Below text is excerpted from TIE-Netherlands’ website. TIE-Netherlands describes itself as a non-profit organisation which is committed to the advancement and strengthening of independent and democratic trade unionism. It is part of an independent international network which works to educate, advice and support trade union activists.
I have been working with TIE for several years now, as an external advisor. Based on my experience with TIE and the MAPPEO methodology, of which the below text is about, I can claim that adopting a version of such production process mapping, using it within distributed and organised social networks, and combining these with the ‘Organising’ techniques, unions would be able to build strong platforms for real change.
Such platforms would be formed as 21st Century version of Peer Worker Councils and peer neteworking among these coincils make a powerful contribution to the union revitalisation proces -by not only improving workplace and union democracies. but also making the idea of ‘shopfloor internationalism’ a realistic way forward. Unions can connect workers direclty at their localities, online and offline self-training, paricipation, and exchange can foster among workers through such Social Network Unionism.
“To form a real counterforce “from below” against global and regional production strategies of companies, the emphasis of trade union organizations should be on local structures and on what occurs on the ground. Workers should organize themselves from the basis. Only when organizing comes forth from local realities and is done by workers themselves they experience the reality of their own power. Education and capacity building of workers and their organizations can contribute positively to their ability to organize actions and to enlarge their self esteem and position towards the management of their companies. Workers should develop critical awareness and should be able to translate this awareness into social action (or praxis).
The method ‘production mapping’ was developed by TIE-Brazil, in cooperation with members of different trade unions, and lead to significant results in the strengthening of workers power and the position of trade unions at the working place. The method is build on the assumption that workers have the most updated and detailed information about the production system, because they are the most important part of it. It departs from the mobilisation and ‘collectivisation’ of the knowledge of the workers themselves about their company, working place and the production system. Together, workers collect the major possible amount of information about the production process, like: the number of employees, the amount of working hours, salary, suppliers of material and clients, breaks, holidays and absenteeism in each section of the company. They are stimulated to analyse what is the structure of the company, in what way the production process is organised, whose interests are taken care of and who profits and who does not. Ways of gathering information are participatory, for example, inquiries among colleagues or the drawing of the company to identify where the main problems for workers are found. After gathering the information it is systematized and analysed by the workers, permitting them to understand their own role in the production process and the position of their company in the global supply chain. This action research, done by the workers themselves leads to new insights and the identification of action points for the trade union organisation at the working place.
Production mapping entails a collective construction of knowledge because the information is gathered by the workers themselves at their working place (or local reality) and among their own colleagues. The map of the production process is an instrument to look beyond the boundaries of the local working place and to better understand the production planning of the management. Workers start to understand why companies make strategic decisions (e.g. to outsource certain parts of the production process) and how the production is connected to resources in the local context (for example by analysing the supply of material and the transport of products). Production mapping gives workers a motive to enter into contact with flex-workers and local suppliers, who were defined by them as “threats” or enemies before. Workers can re-establish strategies and organize for consequent planned actions and gain major control over the production process. Backed by the information they gathered on their working place they enter into negotiations and struggles that can change their realities in an effective way. Workers, who for many years have been told that their knowledge and insights are not important, start to realize that their knowledge is important.”