Are union workers affiliated with a union?

"Why aren't you in the International Trade Union Confederation (IGB)?" This question was asked repeatedly to the management team of the Uruguayan trade union confederation PIT-CNT during their talks in Berlin at the end of March. And it is also obvious: The Uruguayan unions are stronger than any other in Latin America and have been gaining political weight for years. They have quadrupled their level of organization in 15 years while expanding their alliances with social movements. You actively seek international cooperation, coordinate the trade union headquarters of the Cono Sur and support the regional trade union umbrella organization CSA, which has now even moved to Montevideo. But they formally belong neither to the latter nor to the ITUC - because this would endanger the unity that also makes the PIT-CNT quite unique in the region.

If it were up to the president of the PIT-CNT Fernando Pereira, the youth secretary Tamara Naiara and the international secretary Fernando Gambera, who is also the coordinator of the trade union headquarters of the southern South America CCSCS, this would change. It is clear to all three that the future of the trade unions will also be decided by the question of the extent to which they can organize solutions on the international stage. At the invitation of the FES, they therefore held talks in Berlin on issues that affect unions on both sides of the Atlantic, including v. a .: How can the change in the world of work be shaped in the interests of employees? From the Uruguayan side, the White Paper Work 4.0, the dual education, the organization of the platform economy and general questions of the renewal of the company and trade union organization as well as youth work and a feminist agenda were in demand.

An intensive week of dialogue

Interlocutors from the German side were: colleagues from DGB, ver.di, IG-Metall, Railway and Transport Union (EVG) as well as politicians such as Yasmin Fahimi, head of the Latin America discussion group of the SPD parliamentary group, and Thorben Albrecht, SPD federal manager and German member the global ILO commission »Future of Work«. In addition, visits to a vocational school and to the Senate Department for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination on the subject of “Employment and qualification of young offenders” were on the program.

The trade union delegation did not lack input or suggestions. A highlight of their five-day visit was the festive event for the 100th anniversary of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on March 27, 2019 at the FES. Trade unionists, academics and politicians from all over the world took part in the three-day conference organized by the DGB and Global Labor University (GLU). Under the motto: "100 years of the ILO: Shaping the rules for a new century of work", the questions of why there is still child labor and why informal workers are not yet represented in the ILO were discussed.

In the bilateral discussions during the entire stay it became clear that both sides have similar concerns, concerns and strategies and that trade unions need alliances with politics, science and civil society in order to achieve their goals.

Core issue of gender equality

It became clear in all program elements that trade union work and a decent working world will not be possible in the future without gender equality. Important work focuses therefore remain inter alia. the »gender pay gap«, the independent livelihood security of women, the participation of young women and of course the digitization of the world of work. Key elements here are needs studies, modern communication channels and campaigns, target group-specific advisory and qualification offers as well as targeted networking.

Shaping the work of the future in a humane manner

Shaping the future of work in a fair way implies safeguarding employees through (professional) further education, democratic »working conditions 4.0« and the integration of workers into the so-called platform economy.

The opportunities and challenges of digital transformation can best be shaped and mastered in a humane manner in a social dialogue process under the leadership of trade unions and governments.

Vocational training policy and the dual training system in Germany are models of success; Here, too, the equal role of the social partners is essential. The expertise of the trade unions for vocational training and further education as well as the further development of training regulations and curricula for the requirements of future labor markets is indispensable.

The design possibilities for unions in a changed (working) world are increasing on the one hand through the formation of alliances with progressive political partners, on the other hand through intensive involvement in regional and international organizations such as regional trade union organizations, global trade union confederations and the ILO.

Work unit: International development cooperation | Latin America / Caribbean Unit