Accepted Paper:

Everyday Unionism as a Political Act: Utilisations and Creations of Union Discourse in Everyday Actions   


Thomas McNamara (La Trobe University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines Zambian miners and unionist’s social discussions of unionism. This is compared to the narratives used in explicitly political settings, like wage negotiations, enabling a study of how informal union discourses utilise, scrutinise and possibly feed-into national political dialogue

Paper long abstract:

Union political figures and unions as political actors, are a core part of public and academic discourses on Zambian politics. However, little work explores the discursive recreation and scrutiny of unions in the workplace and social spaces. This paper will begin to fill that lacuna by recounting how unions are invoked in the social interactions of Zambian copper miners' and Mining Union's staff. By exploring how unions and unionism are informally discussed in the workplace, home and social spaces (bars, churches, football fields), the paper will recount some hidden transcripts of Zambian trade unionism. These will be compared to the interactions between MUZ staff, mine employees and managers in more explicitly political environments, like union recruitment drives and wage negotiations. Examining the similarities and disjuncture between discourses with various saliences for union staff, unionised and non-unionised workers in Zambian mining will enable an exploration of interplay between these groups that will comment on the ability (or otherwise) of local concerns to feed into national union politics.

Panel P160
Political Cultures in the Central African Copperbelt