Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining

Trade union unity and principles of freedom of association in Eastern Africa

Freedom of association refers to the right of workers and employers to create and join organizations of their choice freely and without fear of reprisal or interference. This includes the right to establish and affiliate to confederations and international organizations. Linked to freedom of association is the right to collective bargaining, which allows workers to negotiate their working conditions freely with their employers.

Aims and objectives of the workshop

The proposed workshop aims to highlight the pivotal role of freedom of association in fostering and maintaining sustainable development. As such, it seeks to provide ideas for trade unions organizations on how to work together to achieve real and tangible results for development.

The trade union leaders participating at this workshop will exchange information on the practice of freedom of association in their respective countries and demonstrate the positive effect on economic growth and development that freedom of association can have when governments, employers’ organizations and trade unions work together. Necessarily, the way in which these groups work towards sustainable development depends significantly on local conditions and context, but there are useful lessons that can be applied across varying country contexts. As such, the experience sharing at the workshop will provide concrete guidance and ideas for participants on some of the ways in which governments, workers and employers can work together constructively for greater economic and social development.

The workshop will also utilize the experience and understanding of international instruments to foster a united and strong labour movement at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. By bringing national unions together at regional meetings and subsequently national seminars the participants will have the opportunity to share experiences and understand the value and advantage of working together, union solidarity and establishing of common national action platforms. It is expected that this approach will be continued, particularly in countries with the potential of multiplicity of unions.

The development objective:

The rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining in target countries are more widely recognized and realized.

Immediate objectives:
  • Immediate objective 1: Concrete steps are taken for the introduction of legislation and/or policies to improve the framework for realizing the freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in targeted countries.
  • Immediate objective 2: Trade union organizations are better equipped to implement freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in practice.
  • Immediate objective 3: Lessons learned and good practices are disseminated widely within the trade unions to inform future activities of national organizations.

Expected outcomes of the workshop

  • Awareness raising activities that may bring about consensus, among the tripartite constituents on the way forward to respect and realize the principle of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. These awareness raising activities will be developed taking into consideration the specific needs of women workers;
  • Technical legal and policy advice to amend national legislation and/or adopt policies that promotes and ensures respect of freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • Specific capacity building activities that will assist governments in improving their administration and enforcement of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights;
  • Specific capacity building activities for the social partners to assist them in better representing and servicing the interests and rights of their members, in particular women members, possibly including workplace level activities.