Quebec’s FTQ update

Denise Gagnon - Quebe Federation of Labour (Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec - FTQ)

International cooperation, working to help each other and development: continuing our trade union action for decent work

Development Cooperation is an integral part of our trade union action. It can take several forms, ranging from training to building trade union power, from helping the development of social services to defending rights, improving infrastructure and economic initiatives. The FTQ and several of its affiliates play an active role in development cooperation both at home and at the international level, allocating considerable resources to practical projects. That is why we take a close interest, on several levels, in the infrastructure of public development aid and action plans for the cooperative, social and solidarity based economy. We want to ensure that the importance of collective action and democratic community life is recognised so that we can work together to combat poverty and social exclusion. Our approach is centred on fundamental rights, not charity.

Cooperatives are the DNA of the trade union movement

Relations between the trade union movement and cooperatives date back to the beginnings of the trade union movement. The first workers’ associations were formed in Europe. In the 18th century, trade unions were more like cooperatives than the organisations we know as trade unions today.

Meeting of the committee of women workers in Senegal, 2010 © Michèle Asselin

Overview of what the FTQ and its affiliates do in terms of Development Cooperation in the South

  • Working for recovery through the development of cooperatives in the coffee industry in Haiti
  • Training union leaders from the national federation of oil, gas and chemical workers in Algeria and mining industry workers in Chad (SCEP) ;
  • Workshop for a higher level of women’s participation in trade union structures in Brazil (TCA) ;
  • Creation of a trade union education department at the national building, wood workers and miners union in Mozambique (Métallos);
  • Developing cooperatives in Mali in the informal economy (Métallos and FTQ) and the development of a savings and loans mutual society in Senegal ;
  • In Mozambique, the TCA are taking part in a project to build a school and to remove land mines from the site surrounding the building ;
  • In Nicaragua, the SCEP supports the Maria Elena Cuara association, a large organisation that helps women workers and unemployed women in the country;
  • In Peru, Métallos took part in a project to promote public health and to improve the local management and provision of health care and food programmes.
  • In Colombia and Mexico, AFPC, SCEP, STTP and Métallos support unions that have been the target of anti-union repression, particularly in the context of the dismantling of public services.
  • Finally, several activists are involved in the activities and training courses organised by the Centre internationale de solidarité ouvrière (CISO – International Centre for Workers’ Solidarity), which enables them to share their experience of cooperation between unions.

Note: international missions are an important part of our members’ education

Out members who have the opportunity to take part in an international mission often come back with a different vision of international solidarity and cooperation. They no longer see it as charity but rather as a means of pooling our interests in the defence of social rights and workers’ rights in each of our countries. Practical participation in international activities or international cooperation thereby becomes a very important awareness-raising tool to mobilise members to face the challenges of the globalisation of our economies and of society, enabling them at the same time to take tangible action to promote greater justice worldwide.

Towards a reinvigorated international presence

Canada and Quebec’s international solidarity policies and public development aid have been heavily affected in recent years by neo-liberalism. The various partnerships between the state and trade union organisations involved in solidarity work have been affected and major cuts have impacted on trade unions’ capacity in this regard.

As the role of the trade union organisations in this field is not well known, the last Congress of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ-CTC) proposed an advocacy strategy and undertook an information campaign, working to strengthen alliances with the whole Canadian and Québécois international cooperation network. This is already beginning to show results.