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Young Workers Academy, French-speaking Africa

16 November 2018
A cross section of young workers across PSI affiliated unions in French-speaking Africa converged in Cotonou, Benin, from October 31, 2018 to November 2, 2018, for a workshop aimed primarily to discuss PSI’s political agenda from the young workers’ perspective.

The Youth Academy, which is a PSI Pilot Trade Union School, is aimed at setting the approach and methodology for future schools that will be held in the regions from 2019.

Drawn from Senegal, DRC, Niger, Burundi, Benin, Chad, and Togo, the participants were taken through rigorous sessions of engagements, teaching and learning, as well as many group assignments, aimed at harnessing their perspectives on specific subjects.

Among the many subjects addressed during the three-day workshop were:

  • The importance of education, capacity building and communication for organizing and building strong unions from base;
  • Group discussion on “How can the young workers strengthen the struggle for strong and independent public services in Africa;
  • Group discussion on “The involvement of young workers structures in African public sector unions;
  • People Over Profit: PSI Program of Action for Young Workers and young trade union leaders;
  • The importance of Gender Equality in the agenda of trade union organizations;
  • Strategies for a better inclusion of young workers and gender issues in trade unions;
  • ILO Convention against violence in the workplace: An important issue for young workers and women;
  • Organizing a trade union campaign: mobilizing and recruiting;
  • Collective bargaining and social dialogue;
  • Analysis of public services in French-speaking Africa;
  • Study of the various forms of privatization, their impact on public services and tools available to defend these essential services;
  • Definition of tac justice, issues at stake and the importance of a progressive tax system for public services;
  • Networking and building alliances; and
  • Development of action plan and national strategies.

Objectives for the school were to:

  • Train a group of selected young workers within the sub-region on issues that are of interest to the trade unions based on the PSI Program of Action approved during its recent Congress;
  • Empower and give them the skills, the knowledge and the confidence they need to hold positions of responsibility in their union;
  • Enable young workers to contribute to the political discussions within their unions and PSI to influence unions policies and strategies with a young worker perspective.
  • PSI Young Workers and Projects Facilitator, Cédric Dépollier outlined PSI’s Program of Action as well as the ILO Convention against Violence in the workplace, splitting the team into groups after which ideas were shared and deliberated upon.

Daniel Oberko, PSI Tax Justice Organizer, explained the basic terms of tax justice to the participants, while explaining the essence of PSI’s focus on tax justice across the world of work. Issues on current tax justice debates, including illicit financial flows and progresses being made in the area of tax justice across the world were discussed.

Issues of gender equity, gender parity and the inclusion of women in the labour movement, which are regarded as important elements of trade union work across the world, and even more importantly, among young workers, was broadly discussed. This session was led by Aubierge Glonou, a teacher by profession who also doubles as the General Secretary of L’Union nationale des éducateurs et éducatrices des écoles maternelles (UNAEEM).

Sister Nadou Lawson, speaking on the quality of public service among unions and their workers, explained that quality service guarantees quality life, a thriving economy, sustainable growth as well as decent work.

She therefore urged the young workers to play watchful roles in their various places of work, drawing the attention of workers to any remedies they observe through awareness creation. She also urged them to ensure that they make these values a part of their daily lives so that they can effectively promote it. 

Honorable ZOUNON Emmanuel, Secrétaire Général de l’UNSTB, spoke to the school on organising a trade union campaign. Among the techniques he elaborated on were:

  • Respect laws and regulations in operation;
  • Consider socio-economic realities at the sub-regional and international environment;
  • Build trust among each other;
  • Avoid differences in language and be courteous in speeches;
  • Express points of views with clarity and accuracy;
  • Avoid having prejudices about issues, debates or about people present at negotiations.

Participants, following the workshop, shared their delight about the all that had transpired there, glad and hopeful that everything they had learned would bring new directions for them in their fight for better trade union work as well as for the improvement of the capacities of young workers around the world.

Pictures available here (Flickr)

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