International cooperation and sustainable development are opportunities to ensure more effective trade union action for workers

CSA Benin prioritises member well-being, using international partnerships for visibility and effectiveness. Training and cooperation help workers understand labour laws, health and safety, and SDGs. CSA Benin collaborates with civil society and other unions, promoting SDGs through workshops, campaigns, and research.

By Hermine L. Akponna, Communications, CSA Benin

The primary mission of a trade union organisation is to ensure the well-being of its members. For the Confédération des Syndicats Autonomes (CSA) of Benin, it is a top priority. In a social context where trade union activism is tending to dwindle under pressure from those in power, international partnerships are an opportunity to make trade union action for workers more visible and more effective. This cooperation has enabled many workers to benefit from training in the areas of labour law, the right to health and safety at work, social protection, gender equality, etc., and, to take part in international events and initiatives enabling them to learn from and be inspired by other countries’ experiences of protecting and defending workers’ rights. Lydie DIOVIGA is the general secretary of the national union of nursery and primary education workers, Syndicat National de l’Enseignement Maternel et Primaire, in the department of Zou. She has benefited from the experiences shared through StreetNet and is very impressed with the unionisation of the informal sector.

“I would never have imagined that it was possible. I have learned a great deal from the experiences of more than fifty African countries.” H. Akponna, administrative secretary of SYNTRAP, Benin’s public broadcasting workers’ union, received training at the Global Workers’ Academy in 2022. For her, “Opportunities like these are very useful for assessing what is being done elsewhere, to innovate and bring more to the table, as a trade union, making a quality contribution to monitoring the implementation of the SDGs in our countries.”

Trade union constituents are represented on certain bodies thanks to international trade union relations. “I am a member of ROSYD (Network of Trade Union Organisations for the Defence of Migrant Workers in Benin), which works to secure the rights and duties of migrant workers residing in Benin.” Florent ZEKPON is the general treasurer of the CSA-Benin National Executive Board. International cooperation also assists trade union organisations in producing trade union analysis and research papers.

CSA Benin and the SDGs

“The CSA is the only trade union confederation in Benin to have organised a series of capacity building workshops for trade union leaders on the content of the SDGs.” Its general secretary, Anselme Coovi Amoussou, is proud of the key actions taken by the trade union confederation, both at national level and in the country’s geographical branches.

CSA Benin has succeeded in establishing a partnership with the department in charge of implementing the SDGs, which has facilitated constructive collaboration with civil society to monitor their implementation. Together with another union confederation, the UNSTB (Union Nationale des Syndicats de Travailleurs du Bénin), CSA Benin has set up an inter-union coalition, the mission of which, according to General Secretary Anselme Coovi Amoussou, “is to make recommendations on the guidelines for sustainable development and international cooperation, and to produce annual position papers on the quality of public action in favour of the SDGs and international cooperation”.

Furthermore, the CSA Benin has initiated awareness-raising actions and communication campaigns on various themes related to SDGs 4, 6, and 8; notably, regulations in favour of birth registration, environmental issues through the dissemination of innovative indigenous practices in schools to combat degradation, the high cost of living, trade union freedoms, decent work and wage increases, etc. It has also contributed to the writing and dissemination of a book on the migration of women workers from Benin.

Improving national and regional trade union monitoring

“The trade union confederations must explore all the possibilities offered by international cooperation for developing projects and attracting funding to train grassroots unions and federations where applicable.” These were the words of Jean Assangbe, general secretary of civil aviation and meteorology workers’ union SUTRACIM. In his view, “grassroots trade unions do not have a real understanding of the principles underpinning the implementation of the SDGs and their importance for the development of human capital”. He recommends that “confederations should step up their training of grassroots unions on the foundations, indicators and criteria for measuring the implementation of the SDGs”. These unions would then be able to support their confederations in the annual production of documents analysing and reporting on the implementation of the SDGs in the country.