The Transnationals Information Exchange (tie) was set up by a group of union activists at a meeting held at the Transnational Institute (TNI) in Amsterdam in 1978. Today there are groups working to strengthen democratic and pluralist unionism in Bangladesh, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the USA. Örsan Şenalp, a member of the New Unionism Network, has worked with tie in the Netherlands since 2007. He is as an external project advisor, as well as being a key figure in the development of “social network unionism” (see Wearing all three hats, Örsan has sent us some intriguing material on the MAPEO process, which tie has developed to help workers map and influence the production process. It’s an intriguing advance in what is sometimes called “shop floor internationalism”.Below you will find links to two documents – the first a presentation and the second a summary of production mapping. The MAPEO method helps workers systematically map and analyse production processes, be it in a company or a global chain. The process was first developed by TIE-Brazil (who produced both of the documents below), in cooperation with members of various unions.

MAPEO is not a one-size-fits-all methodology; it has been adapted for different contexts, and modified by workers and unions themselves in accordance with national, local and shop floor level realities.

The method is built on the assumption that workers have the most up-to-date and detailed information about production, because they are at the heart of it. Together, members use participatory research techniques to collect up this information (eg the number of employees, working hours, salaries, suppliers of material, clients, breaks, holidays, absenteeism). Then they use MAPEO to analyse the structure of the company.

In what way is production organised? Whose interests are being taken care of, and how? How are profits distributed? Why? Where does the company fit in relation to global supply chains?

‘Production mapping’ helps workers to better understand (and question) management planning. They can then analyse strategic decisions (e.g. outsourcing; supply of materials and transport options), and it need be challenge them, and/or propose better options. Production mapping also helps the union develop relationships with contract/agency staff and local suppliers.

There have been some impressive results. One recent example was Ford workers’ self-organisation, which led to the 2007 strikes in the St. Petersburg region.  MAPEO played a key role in the workers’ initial empowerment and various forms of activism in the company.

Culturally, MAPEO can also help facilitate a transition within unions themselves, which Örsan believes is urgently needed: from hierarchical organisation to flexible organised networks. This encourages revitalisation through stronger ties and open communication, and a real relationships between union officials and rank and file, without the associated fear of factionalism.


1) Presentation

2) Comparative production mapping

If you would like to know more about TIE, MAPEO or social network unionism, please contact Örsan Şenalp: