17th ITUC General Council Meeting

One new member organisation, the General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU), was accepted into ITUC affiliation at the 17th meeting of the ITUC General Council, which took place from 29 November – 1 December in Brussels.

The Council also decided to approve the registration, in the declared membership of the ITUC, workers in the informal economy who are members of Indian trade union centres INTUC and HMS. Inclusion of the INTUC informal economy membership brings the total membership of the ITUC to 202 million workers from 331 organisations in 163 countries and territories. The HMS will advise the ITUC of its informal economy membership after verification within the organisation’s structures.

The Council expressed its thanks and appreciation to Deputy General Secretary Wellington Chibebe, who is leaving the ITUC to take up a position leading the ILO Dar es Salaam Office for East Africa, and elected Mamadou Diallo as ITUC Acting Deputy General Secretary.

One of the principal items on the Council agenda concerned the preparations for the 4th ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen, 2-7 December 2018 to be hosted by Danish affiliates LO and FTF. The theme chosen for the Congress is “Building Workers’ Power: Change the Rules” – a continuation of the theme of the 2014 Congress in Berlin. This reinforces the existing mandate to build union membership and influence to challenge the current model of corporate-dominated globalisation by campaigning for global and national legal frameworks which ensure delivery for working people and rein in the untrammelled power of multinational companies and finance.

The Congress will involve a mix of plenary and sub-plenary sessions to maximise the possibility for interactive debate and engagement of Congress participants.
Preparations for the Congress involve the circulation of a draft Congress Statement early in 2018 for discussion within and between unions, as well as an invitation to affiliates to submit proposed Constitutional amendments, bringing forward the preparation process from the statutory minimum of 6 months before the start of Congress. Meetings of the ITUC Executive Bureau in March and May 2018, and of the General Council in May, will discuss the proposals and feedback from affiliates in preparation for the Congress, and a special section on the ITUC website will facilitate dissemination and exchange on proposals made by affiliates. The General Council welcomed a proposal from the TUC Great Britain to host its next meeting in London on 24 -25 May.

The Council approved work plans for 2018 on the ITUC frontlines – Eliminating Slavery, Taming Corporate Power and Ensuring Climate Justice and Just Transition. The end of the kafala system and other key labour reforms in Qatar were a highlight of the campaign against slavery, and action against kafala in other Gulf countries, along with achieving 50 ratifications of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol in 2018 will be key objectives. The recognition by the 2017 G20 Summit that competition should not be based on labour rights violations, and that minimum wages must be living wages were important steps, and the start of the global wages campaign during the year with multi-country initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America and joint action with the ETUC in Europe were highlights of the Taming Corporate Power Frontline. This work will intensify in 2018. The adoption of Just Transition in the Paris Climate Agreement, and the ongoing work of the ITUC Just Transition Centre will be reinforced by inclusion of climate-specific work in the Global Organising Academy and campaign action around “workers’ right to know” concerning employers’ climate-related policies and plans.

The Council also approved 2018 plans for the ITUC Priorities, including the “Count us In” programme to expand women’s membership and participation in union leadership; the Countries at Risk programme with the Workers’ Rights Index and legal support for affiliates; and Global Migration with a focus on the UN Global Compact on Migration. The work under the Global Coherence Priority contributed to the recognition by all the major global institutions of the magnitude of economic inequality, and action in 2018 will focus on ensuring that wages, social protection and collective bargaining are at the forefront. This will include campaigning for universal ratification of all the ILO core labour standards, together with Convention 155 on Occupational Health and Safety, in the lead up to the 2019 ILO Centenary. The Council also recognised the success of the ETUC’s work in achieving the adoption of the European Social Pillar. The ITUC Global Organising Academy, having already trained several hundred lead organisers and associated organisers, will continue and intensify its work in 2018.

The Council adopted a report on Peace, Freedom and Democracy, with an inter-generational conference on that subject taking place a week after the Council meeting. Briefings to the General Council were provided by TUAC on the global economic situation, and by the FNV Netherlands on the work of the Committee on Workers’ Capital.

A report “Shaping the Future of Work” including key points on the economic situation, regulatory issues, technology and actions by unions in this area was adopted by the Council, which emphasised the need to ensure collective bargaining rights for workers in “platform” and similar jobs and for the ITUC to promote and disseminate innovative approaches by unions to the emerging challenges. With the support of a Future of Work Reference Group, that report will be revised and circulated to affiliates as part of the consultation and policy-development process leading up to the Congress. The Reference Group will also support the work of the worker representatives on the ILO Commission on the Future of Work.

Reports from the ITUC Regional Organisations and Structures were adopted by the Council, along with reports from the 2017 Womens Organising Assembly and Women’s Committee, the Human and Trade Union Rights Committee, and the Youth Committee.
The adoption of the ITUC budget for 2018 included a 2% increase in affiliation fees.

In its decision to register, in the ITUC’s declared membership, several million workers from the informal economy who are members of the affiliates INTUC and HMS in India, the General Council recognised that while those workers are not in a position to pay significant membership dues, they are part and parcel of the Indian trade union movement, and that their trade union presence should be recognised.

Noting that ten member organisations in Latin America were, by withdrawing from TUCA and creating a separate regional organisation, acting against the interests of the ITUC, the General Council formally suspended these organisations from ITUC membership. It was decided to leave open the possibility for discussions with these organisations should they wish to leave the separate organisation and return to membership of TUCA, in advance of a possible decision to expel them definitively from ITUC membership at the forthcoming ITUC World Congress. The organisations are: FTA Aruba, Força Sindical Brazil, CAT Chile, CGT Colombia, CGTC Curacao, CSE Ecuador, CROC Mexico, CTM Mexico, CGTP Panama and CNT Paraguay.

The General Council adopted Resolutions on Argentina, condemning the government’s decision to block the participation of civil society organisations at the 2017 WTO Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires; on Côte d’Ivoire, condemning the government’s actions in suppressing civil society activities at the Africa-Europe Citizens Forum; and on Venezuela, stressing the importance of fundamental workers’ rights and of dialogue in finding a democratic solution to the current situation.