Trade unions as platforms for social change

The latest work by Caitlin Finlayson, now a PhD candidate at La Trobe University, was recently published by the Development in Practice journal. Her work explores if and how trade unions are a platform for social change in Zambia, Africa.

In Zambia, the privatisation of state-owned companies is challenging job security, working conditions and workers’ rights. It has also weakened the role of government as a regulator of labour legislation, which in Zambia is quite progressive, compared to other countries in the region. Workers struggle to survive and therefore turn to trade unions in order to change their situation.

From sugar cane and flower plantations to steel factories and breweries, Caitlin Finlayson and her Danish co-researcher Maria Palmvang, visited numerous industrial, commercial and agricultural workplaces and spoke to many trade union members whilst undertaking data collection in Zambia.

Through an analysis of the operations of two Zambian trade unions, their research aims to understand whether, and to what extent the trade unions offer members a platform to strengthen their working and living conditions and achieve large-scale change for Zambian trade union members and workers.

Their research gives voice to trade union members and brings forward this underrepresented perspective in the discussion of labour rights, social empowerment and collective action.

The research was made possible by grants from Augustinus Fonden (Augustinus Foundation, Denmark) and 3F – Fagligt Fælles Forbud (United Federation of Danish Workers, Denmark) and with support from Lund University, Sweden.

Click here to access the full article.

Caitlin Finlayson is a PhD Candidate at La Trobe University, investigating NGOs in international development and their capacity to adapt, disrupt and innovate.

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