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    Service and solidarity: domestic workers, informal organising and the limits of unionisation in Zambia

    Hepburn, Sacha (2019) Service and solidarity: domestic workers, informal organising and the limits of unionisation in Zambia. Journal of Southern African Studies 45 (1), pp. 31-47. ISSN 0305-7070.

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    This article examines the varied forms of collective organising pursued by domestic workers in Zambia from the 1930s to the 2010s, from struggles to establish formal associations and trade unions to participation in informal strategies of joint action. The article demonstrates that, despite the efforts of successive groups of domestic workers and labour activists, formal workers’ organisations have failed to secure broad support among the labour force or achieve significant improvements in domestic workers’ rights. This resulted from the limited financial and organisational capacity of such organisations, the dismissive attitude towards domestic workers of colonial and post-colonial governments and the failure of workers’ organisations to tailor their interventions to the broad, complex realities of domestic service. The formal labour movement model has been unsuccessful as a means of organising domestic workers both because of these limitations and because domestic workers could pursue alternative solutions to their grievances at work, from individual strategies of resistance to informal collective organising. Through informal relations of solidarity, domestic workers created accessible and popular spaces to share grievances and tangible sources of material and emotional support. These findings are relevant to academic research and to policy on both domestic service and work in Africa, highlighting the ways in which Africa’s urban working poor have used alternatives to the formal labour movement model to address exploitation at work, economic hardship and political grievances.


    Item Type: Article
    School: School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
    Depositing User: Sacha Hepburn
    Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2021 06:20
    Last Modified: 15 Jun 2021 12:08


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