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JYRKI RAINA: Welcome to Global Worker

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21 May, 2014“Too many corporations and governments actively oppose workers’ demands for fairness and social justice.”


Building power through networks and GFAs

Union networks in the auto industries and the global framework agreement with garment giant Inditex are helping to defend union rights of millions of workers.

The Action Plan of IndustriALL Global Union commits us to building genuine union power by uniting workers in networks for solidarity and joint action, including global level corporate campaigns. The Plan calls for more global framework agreements (GFA) with multinational companies, and for World Works Councils recognized by the employers.

Unions in the automotive industry have been at the forefront of this strategy. In this issue of Global Worker we highlight the developments in the auto sector where the first union networks were set up in the late 1960’s.

Today, global union networks are up and running at a number of German, French, US and Japanese car giants. At Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Peugeot Citroën, Renault, Daimler, BMW, Volvo and Bosch, the management has recognized the network or World Works Council, and covers the costs of regular meetings.

As Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and co-chair of IndustriALL’s automotive section points out, unions are building solidarity in new and innovative ways. IndustriALL affiliates from Japan, Brazil, South Africa and many other countries have supported UAW’s organizing drive at Nissan in Mississippi.

IndustriALL president Berthold Huber emphasizes the role of global framework agreements in securing workers’ rights throughout the supply chain. Violations of union rights occur often, especially in supplier and subcontracting companies.

This is why our GFA with Inditex is so ground- breaking. The Spanish clothing giant hardly has any production of its own, but its suppliers employ a million workers in China, Bangladesh, Brazil and many other countries. They are all covered by the agreement.

In our feature, we tell how the GFA hasbeen turned from paper into a living reality. We have managed to get hundreds of dismissed workers reinstated in Turkey and Cambodia. Together Inditex and IndustriALL have trained union representatives and managers in a pilot project in Turkey. Now we will expand training to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and China, with the support of specifically hired coordinators.

With networks and GFAs, IndustriALLwants to create conditions for organizing and growth, to build union power that will help to improve the wages and working conditions of workers. Ensuring freedom of association is therefore fundamental.

As we see in this Global Worker, wherever unions can operate, they are making  a difference for the benefit of peopl e,both in terms of decent income andsocial protection. IndustriALL affiliates are mobilizing for continued minimum wage increases, universal health care and pensions in Indonesia; living wages in Cambodia; and for fundamental rights in the countries of the ex-Soviet Union.

Too many corporations and governments actively oppose workers’ demands for fairness and social justice. That is why it will always be a struggle.

Jyrki Raina

General Secretary