Regional activities – Country Report: Africa, Malmö – 18-20/06/2001


Malmö, 18-20/6/2001

Item 5: Regional activities
Country Report: Africa

Report submitted by the IUF African Regional Secretariat

The Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism industry in Africa is growing rapidly and has become a major foreign exchange earner in many countries. The growth in tourism has also led to the expansion of hotels and lodges both in the rural and urban areas. The major hotel chains have developed lodges in game parks, beaches as well as tour companies and travel agencies in order to control the chain and the market. The development in rural tourism is yet another challenge to the trade unions. The workers are often recruited during the peak seasons of tourism and are mainly young people within the locality, being engaged by a relative. Some diversify their activities like growing crops, animal breeding etc. As a result it becomes difficult for any of the trade unions to organize the workers since the law stipulates area of coverage.

There is increasingly local hotel chains within a sub region owned by political elite being managed by expatriates. These are disguised as non-accessible areas for the trade unions i.e. Karim Hotel Chains in Uganda.

Because of the common market, many countries are developing policies on tourism that will have an impact on workers in the sector. Trade unions are not represented on the tourism boards; this has led to marginalisation and frustration of trade union efforts to grade hotels to have fair collective agreements to improve the working conditions of their members. The re-structuring programs has resulted into workers fear to join trade unions, many are employed as casuals, seasonal or temporary workers especially in the catering sector.

The private sector is reluctant to recognize the trade unions. This has been facilitated by the government’s support for the investors through policies to protect their interests, reciprocated by the political elite being the board members or shareholders in the company. The competition among the governments for wooing investors has given an opportunity for the movement of capital within the region at the wishes of investors to maximize their profits. This has resulted into many of these companies imposing regulations which are not favourable for the workers, for example workers buying their own uniforms, long working hours without overtime, preference of immigrant labour to local staff to avoid unionisation and abiding by the laws. The sub-contracting in this sector has promoted the preference of expatriate staff denying the local staff the opportunity to training and promotion. The consequences of these has been lack of job security, pressure on workers, cheap labour, workers have no rights and are vulnerable.

In the recent years, the fast food (Chicken inn, Nandoos, Bakers etc) has been expanding from South Africa to other African countries. Many of the workers are casual or temporary being fired or hired on quarterly basis. There is a need to research on the working conditions and develop strategies on how to organize these workers and build network among the unions to share information.

Within the region, a pilot project is being implemented in Tanzania and Zambia (CHODAWU&HCWUZ) aiming at organizing and improving working conditions through collective agreements for workers in the international hotel chains. In Francophone Africa, regular seminars have been conducted on Accor and other international hotel chains. This aimed at building the capacity of the unions to use the IUF framework agreements to organize and improve the working conditions.

The challenges facing the sector:

    • The problem of individual contracts issued to workers.
    • Government interference in the industrial relations system.
    • Government protection of private investors through policies in favour of them.
    • Corruption and nepotism within the system.
    • High level of unemployment and poverty has made workers ready to accept precarious employment.
    • Intimidation and victimization of workers who advocate for their rights.
    • Workers benefits being used as operational funds as they are on casual employment with no entitlements.