Accepted paper:

Learning to Negotiate: collective bargaining, technical knowledge and union subjectivation

Authors:

Thomas McNamara (La Trobe University)

Paper short abstract:

Zambian trade unionists are taught to conceptualise the bargaining process as a contest among equals. By presenting their poor wages as fair and technically derived, they perform a key piece of political labour for neoliberal exaction in Zambia

Paper long abstract:

Zambian miners consistently describe collective bargaining as the most important role of their union representatives. However, over the last ten years almost all Zambian mines' wage-negotiations have either achieved below inflation wage increases or resulted in strikes. Despite the fact that these inadequate results are caused by legal and political structures designed to favour investors over workers, Zambian trade unionists are taught to conceptualise the bargaining process as a contest among equals (guided by a mine's technical specifications). Subjectivation to this aspect of union identity occurs in trainings provided by international organisations and is reinforced through the bargaining process. Union leaders begin to understand their poor wage increases to be the result of 'production', 'company costs' and 'the price of copper' and attempt to mollify miners who believe that this is not the case. Through the bargaining process, these union leaders come to present their poor wages as fair and technically derived, performing a key piece of political labour for neoliberal exaction in Zambia

panel P060
Globalized workers and trade unionism