JYRKI RAINA: Welcome to Global Worker

15.12.2015

In this issue of Global Worker, you will see how our affiliates are fighting to make the shipbreaking industry sustainable in South Asia, while our South African union is adapting to the new reality of the global garment sector. All of this is part of our joint worldwide struggle for a better life for our workers.

I think most of us have enjoyed a voyage onboard a ship. But have you ever wondered what happens to these shiny vessels at the end of their journeys?

In this issue of Global Worker, we expose shipbreaking as the world’s most dangerous industry.

Working for poverty wages, 130,000 workers toil in hot weather conditions to tear apart luxury cruises amidst toxic chemicals, oil and asbestos.

The good news is that IndustriALL affiliates in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are organizing workers and fighting for living wages and proper health and safety conditions.

IndustriALL will continue to campaign for the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention and for making shipbreaking jobs safe and sustainable.

In the electronics sector, I am impatient to see our Malaysian affiliates tap into the potential of organizing many more of the 350,000 people working without representation or with a tame in-house union.

Change is an omnipresent, dynamic element in our industries. Production methods develop and industries move from one country to another, in the search of new markets and higher profit margins.

Check out how the South African Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has coped with the challenge of cheap imports, turning the tide from job losses into the creation of new employment, while maintaining strong industry level collective bargaining.

No wonder that IndustriALL’s black t-shirts like mine in the photo are proudly made by SACTWU members in factories that pay a living wage.

But another industrial change is underway, the fourth industrial revolution coined as Industry 4.0. It talks about smart production, robots carrying out complex tasks without the need for human involvement. There will be need for more high-skilled workers, but low-skilled may lose out.

It is clearly time for reflection, research and action. We want to be ready for another form of just transition.

For that, we need a new generation of union leaders. Have a look at IndustriALL’s wonderful youth project in Latin America, which helps to grow labour leaders of the future, many of them women.

We have seen that young workers of today understand the challenges of a globalized world, and suggest innovative ways of organizing and mobilizing workers.

So let us combine the strengths of experienced trade unionists with the enthusiasm of young workers to create stronger and more dynamic unions.

Otherwise, the youth may just throw us old guys out, and perhaps rightly so.

Jyrki Raina

General Secretary