Friday, May 2, 2014


Dirk Uyttenhoven (standing right) was elected at the WCL Congress in 1993 as Executive Secretary of the WCL Trade Action Secretariat. I was already working at the WCL since the 1 of January 1992. Sitting are Kelfallah (left) and Gbessy, both staff members of the DOAWTU training and education centre FOPADESC in Lomé, Togo.  CNV Aktie Kom Over made financially possible the African Trade Action secretariat.  The picture has been made in December 1995 during an official visit at the WCL Trade Action Secretariat in Brussels.

Looking for an answer to the weakening of the WCL International Trade Federations ITF's as the result of switching of strong European WCL trade unions towards the Global Unions (Food, Metal and UNI), the WCL Congress in Mauritius (1993) decided to strengthen its Secretariat for Trade Action STA. Hence Dirk Uyttenhoven, from the department of education and training of the Belgian ACV Textile and Clothing trade union, was elected on the Congress as a full-time Executive Secretary of the STA. From then on the STA had about one and a half Executive Secretaries.

The regional seminar and Congress of FELATRABS, the Latin American Federation of Bank and Insurance Workers, was my first experience as Executive Secretary of the WFCW. It was held in september 1995 at the Workers University UTAL in San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela. 

The presidents of the International Trade Federations ( ITF 's ) considered one and a half full-time Executive Secretaries as insufficient . Therefore, the Commission for Trade Action CTA (consisting of the presidents of the ITF's and the General Secretary of the WCL ) talked for over a year about a 'Protocol for Trade Action' . After one and a half year , such a Protocol was signed by WCL General Secretary Carlos Custer and President of the Commission Trade Action CTA Michel Bovy. It was agreed that the Secretariat would consist of two full-time Executive Secretaries , one full-time and one part-time administrative assistant . The WCL would provide logistical support to the Trade Action Secretariat such as translations, accounting, printing, office, etc. Meanwhile EUROFEDOP / INFEDOP (public services) kept his full-time General Secretary in the person of Bert van Caelenberg, who had his own small, fully equipped secretariat, separated of the WCL Trade Secretariat. The WCT (teachers) replaced in the course of time its retired General Secretary Roger Denis (who was also functioning more or less as a WCL Confederal Secretary) by the full-time delegate Gaston De La Haye as Secretary general.

WFCW President Roel Rotshuizen (right) with Nebeyu Shone, head of the CNV Aktie Kom Over and World Solidarity Liaison office for Africa, in Cotonou, Benin in February 1996. It was the first official visit of a WFCW delegation to the African continent, visiting trade unions of clerical, banking and commercial workers in Benin, Togo and Ghana. The goal of the visit was to support the foundation of the regional African trade union federation for employees FPE.

The full-time administrative assistant was contracted, but otherwise everything remained the same because of lack of money and possibilities and so the Executive Secretaries had to improvise in time and prioritization. Also in the field of cooperation between the International Federations and the WCL everything remained the same. The International Federations went on as before, without much more cooperation and policy coordination with the WCL. Sometimes this brought tensions between the WCL Secretariat and the Trade Action Secretariat but thanks to the benevolent attitude of general secretary Carlos Custer relations remained good.

The Asian Regional Federation ABCW (Asian Brotherhood of Clerical Workers) was founded with support of BATU, the WFCW, CNV Aktie Kom Over and Necie Lucero as President of a Banking Union in the Phillipines. This picture has been taken in the year 1996.

A special case was the International Federation for Agriculture and Food trade unions FEMTAA. The switch of the CNV and ACV food trade unions from FEMTAA towards the Global Union UITA, had as a consequence that FEMTAA henceforth only existed in name. WCL General Secretary Carlos Custer found this unacceptable because of the importance of the agricultural sector in Third World Countries. He invited the former trade union leader José Gomez Cerda from the Dominican Republic, who lived for family reasons in Belgium, to rebuild the FEMTAA on a volontary basis. At the request of Carlos Custer the Trade Action Secretariat supported this attempt to revive the FEMTAA as much as possible.

In March 1995 a seminar and World Congress was held in the UTAL, San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela with the aim to reconstruct the FEMTAA. Second from left José Gomez Cerda who was elected as Secretary General of FEMTAA. 

Thanks to the efforts of Jose Gomez was held what you might call a rebuilding World Congress of FEMTAA in March 1995 in the Workers University UTAL, San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela. At the Congress José Gomez Cerda was elected as General Secretary. The former CFTC President Guy Drillaud (France) was elected President of FEMTAA. During the World Congress, the newly joined food workers trade union of Cartel alfa, led by chairman Adrian Cojocaru, was prepared to support the FEMTAA with a significant annual contribution. However, this was not sufficient for financing the costs of the secretariat and the necessary activities, with the result an ongoing search for additional funds.

Photo of all the participants on the FEMTAA Seminar and World Congress, march 1995, UTAL San Antonio de los Altos, Venezuela.

Through organizations such as CNV Aktie Kom Over, World Solidarity, the WCL Solidarity Fund and the ILO, various activities could be funded. But it was much more difficult or virtually impossible to fund the Secretariat in Brussels. One solution could be to move the FEMTAA secretariat to one of the continents. The most obvious was to move it towards Latin America where CLAT had built a solid infrastructure with the Workers University UTAL in San Antonio near the Venezuelan capital Caracas. For unknown reasons, CLAT did not support this proposal with the result that the FEMTAA secretariat continuously had budget deficits, which had to be completed with the help of international institutions for solidarity and/or international development.

Meanwhile, the continental organizations BATU (Asia), CLAT (Latin America) and DOAWTU (Africa) contributed to the strengthening of their existing regional trade federations or supporting the creation of a new federation . Of course the ITF's contributed to this, each in its own way and according to its available resources. Thanks to a special trade action program of CNV Aktie Kom Over and project-support of World Solidarity funds were available . However, the question of the autonomy of the regional federations was never worked out . For the International Federations the regional trade federations were independent, autonomous members with their own structures, programs, funds etc . In contrast, the continental confederations BATU, CLAT and DOAWTU were somewhat reluctant to accept the idea of independent and autonomous trade federations. They insisted on a more centralized policy and decision-making procedures. However a profound strategic discussion of this important issue never got off the ground . The two sides, the ITF's and the continental organizations, made ​​the best of it and that was what it was.

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