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."

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