Education International
Education International

Speech by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary and Chair of the Conference of the Global Union Federations at the founding congress of the ITUC in Vienna, Austria

published 1 November 2006 updated 1 November 2006

Below is the speech made by EI General Secretary and Chair of the Conference of the Global Union Federations at the founding congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) currently being held in Vienna, Austria.


Organising for the Future Fred van Leeuwen Chair, Conference of Global Union Federations and General Secretary, Education International

Brothers, Sisters,

Three years ago, in Miyazaki city, Guy said “The status quo is not an option”. By moving to found the new International Confederation, we have shown, all of us, that we share that view. More than that, we show today, that we share a vision – a vision for the future.

We share a vision of a quest for social justice, dignity and equality, we share a vision for an end to the oppression of poverty, for the full development of every human being, and the building of our communities.

We share a vision of states and of enterprises that serve the interests of people – not the other way round. And to achieve that shared vision, we know we must organise. Organise as we always have done.

But organise for the future. Organise for a future that is uncertain, that may be filled with peril, but has also the seeds of opportunity. The decision to create the ITUC is a major step towards organising for the future. This Founding Congress will be invited to take another step, to ratify the creation of a Global Unions Council comprising the ITUC, the Global Union Federations for each sector of employment, and the Trade Union Advisory Committee at the OECD (TUAC).

This council will be a partnership for growth and action. It will be an instrument an instrument for solidarity, mobilization, joint advocacy and campaigns. It grows out of a shared commitment to the ideals and principles of the trade union movement. It is based upon a common determination to organise, to defend human rights and labour standards everywhere, and to promote the growth of trade unions for the benefit of all working men and women and their families.

This council will build on the values that kept us together, first as ITSs, after as GUFs in the same family. Those values have kept us together through changes, through mergers. And we have worked more and more closely together. In some of our sectors, we have already established integration with our counterparts from the WCL family. In the case of education, woodworking and construction, that integration has already been achieved – and achieved with success and I dare say, to the satisfaction of all concerned. In other sectors, discussions are continuing.

The GUFs have always been clear about their autonomy – working together in the family as autonomous, independent organizations. But we also – in our majority – see the need for coordinating our work, together with the ITUC and the TUAC, and we know that view is shared by our colleagues from our WCL counterparts. We know the prospect of a Global Unions Council was one of the important pieces as discussions moved towards the agreement to found the new ITUC. But more than that, we share a conviction, a conviction expressed forcefully and frequently that we must work better together.

How to achieve that common aim has indeed been the subject of lot of debates. I am convinced that the Global Unions Council is the key forward – bringing autonomous organizations together to organise for the future.

I urge all delegates to give a massive vote of support for the ratification of the Global Unions Council. Let us all move forward – and true to the values of our movement, let us do it together.