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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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Trade Unionism in Cameroon: From Crisis to Revitalisation? 431

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PIET KONINGS Trade Unionism in Cameroon: From Crisis to Revitalisation? 1. Introduction Trade unions across Africa are facing similar challenges in the current period of neo-liberal globalisation but their responses to the far- reaching economic and political reforms have varied (Kester and Sidibé 1997; Beckman and Sachikonye 2001; Konings 2006). Some have shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to the dramatic effects of neo-liberal reforms and even to revitalise their organisations. They have taken a number of innovative steps to tackle their organisational problems in the rapidly changing economic and political environment in order to remain meaningful to their memberships. Others, however, are in deep crisis. Cameroonian trade unions, as I intend to demon- strate in this contribution, clearly belong to this latter category. I shall first describe some of the major problems and then assess the future prospects of trade unions in Cameroon. 2. Cameroonian Trade Unionism in Deep Crisis Compared to a number of other African countries, there is a striking absence of any detailed research on trade unionism in Cameroon. However, existing studies agree that the long-standing crisis in the Cameroonian trade union movement has deepened during the current economic and political liberalisation processes (Eboussi Boulaga 1997; Abega 1999; Konings 2006). Cameroonian trade unions appear Piet Konings 432 to have failed dismally to cope with the new situation let alone achieve a much-needed revitalisation. The movement faces a multi- tude of problems and I restrict myself here to presenting the gravest. Lack of Autonomy One of the...

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