Information on current and recent projects is shown below. If you would like to get involved in one of our existing projects, or have ideas for new projects, please get in touch with Louise Richards by emailing her at email@example.com
UNE Trade Union Training School
UNISON's International Development Fund is supporting a two year project for the public sector union UNE. The project will establish a trade union training school which will train 50 trade union leaders over the two years. The aim of the porject is to strengthen the union by providing capacity building for UNE's leaders at all levels. The training will provide in-depth courses on economic, social and labour laws and will cover everything from the basic principles of trade unionism to macro and micro economics and specialist trade union qualifications.
UNE hopes that with better trained leaders, they will be able to negotiate better deals for their members in terms of improved salaries, better collective agreements and better working conditions in terms of health and safety. A spin off from this is likely to be that more workers will be encouraged to join the union.
UNE has already taken the first steps in terms of renting and equipping new premises and employing staff to provide the training. The first training module took place on 29th July 2015.
The project will be carried out under the direction of the National Executive Committee of UNE; UNE's Trade Union Education Secretary will have day to day operational responsibility for the project. It is expected that by the end of the two years, the school will be fully functional. UNE believes that the project will strengthen their union and they hope to expand its activities still further at the end of the two year period.
FETSALUD Capacity Building Project
In partnership with UNISON's West Midlands Region, UNISON International is also supporting a capacity building project for the health trade union FETSALUD. The project is specifically designed to build the knowledge and capacity of women and young members in the union. Women currently make up at least half of the union's membership.
The project proposes the development of a series of courses divided into three modules - introductory, basic and specialised. The courses will be developed with the assistance of IHFOCATT, an institute established by the Nicaraguan trade union movement which has wide expertise in the education and capacity building of workers.
Each of the courses will have the following general objectives:-
- to facilitate the exchange of experiences by trade union colleagues from different parts of the country and different social environments
- to provide participants with the information they need for efficient performance of their duties
- to build a consensus on the interpretation and application of the various topics being studied
- to provide tools of analysis from various disciplines which contribuite to a holistic and scientific education of each participant, wiht a special emphasis on perspectives of gender and youth
The courses are designed in a modular way so that they are accessible to those who have commitments at work, in the family and in their unions. The aim is to ensure that by the end of their training, participants will have the technical skills and abilities which will enable them to fully exercise their role as representatives of their members. A research project will be carried out at the end of every course in order to evaluate how participants are applying what they have learnt to their everyday trade union work.
FETSALUD believes that this project will improve the effectiveness of trade union work and empower women and young people as leaders and future leaders. In addition to specific trade union training, the courses will contribute to a better understanding of national and international problems, based on the understanding that working people in Nicaragua are part of a regional and global market.
Building Capacity for Self Employed Women
The British TUC, through its TUC Aid programme, has agreed to support a project to promote women's leadership and participation in the self-employed workers union CTCP. The project began in May 2015 and will run for 18 months. It aims to empower self-employed women ad enhance their ability to solve the economic and social problems they face while building strong and proactive women's leadership able to participate fully in the work of the union and advocate improvements in society and better working conditions.
One of the main challenges faced by self-employed women is the fact that most of them work a 12 hour day and the majority of them are also single mothers with the double burden of child care responsibilities and domestic chores. Despite efforts by threunion to affect government policy, most self-employed workers do not have access to social security and their earnings are not enough to meet their basic subsistence needs. This leaves little time for union activism. Although over half of the current membership of the CTCP's National Executive Committee are women, this is not reflected at district and municipal level, where participation levels are around 25-30%. It is hoped that the project will change this.
The project is designed to recruit an additional 4000 women members to the union and at the same time to result in a demonstrable increase in the number of women who put themselves forward for leadership positions.
The activities to be undertaken as part of the project will include:-
- a recruitment drive aimed at women
- personal development sessions
- organising an Enterprise Fair where women can present their new skills and display their products
The CTCP will also scope and develop work-related training for self-employed women. Women members of the CTCP already have a good deal of practical experience, but they lack the up-to-date technical knowledge they need to improve their working methods and tools in such a way that they can further their careers and increase productivity and earning potential. This union-led training will be designed to help women directly, but also to address this issue: if women are able to earn more, they will be able to work shorter hours and have more time available for activism and engagement.
It is expected that the project will have a 'cascading' effect and that women members who have undergone the training will be able to share their knowledge and skills with other women, particularly younger women.
Self-employed workers in Nicaragua represent a vulnerable sector in society and one that has suffered discrimination and that has been excluded for a long time from social policy, education and poverty reduction actions. Through projects such as this, the CTCPaims to increase its level of organisation, consolidate its union structures and integrate men and women within thenm. In this way, they hope to achieve significant changes in relationships of gender equality and equity that will enable them to implement changes that will improve and enhance social and economic justice.
Developing Computer Skills
The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group has joined forces with Computer Aid International in a project to provide computers to the National Workers' Front, FNT. The project is supported by the National Union of Teachers, NUT, and the UIA Charitable Fund. It will allow the FNT to establish and maintain a computer laboratory in their training centre. The facility will be available to all of the FNT's affiliated unions. Training will be carried out by teachers in the FNT's training arm, IHFOCATT, which focuses in particular on poor and vulnerable communities.
The project is specifically designed to ensure that trade union members have the Information and Technology (ICT) skills they need to enable them to improve their access to employment, increase their income and enhance their effectiveness as trade unionists. Unemployment in Nicaragua is high at around 800,000 out of an economically active population of 3.2 million and wages are low, with only 10% of the population earning more than US$10000 per annum.
The project is taking place over three years. In year one, the FNT will establish and maintain the computer laboratory referred to above. In year two, ICT provision will be rolled out to FNT regional offices and the unions' leadership. This will develop organisational capacity and increase the ability of affiliated unions to represent marginalised and disadvantaged workers, particularly women and those with disabilities. In year three, the project will work with local union and community-based organisations to provide additional ICT capacity.
Further information about this project is available from Ludovic Gautier at Computer Aid International on firstname.lastname@example.org
Defending Workers' Rights
Prior to 2011, the public sector union UNE had only limited capacity to address attacks on workers' rights such as arbitrary sackings, denial of state benefits, sexual harassment and health and safety issues. Members, particularly low paid women workers with no recourses to pay legal fees, had no recourse to justice against rogue employers.
In 2011, thanks to support from UNISON's International Development Fund, UNE was able for the first time ever to set up a legal office not only to address members' problems but also to enable UNE to negotiate collective baragaining agreements more effectively and to provide training in employment law for union leaders. UNISON financed the first phase of the office from 2011-12 and subsequently approved funding for a further two years, from 2013-15. Funding for the project ended in June 2015, but UNE has taken steps to ensure that the office remains open for the foreseeable future.
Since its establishment, the legal office has achieved excellent results. It has obtained many legal rulings for job reinstatement and payment of employment benefits, as well as child maintenance rulings for workers and their families. It has benefitted women workers in particular, for example defending women sacked from their jobs for being pregnant. One of the most important results has been in terms of negotiating collective agreements, benefitting more than 550 workers at national level.
Another important achievement of the legal office has been the trade union training which is carried out by legal professionals for union leaders. Training has taken place on subjects which include:-
- Collective agreements
- Civil Service and Administrative Career Law
- Municipal Career Law and its regulation
- Gender Equity Law
- Budgetary System Law
- Trade Union Organisation
More recently, the Legal Office has provided invaluable training on the implementation of the new Labour and Social Security Protection Code which came into effect on 29th May 2013. A series of workshops has taken place around the country in order to inform and advise union leaders about the new Code. It is expected that the training carried out currently by the Legal Office will now be carried out as part of the remit of the newly established UNE Training School.
The services of the Legal Office and the training it provides have been made available to other unions within the FNT, not just UNE members.
The achievements of the Legal Office have been highly positive. It has enabled UNE and other trade union organisations to enhance their organising capacity and placed them in a better position to defend workers' interests. The Office has dealt with an average of 33 cases a month and has played a vital role in ensuring the defence of workers' rights throughout the country.