Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 47 (federalization and pluralism)

Second from right: WFBW President Jacky Jackers at the congress of the 
Panafrican Federation of Wood and Building Workers in Lomé, Togo 
at the FOPADESC Centre of ODSTA, august 2003

About a year after the WCL World Congress in Rumania more and more was heard about a possible merger between WCL and ICFTU. It was hard to believe that the ACV/CSC would agree with a merger because what would they win with such a merger? In practice the WCL was more or less an extension of the ACV/CSC which meant that the ACV/CSC could play a bigger role on international level than what normally could be expected from a strong confederation in such a small country as Belgium. Of course the ICFTU could try to isolate the WCL on international level but on long term this could damage the image of the ICFTU as an international organization that respects democracy and pluralism.

Besides, what was there to win for the ACV/CSC by becoming a member of a new big international trade union organization? Now everybody still listened to ACV/CSC as one of the most important organisations of the WCL. What would remain of this ACV/CSC influence at international level if it was only one of many voices. A voice lost between the powerful German DGB, the Brittish TUC and above all the North American AFL/CIO? Asking the question, is answering it.

 Bert van der Spek, Secretary General and Jacky Jackers, 
President of the WFBW, talking to trade union leaders 
of a construction union in Indonesia. 
The union members were on strike because of a wage conflict. April 2004

The first strong sign that a debate was going on within the ACV/CSC about a merger of WCL with ICFTU was a letter from President Jacky Jackers of the World Federation of Building and Woodworkers WFBW addressed to ACV/CSC President Luc Cortebeeck of 25th october 2003:

attitude WFBW (including ACV Building and Industry) regarding the developments between WCL / ICFTU and WFBW / IFBWW / EFBW.

1.With regard to WCL and ICFTU:
ACV-BI stands for more cooperation. Even more, we must not wait longer but instead take initiative.
We prefer a Federation. In such a system each organization will pay for activities that have been agreed in advance. We are well aware that the ICFTU would prefer to talk about a merger!
Setting up a new organization so WCL and ICFTU disappear, corresponds to a merger where only changes the name. Pluralism is not structurally guaranteed! We believe that the WCL must continue to exist on confederal level. In Africa, Latin America and Asia, one is not ready to process further steps.

2. With regard to WFBW and WCL:
Here the central debate is about that the members of WFBW are actually willing to pay their dues, but they question why the WFBW has to pay the same amount of dues to the WCL?
In other words one says that the functioning of the WCL does not match with the investment made, that is to say one chooses very clear for more resources for trade union action.

3. With regard to WFBW, IFBWW and EFBW:
I mention here also the European Federation because within the IFBWW one believes that because of the past, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers is part of the IFBWW. About pluralism is not spoken here!

Some remarks with regard to the EFBW:
1. Since 1989 ACV - BI is a member of the European Federation and has developed well its place.
2. Since the last general meeting of the EFBW, the WFBW is recognized. This means that where you in the past had to be a member of the IFBWW before you could become a member of the EFBW, now it is allowed to be only a member of the WFBW.
3. The Building & Wood trade union of the ACLVB (the liberal Confederation) has asked for membership of the EFBW. We as ACV-BI accept this, but the socialist trade union has inmediately asked the trade union to become a member of the ...IFBWW! A good start!

Construction workers on strike in Indonesia, april 2004.

4. With regard to WFBW and IFBWW
The last years there have been several meetings about cooperation. Roel de Vries, President of the IFBWW, has always insisted on a merger and was surely not for pluralism.
Tuesday 18/11/2003 there will be another meeting with the IFBWW. Our position will be: active cooperation (ILO, European Works Councils, World Works Councils) structured in a Federation to which dues are agreed. This proposal is also supported by the Netherlands, France and Suisse.”

According to this letter the following commitments were proposed to the ACV/CSC President with regard to the future relations with ICFTU and the ICFTU oriented International Trade Union Federations:

No merger but the creation of federal structures with the aim to cooperate as much as possible and to guarantee pluralism on all levels: confederal level (WCL) as well as on the level of the International Trade Union Federations.
It is expressed explicitly in the letter that the WCL must continue to exist.
The continental organizations of Africa, Asia and Latin America are considered to be not ready for a merger.

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