Monday, August 06, 2007

Graphical workers union congress

Its permanent struggle for the Printing workers

June 16 saw an end to a protracted fight in the Zimbabwe Graphical Workers Union between the rank and file workers and right wing bureaucrats. Workers finally convened an extra-ordinary congress amidst several attempts to jeopardize them by the bureaucrats who went as far as calling the state to disrupt the congress .The congress was magnificent and one of its kind in the history of the union, it was basically run on a shoe string budget but workers sacrificed all the way from all regions to save their union from collapse.
The congress marked the beginning of a new era, an era of building a real strong union deeply rooted in workers with progressive socialists now in control of the union unlike the previous leadership which had long broken ties with its members. But its hard won freedom for workers for the history of the union fights tells us more and bears a lot to be learnt. Critically that, in the absence of strong organized rank and file organization, chances of trade union bureaucrats ultimately selling is very high .The last five years of the Zimbabwe Graphical workers union have it all .
In 2002 when with guidance from ISO comrades; workers formed a rank and file group called Reflections after the union had failed workers for over a decade. The union was then led by a bunch of sellouts who neither bothered accountability nor a congress to choose new leaders .The rank and file group historically managed to push for a congress in 2002 which swept away the entire previous leadership.
The 2002 congress brought new life in the printing industry, within a year workers in the printing industry were amongst the top paid industrial workers .The union organized two industry wide strikes which completely halted the whole industry forcing bosses to make major concessions to the advantage of workers. Situation suddenly changed altogether after their second successful strike when bosses victimized and fired most of the militant workers who had together with the union officials helped organize the strike.
Unfortunately most of the fired workers constituted a section of the union rank and file, which provided direct leadership in the factories and again played a watchdog role in the union.
Their departure from active participation in the union in a way gave birth to the rise of bureaucrats who found no reason at all for accountability to workers. They established ties with bosses negotiating starvation wages reversing worker’s hard won gains.
It is against the deteriorating conditions again in the industry that concerned workers led by remnants of the previous rank and file of 2002 organized for an extra-ordinary congress on the 16th June, which saw the last kicks to the bureaucrats and sellouts.

It was possible for the sellouts to sell out because workers behind them were no all that organized to demand accountability from their leaders, a lesson which the current leadership should learn and always maintain that rank and file base. Strengthening the rank and file workers backed by socialists now in the leadership will provide the necessary bases for the formation of a RED union which will together with three orfour others in the near future will help strengthen the working class of the country .
Aluta Continua !! Shinga Mushandi , Bury Capitalism !!!
By M Sambo

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