Workers’ World Media Productions is an independent labour movement media project, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and an audience reach across the continent. Formed in 1999 with the aim of strengthening the labour movement by …

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Workers’ World Media Productions is an independent labour movement media project, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and an audience reach across the continent. Formed in 1999 with the aim of strengthening the labour movement by providing independent voices, Workers’ World has a vision for an informed, organised and mobilised working class acting in its own interests.

Workers’ World is best known for its labour radio shows: a weekly feature is produced on a topic of importance to trade unionists, and played on a network of around 40 community radio stations. The feature is produced in five different languages, and is followed by a phone in talk show hosted by a trade union activist, to give ordinary workers a voice. It also produces a TV show.

On a continent where connectivity is low, radio really is the internet of Africa.

The organisation also produces, distributes and facilitates discussion groups, media training, film festivals, training manuals and television shows, but has its primary focus on radio productions and broadcasts.

Workers World aims to provide working class people with a voice, their own platform in their own language, as well as with the news and analysis they need to advance their interests.

Workers World celebrates its 15th anniversary in difficult circumstances: the global economy is in crisis, the labour movement is divided, and tensions in South Africa are reaching boiling point as people lose patience in a government that has failed to end economic apartheid. Right wing populists are taking advantage of the vacuum, and there is a sense of political volatility in South Africa and all over the world.

The Marikana massacre of mine workers has in many ways been a watershed political moment in South Africa that brutally exposed the class character of the ANC government and the lengths it was prepared to go to protect the interests of white monopoly capital and their black capitalist cohorts in the ANC’s leadership.

Internationally too, there have been significant political developments in the Middle East and North Africa and Europe since 2010 with mass uprisings, protests and coups. These have at times resulted in worse situations against working class interests, such as in Egypt that is once again dominated by the military junta. Underpinning these uprisings internationally is increased poverty with worsening and widening inequality with the World Economic Forum expressing concern about this phenomenon – “impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.” We can see why even capitalist organisations are expressing concern about the situation when we consider the statistics such as the fact that:

  • Almost half of world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That is 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
  • The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

Workers’ World has become accustomed to operating in conditions of crisis: formed in the wake of the end of apartheid, the organisation celebrated its 10th anniversary as the world economy went into economic meltdown. Crisis and adversity has become business as usual. Despite this, they have continued to provide a clear and independent voice for workers.

The global nature of the economic crisis being experienced right now means there is a need for a new internationalism. Workers across the world are facing the same stark challenges. It is up to us all to find the common thread in all their stories, and weave it into a compelling narrative that will inform and inspire the workers of the world to organise and take action in their own interests.

Here’s to the next 15 years of Labour Voices on the Air!

Download the 15 year anniversary report


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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