Thursday, January 22, 2015


A happy reunion at breakfast.

International trade union seminars are serious, tiring and sometimes boring. A whole day of sitting, listening and debating is never easy, but for trade unionists it is very difficult. Nevertheless, there is laughter, jokes made and celebration of friendship and collegiality. This can be seen in the pictures of the international trade union seminar of the Latin American Coordinadora consisting of three trade union sector Federations ( banks and insurances, journalists, commerce and informal economy), all member of the International World Organization of Workers WOW. The seminar took place in the Chilean capital Santiago.

Besides the professional training, seminars strengthen the links between the trade union leaders who live and work scattered throughout the huge continent of Latin America and the Caribbean. Maybe this function of strengthening mutual bonds between trade union leaders is as important as the training function of such seminars. Contrary to Europe, trade union work in Latin America and the Caribbean is still difficult, arduous, not recognized by Governemnets or Employers and sometimes even dangerous.

Picture with instructions

In many countries you have to dare because sometimes trade union work can be very dangerous work. Not so much life threatening, which unfortunately occurs too often, but mostly because authorities and / or employers threaten you, intimidate or create other ways to make your work difficult or even impossible. In such difficult times it is good to have not only colleagues in your own country but also abroad. You know that like you, they are going on with their work in spite all these problems.

Such international seminars therefore works encouraging and motivating. You know you are not alone. There are others, friends and colleagues who support you. In case of emergency, they are also willing to set up international support actions. The latter makes international trade union activities very important.

A selfie made by someone else 

Despite or perhaps because of the severity of the meetings and seminars, there is also time for friendship and fun. Relaxing not only from the daily trade union work, but also from the seminar itself. Because on such seminars one talks about uncomfortable topics such as unemployment, the impact of the global economic crisis, the growing informalisation of the economy, the breakdown of social services, the uneven distribution of incomes, the poor social dialogue with employers and government etc. etc. It is for the participants important to learn about what solutions trade unions from other countries have or what experts can teach you about the problems. All this together are valuable experiences and information that you can use in your own country.

It is not always exciting what you hear.

Such seminars are of course expensive. Just only the flight tickets are already expensive in such a vast continent as Latin America. Then there are the accommodation costs and expenses for the seminar itself. Especially translation systems and translators make a seminar extra expensive. In Latin America, where Spanish and Portuguese speakers usually understand each other without a translator so you do not need translation systems. That is why costs are lower than for example for a European seminar. Even the trade unionists from Curacao and Aruba speak fluent Spanish.

A hug (abrazo) among qualified eyes during graduation

In Europe, the European Commission gives grants for the high translation costs, as well as payment of travel and subsistence expenses and the hiring of experts. In Africa, Latin America and Asia, such arrangements do not exist at all. So there the participating unions themselves have to pay the costs or appeal to the international trade union movement.

A hug for everybody

Usually it is a combination of both: self-financing and financial support from the international organization. For example, the participating unions pay the travel expenses of their representatives to the place of the seminar. The local trade union, which does not have travel expenses, pays all or part of the hotel costs. The international trade union adds to this budget what is still needed. The international trade union therefore is the axis around which operates the international trade union network which makes possible international seminars and other activities. The international trade union movement is a practical form of international solidarity

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