Building & Woodworkers' International (BWI) Africa and Middle East region "Global Value Chain 2019: Global Cement Conference" presented a great opportunity to discuss critical issues in the sector especially workers’ welfare.
Cement is crucial in these regions owing to infrastructural development which has led to an increase in demand for the commodity. The plight of workers in this key sector leaves much to be desired. Increasing sub-contracting of jobs has led to stiff resistance to unionization of workers by employers; precarious work, health and safety issues are not treated as a priority.
During the conference, social dialogue institutions were identified as weak with labour inspectors inadequate, underfunded and compromised. Dealing with indigenous entrepreneurs is a big challenge and strong support is needed from the government to ensure that the rights of workers are not jeopardized.
The meeting is part of The Amandla! Strategic Plan of BWI for 2018 – 2021 that is focused on the Cement Industry and the engagement of the cement multinational companies (MNCs).
By the second day of the conference, the Cement Regional Network was launched with the aim to promote constant communication among trade unions for workers in the cement industry by sharing best practices and promoting solidarity between the regional trade union network of workers.
A working group that discussed inputs and strategies to be included in the regional action plan for Africa and Middle East was created. The key points of the action plan include promotion of 25 kilo cement bags campaign, organization and participation in capacity building on health and safety activities, reduction in the trends and developments on subcontracting and outsourcing in the cement industry as well as the use of international instrument to campaign against violation of national laws.
The activity provided an opportunity for BWI Affiliates organizing the Cement Sector in Africa and Middle East to meet, discuss and evaluate the actions and results taken since the BWI 2016 Conference. They also discussed new ways to increase the union’s presence and defend workers’ rights in the cement industry.