Organising workers in the EPZ

On June 11th 2012 the ITUC and ACTRAV held a meeting at the ILO to launch several publications on trade union experiences in the export processing zones (EPZ). The research papers have been prepared in coordination with ITUC Africa and TUCA as well as trade unions in the countries concerned. The publications focus on the strategies for organising and defending the rights of the workers in the EPZ.

The majority of the participants came from from countries where EPZ are present. The experiences shared at the event have shown that despite many difficulties that workers face, trade unions registered a few successes. In Togo, for instance, there are now three unions in the EPZ. Social dialogue, which was inexistent just a few months ago, has improved. A recent legislation establishes that the minimum wage also applies to EPZ workers, including those in precarious employment. Finally, the unions have proposed to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for the whole EPZ.

Delegates from other countries, including Nicaragua and Honduras, reported that tripartite agreements which include important benefits for the workers (wage increases over several years, and in the case of Honduras, childcare services for the workers etc.) have been signed in the EPZ in their respective countries.

In the development of the plans of action, the ITUC insisted on the need for donors’ coordination. Some experiences reveal positive evolutions in this regard. Last year, a seminar on organising workers in the EPZ in Central America gathered several Solidarity Support Organisations (SSOs) which expressed an interest in working in this direction.

Read more:

 Research papers: http://www.ituc-csi.org/export-processing-zones.html
 ITUC blog on organising in EPZ: http://www.ituc-csi.org/organising-in-epz.html

Article provided by Isabelle Hoferlin, ITUC