Seminar: The Limits of Power: Trade Union Pluralism and Politics in Burkina Faso

Riots in Ouagadougou, 30 October 2014. Photo: Day Donaldson / Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

In October 2014 a massive popular uprising, spearheaded by the country’s trade unions, toppled the regime of Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaoré, after 27 years in office. The unrest that ended Compaoré’s reign bore a striking resemblance to that of almost half a century earlier, in January 1966, when Burkina’s trade union movement led widespread demonstrations that ousted the country’s first president, Maurice Yaméogo. On both occasions, the pluralist trade union movement banded together to demonstrate its collective political strength. Yet, on neither occasion was the trade union movement sufficiently united or powerful to define and implement a new political agenda for the country. Trade union pluralism helps explain why Burkina Faso is one of the few French-speaking African countries where trade unions enjoy autonomy. Pluralism is also a key to understanding both the critical role that trade unions have played throughout the country’s history and the limits of trade union power in shaping the country’s future.

Craig Phelan

Craig Phelan is a Professor of Modern History at Kingston University. His research focuses on trade unions around the world. He is editor of Labor History, the pre-eminent journal on this subject, and he is also editor of the book series, ‘Trade Unions Past, Present and Future’, for Peter Lang. He has recently edited five books on the dilemmas facing contemporary trade unions worldwide: The Future of Organised Labour: Global Perspectives (2006), Trade Union Revitalisation: Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries (2007), the two-volume Trade Unionism since 1945: Towards a Global History (2009), Trade Unions in West Africa: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (2011), and Radical Unions in Europe and the Future of Collective Interest Representation (2014). At present he is working on a monograph on trade unionism in Francophone West Africa since 1945. Phelan is also Director of Research for History.

Date, time and location

21 April 2016
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 3A06 (3rd floor)