The union has reoriented towards entrepreneurship: neoliberal solidarities on Zambia’s Copperbelt
journal contributionposted on 2021-12-01, 03:55 authored by Thomas McNamaraThomas McNamara
Extensive labour subcontracting has decimated workers’ incomes and unions’ power on Zambia’s Copperbelt. In response, miners and workers with permanent contracts provide each other daily material support, and unions sell credit-based services to members, enabling their daily lives and subsidising subcontractors’ unionisation. These interactions make Zambia’s low-wage resource extraction viable. They can therefore be understood as ‘neoliberal solidarities’: struggles to refashion material and social relations in a more equitable way, which structurally support neoliberal political economies and projects of self-making. These solidarities entrench union–company interdependence, empowering unions to make more radical demands, yet making the realisation of these demands more difficult to imagine.