Trade unions have played an important political role during the political unrest and following the overthrow of the country's rulers. In Tunisia and Egypt, the workers in the factories had gone on strike during the demonstrations. In Tunisia, the strike, which was called by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) led to the overthrow of President Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. In other countries, such as Libya and Bahrain, trade unions also succeeded in mobilizing the population. Beyond their political role, trade unions play at national level a significant role in economic and social development. They are mostly present all over the country and can ensure that the interests of the employees are taken into account in policy-making and that labour market and social policy goals are not neglected.
In the coming years, it is for many trade unions in the Near / Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to demand and accompany the political reforms after the "Arab Spring". Concretely, this means that unions will push for economic and social reforms in the interests of the employees while protecting in particular the workers’ rights.
For unions in the region to take on this responsibility and fully fulfil their role, the democratic and independent trade union structures must be strengthened in their capacities.
Through the regional trade union project, FES pursues the following objectives:
To implement its projects, the regional trade union project works together with:
The planned activities are for instance conferences, seminars, workshops, publications and information visits as well as dialogue. Additionally, more recent instruments such as animated videos and infographics can be used as learning material.
The Friedrich Ebert Foundation launched with the Arab Trade Unions confederation the e-learning project which is related to various causes of workers and unions.
This project is essential to educate an audience of unionists, workers and professionals and to build their capacities and awareness about their rights, especially those in countries affected by conflicts or prohibiting union work.
This program includes a group of videos that summarize and simplify the most important conventions of the International Labor Organization. But in the infographics, there are comparisons between the local legislation in Arab countries in matters of workers' rights. For example: equal pay and social security.
Since the launch of the Regional Trade Union Program in 2014, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation ensures a specific support and training for unionists women, believing in the role they have either they are members, activists and/or leaders in strengthening trade unions and in building a labor force and defending workers’ rights.
In this sense, the EFS has contributed in the organization of several activities for the Arab women trade union network as well as the international industry union network, and has supported different feminist campaigns such as “Count Us In” campaign organized by the International Trade Union Confederation.
In addition, the FES tries to create a network between the women trade unionists in the region through training on various topics such as the basic principles of the International Labor Organization, groups’ negotiations, and communication tools.
Since its foundation in 1925, the FES ensures the importance of topics related to economic and social rights of workers, and working with unions on strengthening their capacities in order to play a leading role in defending the rights of their members, local and migrant workers.
The FES organized numerous regional conferences around important themes such as the informal economy and the influence of international financial institutions on the economic policies of countries in the region, the bases of social protection and problems of migrant domestic workers.
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