Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Emilio Gabaglio, as one of the architects of the ITUC because of his role as 
a mediator between WCL and the ICFTU and promotor of unity,
was one of the very important speakers
at the ITUC founding congress in Vienna 2006.

Because of the lack of coordination between the WCL Secretariat and the International Trade Federations, 4 of them ( WFCW, INFEDOP, FIOST and IFTC) decided to write “an open letter”(July 2005)  (also in Germen, Dutch, Spanish and French) to the WCL, as to put pressure on the Secretariat, to negotiate with more conviction and firmness about the position of the ITF's. They prepared also a “Declaration of WCL Trade Action” (also in 5 languages) to be presented during the WCL Congress in November 2005 in Belgium.

 President Fritz Neugebauer (Austria) signed on behalf of INFEDOP/EUROFEDOP
both the letter and the resolution. INFEDOP./EUROFEDOP  is one of the 
two former WCL  International Trade Federations that dit not merge with the 
ICFTU oriented International Trade Secretariat PSI.

Millions of workers will get homeless at trade union level

The two large world trade unions (World Confederation of Labour and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) have been discussing for months the creation of a new World Organisation. Their intention is inspired by the fact that, in a world that is globalising more and more, workers need a world organisation that can act as a counterforce and can aim for the realisation of a world society in which there is more justice and more solidarity. In this way, the WCL and ICFTU also want to improve the representativeness of the trade union movement worldwide by organising a maximum number of trade union members worldwide.

Until recently, all organisations affiliated to the WCL started from the conviction that trade union pluralism, effectively realised through the operation of at least two world organisations, was the best guarantee to achieve this objective. It was only at the Confederal Board in Casablanca in October 2004 that it was decided to start discussions with the ICFTU, and this on the basis of a number of conditions that had to ensure that the historic values of the WCL would be preserved, respect would be shown for the WCL and its affiliated members and the principle of pluralism would be effectively subscribed to on the ground.

In this context, the confederal board adhered jointly and unanimously to two conditions that were of particular importance for the WCL’s Trade Action : “A dynamic and structural anchored cooperation has to be established between trade action and inter-trade action. A coordination of trade action beside the inter-trade organisation is considered counterproductive.”

This condition was decided by the Confederal Board, because it was the explicit wish of the latter that an operational link would be maintained between the trade union leadership and the action in the sectors and companies, because a world organisation without members who would be able to strengthen the proposed objectives with their support on the ground, misses the capacity to react quickly and effectively, which is the essence of the trade union movement.
According to the reports that have been meanwhile submitted on the course of the negotiations, no progress whatsoever has been made in this respect.

The idea of a “GUFs Council” is also considered insufficient in this respect, the more so because internal documents have shown that the ICFTU and WCL would have agreed that for each sectoral working field only one professional organisation would be active, and that would be an organisation of the ICFTU family.

All WCL and ICFTU members have the right to become member of the new organisation.”
This condition was drawn up as a safety net for national and trade organisations that, because of national and professional characteristics, would fall between two chairs.

Apparently, the negotiators reached an agreement about the national organisations, but, as regards the trade organisations, they opted for “one sector one union”, the classical ICFTU option.
You understand that, in this context, the signing organisations (FOUR international organisations out of the eight that are full members of the WCL) cannot agree with this state of affairs.

Millions of workers affiliated to the WCL risk to become thus left without trade union home in the world. The signing organisations have consequently decided to do their utmost to support the attitude they will adopt in this respect. It should be clear that this will show in the first place through their voting attitude at the WCL Congress, where they will demand that all conditions decided by the confederal board in Casablanca should be fulfilled.

Moreover, they are considering the possibility of taking necessary action in the margin of the WCL Congress, with a view to informing public opinion of the consequences unification will have for the representativeness of trade unionism at world level. It should be clear that, if the essential conditions for the trade action are not fulfilled, the organisations will no longer consider themselves bound by the other points submitted.

In the meantime, the signing organisations are working at the development of alternatives to continue their involvement in the interests of their members with firm determination, especially if no further progress is made in the negotiations.”

Signed by Michel Bovy, President FIOST (Transport), Roel Rotshuizen WFCW (Employees), Dirk Uyttenhove IFTC (Textile) and Fritz Neugebauer INFEDOP (public services employees).

At the WCL dissolution congress in Vienna 2006,  President Roel Rotshuizen
rejected the merger between WCL and ICFTU on behalf of the former World federation
of Clerical Workers. The WFCW decided to continue as an 

independent International Trade Union Federation with the new name 
World Organization of Workers WOW.

The following Resolution for Orientation, with insertion of the position of the WCL’s Trade Action, was approved by the WCL Congress, with 169 votes in favour, 18 against and 10 abstentions. Herewith the road is open to the creation of a new world confederation.

The International Trade Federations of WCL respect the decision of the Confederal Board of Casablanca, take note of the present state of affairs in the negotiations between WCL and ICFTU and observe the following:

- The structures of WCL and ICFTU differ with regard to the position of Trade Action.
- The draft Constitution of the new world organisation confirms the importance of the greatest possible degree of cohesion and effectiveness within the international trade union movement and the fact that this has resulted in the intention to establish a structural partnership with the international industry federations, the forms and operating methods of which shall be determined in agreement with them.

The International Trade Federations of WCL welcome the fact that the importance of the greatest possible degree of cohesion between the inter-trade and the trade level of trade union functioning is confirmed and wish to be closely involved in the further concretion of this cohesion, both at the world and at the regional level. All the International Trade Federations of WCL state their will to consult with the Global Union Federations on forms of cooperation.

The International Trade Federations of WCL note that in the meantime consultations between them and the Global Union Federations have started in a large number of sectors.

These consultations are taking place on the basis of the autonomous powers of the organisations involved, just like also decisions on cooperation, in whatever form, shall be made on the basis of autonomy.

For the International Trade Federations of WCL it is an established fact that consultations between them and the Global Union Federations shall be based on mutual respect for the organisations involved and for their affiliates.

We note that in the meantime Global Union Federations and the International Trade Federations of WCL from a number of sectors have concluded agreements that will or can lead to a unification of global as well as of regional structures.

In other sectors, however, it must be pointed out that there is an insufficient basis for constructive consultations and that the structural difficulties or the conditional ties beyond the possibilities of the organisations and, very often, a lack of respect for the International Trade Federations of WCL concerned, and their affiliates impedes further overtures.

This can result in serious obstacles to the effective realisation of the intended structural partnership between the inter-trade and the trade level of the world trade union movement.
WCL can and will indeed not accept that parts of WCL are excluded as a consequence of changing structures.

So, a transitional period, and appropriate transitional measures, will be necessary to give the International Trade Federations of WCL and the Global Union Federations from all the sectors in which this is not or insufficiently the case the opportunity to proceed, with due respect for each other’s structure and members, to constructive consultations on forms of cooperation of their choice, taking into account the global process.

The International Trade Federations of WCL state their will to have these consultations and call on the Global Union Federations to give content to this, jointly with them.
The WCTA calls unanimously upon the Global Unions Federations to deepen the initiated dialogue with the respective International Trade Federations and to start a constructive dialogue with the organisations that are not yet committed and to promote this dialogue on the basis of respect of the organisations, their history, their principles and values, their criteria for political action. The joint International Trade Federations of WCL will periodically evaluate the progress and report on it to the Confederal Board.

The Congress is invited to endorse the above-mention position.

The resolution was signed by Timothée Boko, FEMTAA (Food & Agriculture), Fritz Neugebauer, INFEDOP (Public Services Employees), Dirk Uyttenhove, IFTC (Textile & Clothing), Roel Rotshuizen, WFCW (Employees), Claudio Corries, WCT (Teachers), Michel Bovy, FIOST (Transport), Stefaan Vanthourenhout, FMTCM (Building & Wood), Bart Bruggeman, WFIW (Industrial Workers), Carlos Gaitán, Acción Profesional CLAT (Latin America), Ernesto Verceles,Acción Profesional BATU (Asia), Chrysanthe Koffi Zounnadjala, Acción Profesional ODSTA (Africa), Kalina Grzelak, Women

Friday, June 5, 2015

ILO ONFERENCE 2015: a photographic impression

The ILO Conference is still a lot of paperwork. Participants use every corner to store their papers for the day. (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

This friendly Canadian woman collects signatures against all modern forms of slavery. (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

The ILO message in words and pictures. Words from all around the world and an universal image  as developed by Picasso.  (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

Another important and strong ILO message: decent work for youth. (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

This young and nice woman takes care that only authorized persons enter the conference room. (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

The Palais des Nations with all the conference rooms sometimes resembles a labyrinth. (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

Every day for 10 days hundreds of persons -workers, employers and government representatives - gather in the windowless conference rooms (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

Geneva is also a city for very rich people. (Geneva Center)

Workers use every morning and evening public transport to get to the conference in the Palais des Nations or the ILO building. (Fernay-Voltaire, France)

Full bus in the morning between the French border and the ILO building.

Gallery of former ILO Director Generals who helped to build the institution to what it is today: the only tripartite UN agency that takes care of the Social Dialogue between workers, employers and governments worldwide. (ILO Building, Geneva)

Outside the meeting rooms, the participants read, phone and relax a moment during the long meetings. (ILO Building, Geneva)

Some participants are even worried that they do not infect other participants. (Palais des Nations, Geneva)

The ILO building sometimes gives the impression of a labyrinth in which every corner is used for meeting.

But there is also a time for taking a coffee and a snack and some small talk. (ILO Building, Geneva)

Monday, June 1, 2015

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 53 (trade action)

The Board of the World Federation of Industrial Workers at the 4th WFIW Congress held in Doorn, Netherlands, March 2000. WFIW President Jaap Wienen (in the middle) became after the merger of WCL and ICFTU Deputy Secretary General of the ITUC. Before the merger he was WCL Deputy Secretary General charged with Trade Action. To the right of the photo Leon Vanhaudt, WFIW treasurer. Next to him WFIW Secretary general Fons van Genechten.  On the left of the photo Executive Secretary Piet Nelissen. Next to him WFIW Vice President Carlos Gaitan.

The last and most difficult problem for the WCL was the question about what to do with the International Trade Federations (ITF's) during the merger of the WCL and the ICFTU into a new international organisation? One would expect that Deputy Secretary General Jaap Wienen, charged with Trade Action within the WCL secretariat, together with the Presidents of the ITF's had come to a certain kind of common strategy but this was not so much the case. 

The WCL discussion paper limits itself to conclude that “the WCL and the ICFTU Trade Action structures are quite different.” It says that “the WCL Federations -although autonomous in the management of their sectoral policy – are affiliated to the WCL, pay dues and have the right to vote in the Congress and the Confederal Board. Likewise, a vice-president representing Trade Action is elected by the Congress. He chairs the CTA (Trade Action Committee consisting of the presidents of the ITF's) and the WCTA (the World Trade Action Committee) meetings. Within the General Secretariat, there exists a Deputy Secretary General in charge of coordinating Trade Action and fostering the links between the ITF's and the other WCL departments.” (paragraph 3.1).

Within the ICFTU, the ITS (International Trade Secretariats) are completely independent. They pay no dues to the ICFTU and have no right to vote within the decision-making bodies, where they do participate as observers. A couple of years ago, an informal agency called Global Unions was created. It frequently gathers ICFTU and ITS representatives in order to foster coordination among them.” (paragraph 3.2) 

They have also an informal coordination agency: the Global Union Federations (GUF's): “The GUF's are powerful organisations (146 million members), both at the political and financial levels. Sometimes they devise their own inter-trade policy, something that is aberrant in an increasingly globalized economy.” (paragraph 3.3)

In the paper it is said that these ITS's“despite their independency, they follow the ICFTU stand.” Therefore it is not surprising that “the affiliation of national trade federations coming from confederations with no international affiliation ( of France's CGT 12 sectors out of 32 are affiliated to the GUF's) often paves the way for ICFTU membership.” (paragraph 3.4).

The World Congress of the World Federation of Building and Woodworkers WFBW was held in Varna, Bulgaria in may 2004 with 77 delegates from 33 different countries all over the world. 

Years ago trade unions of the ACV-CSC and CNV had already left WCL: “after the 1980's, the trade federations of Belgium CSC (metal, employee, food, some transport sectors, culture) and Holland's CNV (food, metal) left the ITF's and joined the ITS, so as to strengthen their actions, especially vis-à-vis multinational companies.” It is very sad to read that “this evolution mainly led to the marginalisation of the WFAFW (WCL's World Federation for Agricultural and Food Workers), which could not afford deploying its action within the agricultural sector, which is a basic activity in developing countries and where male and female workers are particularly exploited.” (note 8 in the paper)

We can conclude that already since the 1980's the WCL was weakened because of the departure of ACV-CSC and CNV trade federations from the ITF's and their affiliation to the ITS. In a broader sense they became part of the ICFTU policy.

Now, the lack of a clear common vision and coordination between WCL and the ITF's led to a certain kind of divide and rule policy by the ITS's. While the WCL negotiated the merger it left its ITF's without real support.

The first ITF that started to negotiate about a possible merger was the World Confederation of Teachers (WCT) that, as far as I know, tried indeed to establish within Education International (EI) a special WTC platform. At the beginning of the negotiations it was told that such an arrangement of a WCT platform within EI was possible but after a while this possibility for whatever reason disappeared. Now, about 10 years later, there is no sign whatsoever on the EI website that there ever existed a WCT.

With the merger talks in the wood and building sector, between the WFBW and the IFBW, happened more or less the same. The core idea was to safeguard the WCL heritage (see The Downfall of the WCL 48) by way of a special foundation within the new world organisation.

Board members of the Latin American Federation of Industrial and Construction Workers FLATIC. From left to right: Domingo Moreyra, Carlos Gaitan (president), Miriam Berlak, Vicente Carrera and Rolando Arias. June 2004.

The WFBW World Congress in Varna, Bulgaria on the 20th of May 2004 decided to continue with the merger talks. “During the Congress and the seminar it was agreed to continue the process of unity in a new World Sectorial Federation, which allows to participate more strongly at the negotiation tables and agreements with multilateral agencies that impact politics and global economy and multinational companies, who are the ones that impose the economic, productive, and technological conditions of incorporation, investment, employees and consumption. The participation in this United Federation will be based on our identity and participation with the WCL and its regional organisations. Also should be allowed the continuation of national and regional diversity and respect for local particularities.” ( Nueva Epoca, revista de FLATIC, Ano XVIII-No.90, Junio de 2004, page 5)

But there were also some critical remarks made by president Carlos Gaitan of FLATIC (Federacion latinoamericana de Trabajadores de las Industrias y la Construccion): “The procedures onto unity so far has been only European, without sufficient consultation with the other Continents. We believe more participation, information and consultation of the affiliates is essential.” (Nueva Epoca, page 5). The Swiss trade union SYNA represented by treasurer Werner Rindlisbacher was opposed to the merger. 

The BWI website refers to the merger of IFBWW and WFBW. However, a foundation dedicated to the WCL/WFBW heritage does not exist.
At its World Congress in Buenos Aires, on 9 December 2005, the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers (IFBWW) and the World Federation of Building and Wood Workers (WFBW) created a new global union federation, the Building and Wood Workers' International - BWI. The BWI is the Global Union Federation grouping free and democratic unions with members in the Building, Building Materials, Wood, Forestry and Allied sectors. The BWI groups together around 326 trade unions representing around 12 million members in 130 countries. The Headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland. Regional Offices and Project Offices are located in Panama and Malaysia, South Africa, India, Burkina Faso, Curaçao, Chile, Kenya, Russia, Peru, Brazil and Thailand.

The World Federation of Industrial Workers WFIW decided on its World Congress in Dakar, Senegal (July 2005) to start negotiations with the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions ICEM in Brussels. The French CFTC Metal Union and the German CMG Metal Union voted against it. Because the WFIW had no powerful affiliates in terms of money and members like the WFBW with its powerful member ACV-CSC Building and Industries and to a certain extent also CNV Wood and Construction, the negotiations were limited to a collective affiliation.

President Reinhardt Schiller of the German Metal Union CGM together with the CFTC Metal Union refused to support the integration of WFIW in the ICEM. After the merger between WCL and ICFTU the CGM became a member of the World Organization of Workers WOW ( the former World Confederation of Clerical Workers WFCW). Photo taken in Vienna 2012 at the board meeting of the European Organization of WOW 

The German CGM refused the invitation made by WFIW President Bart Bruggeman to be part of this collective affiliation. CGM President Reinhardt Schiller did not believe that it is possible to have a fair cooperation with the socialist trade unions. According to his view, at the start you get some qualified positions but after a few years the majority will go back to business as usual which means that as a minority must follow socialist policies.

The WFIW Board at the Dissolution Congress, June 2007. 
From left to right: Justin Daerden; Carlos Gaitan (Vice-President); Italo Rodomonti (Secretary General); Bart Bruggeman (President); Manfred Warda (ICEM); Achille Dutu and Romuald Nuwopke.

On the website of the International Federation 'Industriall' you find the following text on the WFIW Dissolution Congress:
"The World Federation of Industry Workers (WFIW) held its Dissolution World Congress in Houffalize, Belgium, on 14 June 2007. The 80 participants at this historic meeting, from 25 countries, unanimously took the decision to integrate the WFIW structures into the ICEM, a process which will be finalised at the ICEM's 4th World Congress in November 2007 in Bangkok.
The WFIW is one of the International Trade Federations formerly affiliated to the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), the international trade union confederation which, together with the former ICFTU, recently merged to create the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
The Dissolution Congress, with ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda present, was just one step in a longer process to prepare the WFIW’s integration into the ICEM.(...) WFIW General Secretary Italo Rodomonti said he strongly believes that “after the integration of the WFIW members into the ICEM, pluralism within the international trade union confederation will form a firm basis for a stronger international trade union federation.” The Dissolution Congress elected Italo Rodomonti, as well as Achille Dutu from Romania, as future ICEM Presidium members. Brazil's Wilson Wanderlei Viera and Alphonse Beya Tshimbu from the Democratic Republic of Congo were elected to become ICEM Executive Committee members."