As an aid organisation, UnionAID is distinctive for its focus on improving the lives of workers and their families. All projects are developed in partnership with trusted organisations in developing countries, usually unions. In collaboration with unions and workers, local needs and priorities are identified and strategies developed which will impact most effectively to improve working pay and conditions, and encourage economic independence and self-determination.
We have a number of projects in a range of countries:
This project aims to give workers a say in the Fijian system of Wage Regulated Orders and in the National Wages Council, to establish unions and to run workshops enable workers to advocate for themselves and others. UnionAID is working with the National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers which is described by organiser Kuini as a “strong union of humble people who work together help others benefit in the workplace”. Tautoko.
Myanmar Railway Organising Project
This project has been set up in partnership with the Myanmar Railway Workers Union Federation, with the goal of improving health and safety for railway workers, and union members. The project also trains workers in welding skills so they can find permanent jobs in the railway department.
Mae Sot Occupational Training Centre
UnionAID has supported the Mae Sot Occupational Training Centre for 8 years now. The centre aims to train migrant women from Myanmar in sewing skills and labour rights – so that they can find work in well established garment factories, for better wages and with safer conditions. Since the projects inception over 1100 women, and some men, have completed the training.
Tamil Nadu Cooperative Project
This project organises cooperatives of workers, freeing them from debt and improving their economic outcomes. UnionAID have partnered with the Tamil Nadu Labour Union, who are roganising cooperatives of jaggery producers, catering workers and construction workers.
Young Leaders Projects
The 2018 Myanmar Young Leaders are in Wellington and have completed their English language component and are now busy with their fieldwork.
2018 is the first year of INSPIRASI, 10 young leaders from the East of Indonesia are currently in Auckland. The participants spend the first three months at AUT learning English and the final three months participating in fieldwork where they learn from community leaders
Our current project with the Tamil Nadu Labour Union (TNLU) in Madurai, South India, builds on an earlier union organising project with Dalit (untouchable) and Tribal (indigenous) men and women, employed in poorly paid jobs such as scavengers, sweepers, quarry workers, and cremation workers. Now the TNLU is working with union members to establish five worker cooperatives (with over 1000 members) and four micro-enterprises (120 members) to help them achieve economic independence and self-determination.
Training in governance and management is a significant part of this new project as this largely illiterate workforce gains business knowledge and, just as importantly, a sense of pride in their new status. Anecdotal evidence to date suggests that three of the main objectives are being achieved: an increase in income; reduction in household indebtedness and more children attending school. It is expected that these outcomes will be confirmed by data analysis at the end of the project in mid 2014.
This project is funded on a $1 for $1 basis by the Morgan Foundation up to $30,000 each year for 3 years.
Sri Lanka Women’s Project
When the civil war in Sri Lanka ended, garment factories were set up in the north and east of the country to take advantage of the cheap labour and in response to the government’s intention to establish Free Trade Zones there. After a successful organising project in Sri Lanka with the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU) which saw some factories reach 100% union membership, UnionAID is now funding a second two year project. This will enable the FTZGSEU to organise 1000 women workers in the garment industry; to give a voice to and develop networks of women workers in the northern and Eastern provinces, tea plantations and the free trade zones; and to fight discrimination.