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Lively debate strengthens IndustriALL’s trade union networks and GFAs

18 October, 2012IndustriALL Global Union affiliates confirm their commitment on trade union networks and global framework agreements (GFAs), after lively and substantive debates at a thematic world conference in Frankfurt.

The conference was in unanimous agreement on the importance of trade union networks as central tools to build trade union power and solidarity. While some networks have been born out of struggle and are a long way away from culminating in a GFA, others have operated well in certain regions but encountered communications and inclusion challenges elsewhere.

IndustriALL President Berthold Huber opened the conference. “Our central task is to enforce minimum social standards in order to make globalization more humane. We are negotiating with companies on Global Framework Agreements so as to implement minimum conditions in all locations of the company and in their supply chains,” he said.

On the issue of trade union networks, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Ozkan added, “We must strategically choose target companies for building networks and genuine global union solidarity. Then the global union should be able create the infrastructure with the full involvement of affiliates as the real owners of the network.”

Experience and policy differs between member trade unions regarding GFAs and the thematic conference was important in developing ways forward for IndustriALL to strengthen practices that improve existing agreements and the process of signing new ones.

The conference identified some problems around the joint ownership of agreements and the need for a more inclusive, transparent standardized process to establish new agreements.

The conference reached unanimous agreement on a number of clear recommendations to the IndustriALL Executive Committee to be held in December. The recommendations include:

  • strict minimum standards for any new GFA to be considered;
  • principles of democratic and inclusive processes in negotiating new agreements;
  • the establishing of a standing working group on GFAs to follow closely the development of new and existing agreements and make recommendations to the Executive Committee;
  • the commitment of resources, action and campaign support for trade union networks which are a key priority for IndustriALL; and
  • the need to continue to push for recognition from employers for formalized networks or World Works Councils.

Also, IndustriALL will now structure its world sector conferences differently and couple them with breakout company specific meetings. Identified target company networks will be built and developed through this new practice.

The conference was successful in clarifying areas that need improvement in the GFA and trade union network activity of IndustriALL, and was successful in reaching agreed proposals to make those improvements.

The world conference was held upon invitation of IG Metall on 17-18 October in Frankfurt, with around 150 participants from more than 30 countries, representing all regions and industrial sectors, with FES support.