Friday, April 25, 2014

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 30 (The International Trade Federations)

This picture has been taken during the 100 year CMV anniversary in Duisburg, Germany in October 1999. It shows part of the European network in which the CGM was and is operating. We see WFIW President Jaap Wienen (now dep. secretary general ITUC) and  his successor WFIW President Bart Bruggeman, both from the CNV  Bedrijvenbond. Rolf Weber from KRIFA was also present. We see also former CGM President Siegfried Ehret.

The International Trade Action of the WCL has a complicated history because of the diversity of its actors. The 8 International Trade Federations (ITF's) - WFCW ( banking, insurance and other private sector services) , WFEW ( education) , INFEDOP / EUROFEDOP (officials in public service) , WFIW (industrial workers ) , WFCW (construction & wood) , IFTC ( textile workers ) , FEMTAA ( agriculture and food ) and FIOST (transport and communication workers) had a life of their own with their own statutes, world congress, world board etc. The finances came for the most part of their European members. In some ITF's, mostly Belgian , Dutch and French trade unions paid high dues, in others also members from Austria , Germany , Canada and Denmark .

On the other hand, the ITF's paid also dues to the the WCL in proportion to the number of members. This structural bond with WCL led to a certain degree of centralized policy or should I say more euphemistically a policy of coordination. The ITF's maintained a lot of autonomy and did not always accept the common strategy of the WCL. You could say that there was a certain kind of anarchy which was more or less supervised by the WCL.

For example, the ITF's ignored the new member policy of the WCL. While the WCL refused to allow the German Christian Trade union Confederation CGB and the Danish Trade Union Confederation KRIFA to the WCL, members of these confederations were welcome at the WFIW, the WFCW, the IFTC and EUROFEDOP. This meant that in this way, the WCL International Trade Federations still guaranteed a certain trade union pluralism in Europe. In the meantime both confederations mentioned here were fiercely attacked by the social-democratic oriented trade unions in their country.

This picture of the European Council of the WFCW gives an idea of the European WFCW Network with members of many European countries. 1.Krifa President Stig Mogens (Denmark),2. Ernst Gfrerrer FCG-GPA(Austria) 3. WFCW Treasurer Charles Steck (Swiss), 4.  FCG-GPA President Walter Zwiehauer (Austria), 5.  Secretary General FCG-GPA Richard Paiha (Austria), 6. EO/WFCW President Ivo Psenner (Austria), 7. DHV President Jorge Hebsacker (Germany)

In Germany, the mighty German trade union confederation DGB fed the rumor that CGB members are not only conservative but would even have a Nazi past. The attacks were also structural. IG Metall ( affiliated to the DGB) tried to get the Christian Metal Trade Union CGM (affiliated to CGB) to its knees by challenging in court again and again that they had no right to sign collective agreements in companies like Volkswagen, Audi etc. At last the CGM got justice, but at a high price because of the high costs of litigation in terms of money and energy.

The Danish social democratic LO not only portrayed the Danish Christian Trade Union Confederation KRIFA as a conservative trade union but also as an anti – trade union because they would not recognize the right to strike. Indeed, KRIFA does not consider the strike as a weapon in the fight for better working conditions but that does not mean that they deny other trade unions the right to strike . That 's a nuance that was lost in the struggle for trade union monopoly by the LO .

The Danish Social Democratic LO also put pressure on the leadership of the Belgian ACV by pointing out that admission of the Danish KRIFA into the WCL would affect the position of the Belgium Christian Trade Union Confederation ACV in the European Trade Union ETUC. At a meeting of the WCL European Section (October 1996) ACV chairman Willy Peirens, also WCL president, vetoed the affiliation of KRIFA to the WCL because of its anti-strike position. Meanwhile in its own country KRIFA had to compete against the "pre-entry closed shop system" (“A pre-entry closed shop is a form of union security agreement under which the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed.”) that was used by LO Denmark and through which members of KRIFA were excluded from jobs.
Picture of a board meeting of the European Organization of the World Organzation of Workers (the former WFCW in the WOW office in Brussels (2012). From left to right: FCG GPA President Wolfgang Pischinger (Austria) , BOFOS President Mara Erdelj (Serbia), CGM President Adalbert Ewen (Germany), WFCW treasurer Rolf Weber (Denmark), WOW Executive Secretary Bjorn van Heusden (Netherlands), WOW President Roel Rotshuizen (Netherlands), Former CGM President Reinhardt Schiller, EO/WOW President Guenther Trausznitz (Austria).

The trade union monopoly of the LO Denmark is mainly based on this principle of pre-entry closed shop, that dates back to the early industrial era and is based on the idea that the employer is by nature the enemy of his employees. The KRIFA premise and that of other Christian unions does not agree with this idea. Employers and employees in a company can indeed have opposing interests but ultimately both have a common interest in the survival of the company. After much social struggle this idea has become the heart for what we call now "the Social Dialogue" After a lot of court precedents in Denmark, KRIFA was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg, which ruled that the pre-entry closed shop is contrary to Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights:

Article 11 – Freedom of assembly and association

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
( See: EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS , 11.1.2006 ,Press release issued by the Registrar , GRAND CHAMBERJUDGMENT SØRENSEN & RASMUSSEN v. DENMARK ).

However, the ruling of the European Court did not end the conflict with the LO Denmark. Trade union members of LO Denmark continue to try to force members of KRIFA to leave their job by bullying.

In practice this meant that the WCL was blocked to affiliate potential new Western European members what de facto meant a weakening of the WCL. So the European trade union unity started slowly but surely to ask its price from the Christian trade unions. Meanwhile some ITF's were also weakened by the departure of strong European members in order to become a member of the social-democratic oriented International Trade Union Federations.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Piet
    Again you clear and objectively gives us a insight in the world of Trade Unionism. Yhank You for your contribution. Rolf Weber, Krifa, Denmark