China and Chinese Companies have become the major investors in Africa today. With China committing over 60 billion Dollars investment to Africa, they have become the major player in almost the entire sectors of the African Economy. For the construction sector, Chinese bilateral agreements with countries in Africa geared towards helping develop infrastructures which the continent is in dare need of, make Governments at different levels enter into bilateral agreements with little or no inputs from workers’ union. This commitment hampers job security and good working conditions for indigenous workers. Concerned about this development, Building and Wood Workers
International (BWI) organized an Africa Network on Chinese Multi-National Companies (MNCs) in Durban, South Africa from 26th November to 1st December 2017 as a follow up to the 2nd edition held on the 10th – 12th August. 2016 at Protea Parktonian Hotel, Brainfontain Johannesburg, to address some of the critical issues bothering on organizing Chinese Multinational Companies. The Construction and Civil Engineering Senior Staff Association (CCESSA) was represented by the Assistant General Secretary- Comrade Tony Egbule,
The programme, which was sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was to ‘enlighten the delegates, as experience and information from different countries were shared among participants. Other than Africa and Middle East Regions, representatives from Europe and South America also shared their experiences.
China undeniably, has come with a long-term agenda in Africa. While this is so, they are keen unfortunately, on shifting labour force and products from China to Africa. Surprisingly, African leaders on the other hand are merely focused on the short-term interest, on getting the Chinese to help develop their countries’, infrastructure as well
as other areas of investment without considering the long-term implications of each agreement and the consequences on the unemployment rate attendant to it. As it is true that China is fast becoming Africa’s most visible partner in the pursuit of development, the onus is on the continent’s managers, government, as well as the unions, to engage these Chinese companies in a manner that will guarantee the protection of indigenous workers. No doubt. every country is challenged with unemployment, but the influx of Chinese has exacerbated this challenge in Africa. The displacement of the local workforce has become of great concern ‘
Despite the fact that BWI affiliates had engaged some of the Chinese MNCs and recorded some victories, solved some problems and disputes and even signed some collective agreements; the challenges are still huge. The decent work deﬁcits is alarming, as workers’ rights are violated, social security is not covered, there is no or less skill transferred, health and safety standards are ignored. unions are busted and national labour laws are grossly violated.
The Network strategy is to engage the government and Chinese MNCs. For the two to take decent work and workers’ rights as central element of its decisions and agreements.
During discussion at the conference. It was obvious that the unions must place on the front burner the difﬁculties they face in organizing and recruiting members in Chinese companies. The unions also need to be open to interaction to galvanize members’ experiences and provide information on the existing Chinese companies involved in their respective sectors and countries, as well as share the level of engagement they have achieved and the strategies they used.
On drawing out strategic plan for 2018 and beyond; Regional action plan 2018 and beyond were considered and key events planning and new strategies on organizing and bargaining were adopted.
The programme dovetailed into the 4th BWI World Congress held at the International Conference Center, Durban South Africa. with all BWI afﬁliate representatives in attendance where CCESSA representatives were led by the National President Comrade Isaac Egbugara, The General Secretary Comrade Ezekhumhe Otaru George, Woman Coordinator- Esther Asabe Ahmadu, youth leader – Emmanuel Douglas and Assistant General Secretary – Tony Egbule.