Education International
Education International

New Global Trade Union Centre to be formed

published 1 July 2005 updated 1 July 2005

The ICFTU [1] Executive Board, meeting in Brussels 21-22 June, took the historic decision to hold a special Congress in 2006 to form a new Global Trade Union Centre. The meeting was chaired by the new ICFTU President, Sharan Burrow, a former Vice-President of EI.

General Secretary Guy Ryder reported on progress in negotiations with the WCL [2] to unify the two Confederations, following decisions taken by the ICFTU Congress in Miyazaki, Japan last December. This unification process is aimed at more than a structural merger of two Confederations. It is part of moves to install a new dynamism in the international trade union movement at a time when globalization poses dramatic challenges for people everywhere. The new centre will be the global advocate for over 170 million working people in some 160 countries around the world. In addition, discussions are underway with a “contact group” of trade union centres from 10 countries which are currently not affiliated to either the ICFTU or the WCL, as these organizations are expected to join the new centre. As in the case of the negotiations which brought about the creation of EI in 1993, it is the aim of the parties to build a new organization that will be “more than the sum of its parts”. The new centre will aim at organizing workers in the rapidly growing informal economy, as well as the traditional sectors of industry and services. Measures will be taken to strengthen the participation of women (40 percent of today’s ICFTU membership) and young people. A new constitution is being drafted, with explicit references to be included on the informal economy, decent work and education and training for young workers. The new centre, like the ICFTU, will be composed of national trade union centres. But it is the intention that cooperation be strengthened with the 10 Global Union Federations including EI, representing employees in the major sectors of industry and services. It is generally recognized that the agreement of July 2004 between EI and WCT helped to set the ICFTU-WCL talks in motion. In the case of WCL, there are 8 trade federations, which form part of the WCL structure. As the current chair of the GUF General Conference, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, is playing a key role in consultations aimed at achieving more effective cooperation between 10 autonomous sectoral federations and the new Global Centre. Another global union partner is the Trade Union Advisory Committee at the OECD (TUAC), bringing together the national trade union centres affiliated to ICFTU and WCL in the 30 OECD member countries from Europe, North America and Asia. ICFTU and WCL have three regional organizations – for Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the Americas – requiring detailed negotiations in each case. ICFTU and WCL affiliates are already part of the European Trade Union Council, ETUC, which represents working people at the European Union. Discussion is underway on the role of ETUC in the new “architecture”, maintaining its important role in negotiations with the EU. At the same time, provision must be made for European members outside the EU, such as the countries of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. At the conclusion of an extensive debate, the Board resolved to set in motion the process for conveying a special congress in 2006 to dissolve the ICFTU and to convene jointly with the WCL a congress to form the new global centre. Work programs But the work of the ICFTU cannot be put on hold while waiting for the creation of the new centre. The Board adopted proposals from the General Secretary for action to follow-up the resolutions adopted at the Miyazaki Congress. There will be 7 special action programs, including support of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), and 8 core programs, including action to end child labour. China There was much debate over relations with China, with a general consensus in favor of maintaining contacts with the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), without recognizing it as an independent organization eligible for membership in ICFTU or its successor, and continuing to maintain pressure on Multi National Corporations (MNCs) investing in China. There were also reports from the recent ILO Conference, from the Women and Youth Committees and from the regional organizations: AFRO for Africa, ORIT for the Americas and APRO for Asia and the Pacific, as well as from two coordinating committees on Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The next Executive Board meeting will be held in Hong Kong, 10-11 December 2005, just prior to the Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. For more information, please visit: The ICFTU website: www.icftu.org The WCL website: www.cmt-wcl.org