Hard-won gains by unions are under attack around the world. During two days in Geneva, IndustriALL’s Executive Committee discussed union wins and challenges ahead, as well as the importance of fighting together for more power.
Work is becoming cheaper and we will fight against global capital with global answers,
IndustriALL President Jörg Hofmann said in his opening speech.
We will defend basic trade union rights and our success depends on our strength. We need to make sure affiliates can recruit new and retain current members, as members make us strong.
Project activity is an important part of IndustriALL’s work, allowing for interaction with affiliates and achieving the strategic goals. In 2017, IndustriALL is running 45 projects together with donors and national unions in the donor countries. A majority of the projects take place in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, focusing on union building and organizing.
In many countries the projects have contributed to stronger unions, as well as stronger unity among the unions:
- In the Philippines, unions have a seat on the national tripartite body on wage legislation
- 60,000 new union members have been recruited in Cambodia
- 43,000 new union members have been recruited in India
- Ethiopia has seen increased union density and women’s rights
Delegates at the Executive Committee spoke of difficult times for trade unions in, among other countries, Iraq, where the all union comments and proposals on the new trade union law have been ignored; Macedonia, where the national federation is cracking down on the union; Bosnia–Herzegovina, where social dialogue is under attack; and Indonesia, where unions are excluded from talks on the new minimum wage, which increase equals only one kebab in purchasing power.
But the past year has also seen significant union wins. After trade unionists and garment workers were detained in Bangladesh at the end of 2016/early 2017, an IndustriALL campaign gathered global support, which led to their release in February.
An international solidarity campaign for trade unions in Korea contributed to significant political change in the country. After President Park was ousted from office in March, snap elections are expected to take place on 9 May.
You are all part of the victory,
Korean unions told Executive Committee delegates.
But there is a lot of work ahead. Until we win fundamental trade union rights and have reduced inequalities in society, we will not rest.
Increasing unionization at mining giant Rio Tinto has been one of IndustriALL’s major campaigns over the last years. The Executive Committee was told that significant progress has been made, as the company is engaging in genuine dialogue with the unions and IndustriALL.
Tools for safeguarding workers’ rights
Global Framework Agreements (GFA) are important tools for promoting workers’ rights on a global level. Delegates discussed the need for binding mechanisms in the agreements and the need for local unions to be involved.
Implementing the GFA along the supply chains is crucial, as Executive Committee delegates called on Volkswagen to stop union busting at its plant in Chattanooga, USA.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a historic agreement signed after the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013 runs out in 2018. A discussion was held on the importance of a new Accord next year, where the right to Freedom of Association should be a fundamental commitment.
The Executive Committee adopted a number of solidarity resolutions:
- Support for the general strike in Brazil on 28 April
- Support for striking workers at Fletcher Insulation, Australia
- Continued support for workers and trade unions in Korea
- Solidarity with workers in Argentina
- On increased initiatives for peace in the world
- On Belarus decree on social parasites
- On Global Deal, launched by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén
- Calling for an end to the asbestos trade
The Executive Committee was preceeded by regional meetings.