Published: 09/08/2010

On March 31/April 1, 2011, over 100 participants from IUF affiliates discussed approaches to increasing and activating membership and building global bargaining power, and the role of the IUF in supporting and coordinating organizing at international level. The meeting discussed the possibilities, preconditions, and forms of targeted international organizing initiatives as well as the question how affiliates, through the IUF, could support each other in building organizing capacity.


The following recommendations were worked out by multilingual working groups as a basis for further discussion within the organization:


1. An international organizing initiative


An international organizing initiative would be understood as coordinated joint set of actions/activities towards a defined sector / company in order to increase union density and global bargaining power in the respective sector/company.


To establish an international organizing initiative and make it successful we would need to include the following elements:


    • Coordinate and pool research capacities to analyse companies and sectors globally, including analysis of existing union density and current struggles and issues.


    • Based on this research define joint targets


    • Setting up organising plan(s) and develop strategies to ensure real improvement of working conditions in the selected target, and IUF recognition at global level


    • Identify joint issues for workers in the selected target


    • Spread information about the organising campaign within affiliates


    • Ensure buy-in and commitment from members including at the workplace level (Education of existing union members about the impact of TNCs on their sectors, economies and people’s lives in general to get their buy in for international organising)


    • Build networks of workers and affiliates


    • Organising across borders:


    • find pressure points


    • Build a shared sense of rights.


    • Local organising taking into consideration national rules and situation


    • Coordinate local initiatives, struggles to increase global power & leverage: set up coordination within companies (shop stewards network)


    • Define resources needed and where to get them (people and material)


    • International solidarity action in case of attacks against organising union or escalation of issues


    • Take into consideration national and regional differences when planning I.O.I’s


    • IUF bodies need to be able to make decisions on organizing targets in all sectors (model of trade groups, steering groups?)


    • Develop strategies to organize along supply chains and facilitate contact with consumers



2. Building our capacity and networks


The conference also discussed how affiliates could increase coordination on building organizing capacities and the role of the International Secretariat in supporting this process.


2. a – Need for change


IUF affiliates find themselves in diverse situations and have defined for themselves various elements of change they needed to enable in order to increase organizing capacity. Among elements of change named at the conference were the following:


Affiliates discussed also what they thought needed to change at respective national and international levels in order to support organising:


    • Build a proactive organizing program


    • Educate members and officials about organizing and change


    • Organize non union workplaces


    • Develop the resources to organise, and dedicating specific resources to organise


    • Allocate funds for organizing


    • Change union fee structures and increase fees


    • Change to become more of a participatory union where members are more involved


    • Make contact with workers through home and workplace visits and being more active at the workplace


    • Build trade union education and awareness amongst young people


    • Organize new and migrant workers


    • Develop organisers and workplace leaders, including young leaders


    • Build networks of organizers


    • Transparent leadership


    • Develop sector based structures


    • Educate workers about impact of TNCs


    • Dedicate more time to developing international strategies


    • Transition of thinking from ‘charitable’ approach to global campaigns to understanding of self interest in organizing internationally



2. b Support from each other and the IUF to build organizing capacity.


Based on the challenges identifies, affiliates discussed what would be needed in terms of mutual support and exchange and in terms of coordination from the IUF in order to build and extend organizing capacities:


    • Support for training on organizing, corporate research, campaigning, training for trainers, technology, how to effectively use the internet and how to interpret cultural differences


    • Training exchange between affiliates


    • Support to develop organizing culture within unions


    • Development of translation and interpretation capacity to facilitate communication


    • Development of internal strength at already unionized workplaces


    • Exchange of information to communicate experiences of organizing


    • Building an organiser’s network using electronic media


    • Networks and Alliances-more worker to worker communication and exchange across borders


    • Officer exchange to facilitate understanding of different cultures and environment


    • Build joint communication structures




3. Solidarity and Support


It was highlighted that the strength of international unionism is in global solidarity, that is support for each other in cases of attacks against unions, and in joint coordinated action:


    • Coordinated local initiatives and struggles to increase global power & leverage


    • International solidarity action in case of attacks against organising union or escalation of issues



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