Worker representation and trade union development are critical components of a fair and equitable labour landscape. Trade unions play a pivotal role in advocating for workers’ rights, fair wages, safe working conditions, and social protection. As the world of work evolves, it is essential to empower workers and strengthen their representation through effective trade unions. Given the importance, Fairtrade NAPP has organized a 2-day Workshop on Worker Representation and Trade Union Development to explore and promote worker representation and trade union development. The primary objective is to enhance participants’ knowledge, skills, and understanding of worker representation and the development of trade unions. In collaboration with the National Institute of Labour Studies, Fairtrade NAPP has designed training content for the selected worker leaders in the plantation sector. Professor A. Sarveswaran, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo was the resource person for this 2-day workshop. 30 leaders consisting of 24 men and 06 women workers from 8 small producer organizations participated in the workshop to gain a comprehensive understanding of the vital roles that worker representation and trade unions play in the workplace.
The 2-day workshop was filled with various activities that targeted various topics of workers and trade union development. Presentation, Discussion, and group work were the main mediums of this workshop. These are as follows –
Day 1: The first day started with the welcome address, followed by an icebreaker activity to develop a quick rapport with the leaders. This was followed by two sessions to discuss the role of workers’ representation in collective action and the role of unions in workers’ representation. The third session discussed the historical context and the evaluation of trade unions. It also emphasized the key milestones in the labour movement from both local and global perspectives. The fourth session discussed the legal framework, worker’s rights, and understanding the labour laws and regulations. This session highlighted the importance of unions in advocating for labour rights. The day concluded with a session to understand the multivariate layers of trade union structure and their functions. The roles and responsibilities of union leaders were specifically highlighted.
Day 2: The second day aimed to impart the knowledge of developing an effective trade union. The sessions consisted of organizing and recruitment strategies for new members, retaining union members and strategies of collective bargaining during the negotiation process. The next session consisted of important topics of conflict resolution through mediation and arbitration. One of the highlights of this day was the session on Political Advocacy and Social Change The role of trade unions in social and political advocacy. Campaign planning and grassroots mobilization. The day ended with a closing ceremony consisting of workshop evaluation, participation feedback and action planning for the future by these leaders.
This workshop held significant importance as it effectively connected various Fairtrade standards with a special emphasis on premium funds and their strategic utilization for productive purposes. Participants gained valuable insights into the leadership responsibilities within the premium committee as reflected in the feedback. During the concluding discussion, the importance of open dialogue and mutual understanding was underscored when the participants shared the social and political challenges they confront in their workplaces.
This workshop has played a pivotal role in equipping participants with a comprehensive understanding of their legal rights as employees, encompassing labour laws, regulations, and industry-specific protections. It has shed light on the organization and dynamics of trade unions while emphasizing the advantages of union membership and the critical importance of effective communication in labour relations. This program has also fostered the development of leadership skills and opportunities for active involvement in union activities and representation. Fairtrade through such workshops has been committed to empowering workers to advocate for their rights and enhance their working conditions through collective action.
“I would like to thank Fairtrade NAPP for this opportunity. Also, I am grateful to the professor who gave us awareness for a set of working class on “how to represent on behalf of workers”. He guided us very clearly. The work that we do with the people of Fairtrade has helped us to develop a sense of responsibility. I would like to convey this to my colleagues and the people around me. I will tell you that we must do our best to spread this message.– Muthurakku, a Plucker from Maturata Plantations.