Global Union Movement Says Refugees Welcome

The global trade union movement stands with the world’s 68 million refugees. While on a visit to Malmö, Sweden, trade union delegates from around the world demonstrated their support for the equal treatment of refugees and migrants so people are not exploited.

“Trade unions stand against racism and xenophobia, and stand for migrants and refugees. We stand for universal social protection, minimum living wages and collective bargaining as the tools of shared prosperity and inclusion. Solidarity is at the heart of the trade union movement. We stand united against the forces that drive people to flee their homes. Further marginalising the world’s most vulnerable cannot be the answer. Refugees are welcome in our workplaces and our communities, and we demand the guarantee of equal treatment, including full protection and rights under labour law,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC.

Delegates to the 4th ITUC World Congress were invited by the Swedish unions to cross the Øresund Bridge that links Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, with Sweden’s coastal city. “Malmö is our gateway to the rest of the world. It is a multicultural city, like our multinational movement,” said TCO’s Eva Nordmark.

The city counts 182 nationalities among its 330,000 inhabitants. “Whatever happens around the world, it affects us. We are working hard to make everyone aware of the opposite: everything we do locally affects the world,” explained Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt.

The city played a central role in Sweden’s efforts to provide refuge to those most in need during the refugee crisis. “This city is a symbol of unity in diversity. Forty per cent of people here were born outside of Sweden, or their parents were born outside of Sweden,” said Sharan Burrow.

“In the 1980s and 1990s, much of the city’s industry left for other countries. The shipyard, one of the biggest in the world, closed and unemployment soared. After a number of just transition policies, in which unions worked closely with local government, employment began to grow again. Today it is a vibrant city that has provided a new home to people from all over the world,” said Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, President of LO Sweden.

“Sweden used to have high levels of poverty and inequality. With over 70 per cent coverage in the country, unions have been central to building a strong welfare system that has seen it become one of the most equal and prosperous societies in the world,” said Göran Arrius, President of SACO.

“Looking around the room and around the world I am very optimistic. So much energy to change things for the better. Together we are much stronger,” said Stjernfeldt just before the room stood as a “Refugees Welcome” banner was unravelled.

The visit to Malmö was organised in the context of the 4th ITUC World Congress, which takes place from the 2nd to the 7th of December in Copenhagen. Watch it on live stream and follow on twitter #ITUC18.