New ILO Manual on Productivity Improvement for the Unions

The Workers’ Education Manual on “Productivity Improvement and the Role of Trade Unions” is being launched today Tuesday 17 November at the regional seminar organized by the Bureau for Workers ‘Activities (ACTRAV), the Japan Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO) and hosted by the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) in Gaborone, Botswana. In this interview, the ACTRAV focal point on Employment, Mohammed Mwamadzingo explains the issues surrounding the topic of productivity in the world of work, and particularly on the trade union movement.

Actualité | 17 novembre 2015
Mohammed Mwamadzingo
ACTRAV Focal Point on Employment
ACTRAV INFO: ACTRAV has launched a workers’ education Manual on “Productivity improvement and the role of trade unions”. Why did you decide to publish a Manual on productivity?

Mohammed Mwamadzingo:
The ILO has been playing a critical role in sensitizing workers on the benefits of productivity improvements. Since 1997, ACTRAV has collaborated very closely with the JTUC-RENGO to conduct many regional training programmes in Africa. The workshops attract trade union leaders from many African countries to deliberate on the concept, and to examine the potential benefits that could accrue to workers from a programme of productivity improvements. These workshops also benefited from the experiences of Japan, which had adopted such an approach. The workshops always make some resounding strong recommendations requiring trade unions to carry out similar programmes at the national level.

Since 2012, these workshops have focused more on the development of a workers’ education manual that will be derived from the experience of the interactions between African trade unions and JTUC/RENGO. It is our expectation that this manual will facilitate the exchange of ideas amongst trade unionists on the role of workers’ organization on productivity improvement and its implications on international labour standards employment creation, improving wages and enhancing collective bargaining
ACTRAV INFO: What are the main lessons emerging from this Manual?

The main lesson learnt is that productivity is indeed a trade union issue. Trade unions are always eager to support any programmes aimed at boosting productivity. This is derived from the fact that productivity improvement is mutually beneficial and workers are demanding to share the gains from productivity improvements. If workers want to have an increase in wages, they will have to support programmes for productivity enhancement, and in like manner if management wants a motivated workforce they should be prepared to distribute the gains from productivity in an equitable manner.

ACTRAV INFO: What role can trade unions play in facing the challenges of productivity at enterprise and global levels?

Trade union need to further deliberate and identify targeted sensitization programmes on improving productivity at all levels: enterprise, sectoral, national and regional. Whilst regional programmes can facilitate the exchange of ideas on the subject, enterprise and national level programmes have the advantage of helping to create the necessary environment for the building of trust and confidence between management and workers.

ACTRAV INFO: From ILO’s perspective, what are your expectations vis-à-vis the trade unions organizations?

The concept of productivity is part and parcel of the mandate of the ILO. The watershed laid down by ILO Declaration of Philadelphia adopted in 1944 in the much cited phrase – “Labour is not a commodity” implies that labour is the main productive force of society ensuring its economic growth and thus to have more growth requires increasing labour's productive power. In effect, we can identify many ILO instruments that emphasize on productivity improvement. The very latest ILO’s work on productivity is entrenched by the Programme and Budget for 2014-2015 which incorporates the eight Areas of Critical Importance (ACIs) aimed at achieving greater focus and increased collaborative action on key issues in the world of work.

It is our expectations that trade unions will invoke all the aspects of the ILO's understanding on productivity improvement. In particular, we expect workers to make use of the international labour standards to promote improvement in productivity. This is because high productivity cannot be achieved and maintained in the long term under poor labour standards.