Trade unions & party politics: labour movements in Africa

PUBLICATION YEAR: 2010
TITLE EDITOR(S): B.Beckman, S.Buhlungu, L.Sachikonye
KEYWORDS: AFRICA, LABOUR, POLITICS, TRADE UNIONS
DEPARTMENT: Social Aspects of Public Health (SAPH)
Web link: http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/product.php?productid=2271&cat=1&page=1
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 6197

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at researchoutputs@hsrc.ac.za.

Abstract

In much of Africa, people look to trade unions for leadership, especially at times of economic downturn. Although Africa's wage-workers are relatively few in comparison to those in the informal economy, their experience of organisation and mass mobilisation and their position in the modern economy give them a strategic role in the politics of democratisation and development. This volume examines the political role of trade unions in seven African countries and the various ways in which they seek to influence political parties and the state. Whereas some, like the Nigeria Labour Congress, push for a political party of their own, others, such as COSATU in South Africa, opt to engage with the power struggles in the ruling party. In Namibia and Uganda unions have been incorporated by a one-party dominated state while in Ghana, unions insist on being autonomous. There is also a move towards autonomy in Senegal, despite the plurality of unions with party affiliations. In the case of Zimbabwe, unions took the lead in creating an alternative alliance in opposition to a repressive state. Trade Unions and Party Politics provides a finely tuned critique of the impact achieved by these strategies, within the context of both the unique forces shaping them and the looming shadow of the new global economy. With contributions by established researchers, all of them engaged scholars and seasoned labour activists in the countries studied, the volume makes a major contribution to understanding the dilemmas facing unions in contemporary Africa. While examining the relationship of trade unions to party politics, the contributions also provide new insights into the relationship of trade union action to the politics of national liberation, a theme that has not received sufficient attention in the existing literature.