Reference : On Sell-outs and Strikes: The repertoire of resistance of a Congolese union delegatio...
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Anthropology
On Sell-outs and Strikes: The repertoire of resistance of a Congolese union delegation in a Chinese mining company
Geenen, Kristien mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > Département des sciences sociales > Labo d'anthropologie sociale et culturelle (LASC) >]
Afriican Studies Association of the UK biennial conference (ASA UK 2018)
from 11-09-2018 to 13-09-2018
University of Birmingham
[en] mining industry ; trade unions ; Sino-Congolese entente ; Kolwezi ; DR Congo
[en] Chinese entrepreneurial initiatives in Central Africa have attracted a lot of scholarly attention (among others, Jansson 2012, 2013 and Lee, 2009, 2014, 2018). This presentation connects to this stream of literature and deals with union presence in a Chinese mining company in the Congolese Copperbelt. Not familiar with free and democratic trade unionism in their home country, it took the Chinese management ten years to toe the Congolese government line and allow union representatives at the company. In doing so, however, the management did not respect the appropriate procedure but appointed the union delegation rather than have it elected by the employees. Not unexpectedly, the company’s workers rejected the collective agreement that “their” union representatives had negotiated with the management and pulled off a three-day strike. The striking workers hereby completely bypassed the union delegation, reflecting their deep distrust of the unionists.
Exploring this wildcat strike in a comprehensive manner, this presentation offers an insight into the way the divergent cultural backgrounds of the Chinese and Congolese, officers, unionists and workers alike, led to serious miscommunication during these days of social unrest. I outline how, during the walkout, the union delegation turned out a spent force rather than an energetic means in defence of optimum working conditions. The political context of this social malaise is of importance too. With elections coming up, the governmental authorities at different levels had conflicting goals in mind. In short, based upon ethnographic fieldwork, this presentation analyses the manifestation of social unrest in a Sino-Congolese joint-venture in the Congolese Copperbelt, and scrutinizes the signification of the union delegation in this matter.

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