativity and innovation should be harnessed.
Momodou Baka of GTU Gambia said the union had a youth desk to represent the 65% young members in the union. The forum was actively mobilizing young members through radio sensitization programmes, school visits, and social media. The GTU youth policy was in advanced stages of being developed.
Mukanda Anthony of SESTUZ Zambia shared the union’s robust membership recruitment programme . With the current membership of about 19,000, they hoped to increase their membership to 25,000 by 2025. They have an education workers programme that targets both unionized and non-unionized teachers in the secondary sector. They have a number of incentives that attract new members including regalia and land empowerment schemes. The youth are represented at all levels of the union structure.
Way forward
The breakout sessions further interrogated what keeps education workers from joining unions and how they can be attracted and kept in them.  A statement was adopted and recommended, among others, that  EI member unions in Africa implement the 8th  World Congress Resolution on Union Renewal and that EI member organisations in Africa take concreate and creative measures to attract and recruit young educators into the teacher trade union movement. It also recommended establishing a Union Renewal Network to facilitate the sharing of experiences and strategies among member organisations. 
The statement also called upon African Governments to “Respect human and trade union rights, uphold international labour standards and fully implement ILO Conventions 98 and 87; and, to take policy, legislative and practical measures to ensure genuine social dialogue in the education sector, including collective bargaining.”
In closing the webinar, Dennis Sinyolo, EI Africa Regional Director, urged the participants to embark on union renewal and to take the lead in shaping education policy. “As educators we lead and others follow”, he opined. 

[Mon, 05 Jul 2021 12:57:00 +0200] | DIGG THIS

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