Trade Union Resurgence in Ethiopia


  • Samuel Andreas Admasie International Institute of Social History



Despite a global trend of declining trade unionism, the Ethiopian trade union movement is resurgent. Having fought off a harsh labour bill and forced industrial parks to open to trade union organising in the past few years, it has scored some of its most momentous achievements, acquiring in the process momentum and leverage. Membership has grown substantially in the last few years, and a sharp increase in workplace-level collective action has occurred over the same period. This article seeks to examine the factors that have enabled the rapid resurgence of trade unionism in Ethiopia, and thus the seeming paradox of a buoyant trade union movement emerging in a context where structural vulnerabilities prevail, at a historical time of global decline in the power and influence of labour organisations. It does so by comparing contemporary trade union strategies to historical iterations. It identifies willingness and capacity to engage in class contestation as the most important factors, and finds that they are premised upon and propelled by pressures and activity from below. The article finds the situation of Ethiopian trade unions to be at once pregnant with possibilities of further advances and serious risks of sharp reversals.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­KEYWORDS: trade unions; labour movements; Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions