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Young trade union leaders strengthen union action through international exchange

25 July, 2023From 17 to 21 July, 24 young trade union leaders from South America participated in the third trade union exchange program at IG Metall's training center in Sprockhövel, Germany. The exchange emphasized the importance of collective struggle for better working conditions and the development of action plans to strengthen trade union organizations.

Supported by the FES (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung), the program focused on studying the German trade union system and IG Metall's structure.
Over the course of a week, the participants delved into the features of the German trade union system, with a specific focus on IG Metall's organizational structure, mirroring previous years' examination of the Argentinean and Brazilian models.

Facilitated by a team of educators and trade union experts from IndustriALL and IG Metall, the program emphasized a comparative approach, allowing young leaders to gain insights into various worker representation models and trade union practices across the three countries.
Particular interest was shown in the German system of co-determination, involving works councils, and the dual training system for apprentices. These achievements were acknowledged as the result of trade union organizations' collective struggles for improved working conditions, rather than mere luck or employer goodwill.
An essential aspect of the exchange program was the development and implementation of trade union action plans aimed at organizing young workers within their respective workplaces. Throughout the three-year program, participants worked on these action plans, and during the final day of the exchange, they shared the outcomes and implementation status of their initiatives.
The action plans displayed a wide array of approaches, tailored to the unique realities, needs, and resources of each participating union. Some unions organized football tournaments accompanied by discussions on the union's mission and purpose, while others focused on empowering women workers through training seminars or improving their daily lives with dedicated women's changing rooms.

Additionally, some unions concentrated on establishing trade union schools and training seminars to equip their members with knowledge about workers' rights and labour laws.
Despite the varying methods, the ultimate objective of all the action plans remained the same - to strengthen the trade union organizations to which the participants belonged.
Participants unanimously agreed that, regardless of the context in which they operate, the core struggle remains the same. They acknowledged that language might separate them, but their shared commitment to advancing workers' rights and advocating for better conditions unites them.

The program not only fostered mutual understanding but also promoted camaraderie among young trade union leaders across borders.

“Over the course of 12 years, this exchange program has been instrumental in fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing among young trade union leaders from South America and IG Metall. Many past participants have risen to prominent positions within their respective unions, serving as general secretaries, presidents, and international secretaries.

The program's success has demonstrated the significance of international exchanges in strengthening trade unions and building a global network of young leaders committed to advocating for workers' rights and social justice”

said Sarah Flores IndustriALL´s global youth coordinator.