Solidarity with Arab trade unions
I’ve just spent two days in Amman, capital of Jordan, discussing with ITUC colleagues what we can do to help the trade unionists involved in the greatest upheaval in the Arab world in a generation. Reports from the UGTT in Tunisia, who played a leading role in the revolution there, and from the new independent unions in Egypt – as well as Yemen, Bahrain, Mauritania and beyond – set out a challenging agenda for solidarity, and the TUC will be working with other ITUC affiliates to respond.
My Italian colleague Sergio Bassoli got it right when he said: “developments will not follow our projects: they will be led by the people”. Some of the need is simply for cash to help trade unionists in the countries to respond to – and lead – the tumultuous events.
But the UGTT already know that they need help organising the floods of new members who are signing up, and with the research they will need to do before they take part in the next round of social dialogue. They want help adapting to the new communications world that has been inaugurated as the Arab ‘street’ has been supplemented by a virtual world: training for officers in social networking and twitter, a call centre to handle the workplace complaints of new members, and turning their weekly journal into the daily paper they need to cope with the growing demand for news and information of a young and newly free working class.
British trade unions will need to contribute not just cash, but expertise and experience, trade union trainers and internet wizards.
And we need to respond to the new, independent trade unions forming in Egypt who really are starting from scratch. The ITUC plans to open a new office in Cairo to provide advice on setting up new unions, on the new labour laws that will be needed, on communications and other capabilities.
European and North American unions will also need to examine the supply chains that feed North African goods into our markets, and the activities of UK and other multinationals operating in the Arab region, to see whether we can foster a more union-friendly environment.
Get ready to respond to the ITUC/TUC appeal for funds – Arab trade unionists in these and other countries need our solidarity in forging a new industrial relations and a new trade union movement.