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.