Track 1 – Building Global Labour Movements

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Since 2008, the global financial crisis has shown in a most obvious way and in many places very aggressively the crisis of hegemonic neoliberalism – in fact some say, of capitalism. While analyses about the depth and nature of the crisis vary, clearly strong global movements are needed if we want to save ourselves and the planet from the devastating consequences of no more consensual but coercive neoliberalism. This track explores how a global labour movement can emerge stronger – which tools and strategies are being explored and with which results, what we can learn from these fights, with what other forces we can and should cooperate, and which role LabourStart as a global online news and campaign portal can and should play in the network of a global Labour Movement.

Workshops that we are exploring at this point in time include:

Building global industrial relations
continuing the plenary debate on models of global industrial relations.
This workshop will include the speakers from the plenary discussion, and will provide space for discussion with an emphasis on comments/questions from participants.

Social / Fair trade labels – pros and cons

(Workshop organised with IG BAU)

Companies often try to improve their image through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), usually by voluntary commitments and look at gaining competitive advantages and market share through this. But who controls whether these commitments are being met? Can the “Social Label” instrument improve social (or ecological) standards?

These questions are discussed quite controversially in trade unions. We will look at the main arguments and present and discuss 3-4 examples in which unions participated or initiated labels. FSC (forestry ), FLP (Fair Flowers), Global Gap (Agriculture), Xertifix (Stones)… which concrete social improvements did we reach through these labels? Which possibilities for action do unions have when creating, implementing and controlling social labels? Which standards are being supported? And how much influence does the much quoted consumer power really have? 

Labour Struggles in the Global South: commonalities and variations.

After the great financial crisis of 2008, many of the BRIC but also other countries in the Global South have seen an unprecedented wave of mass strikes, often including state repression and wildcat strikes. This workshop will give an overview on the results, sectors and dynamics of these strikes, with additional examples of Latin American labour struggles from Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.

Union strategies towards migrants

Workshop organised with AK Undokumentierte (Working group on undocumented workers)

This workshop explores a variety of union experiences with organizing migrant workers. In doing so, we want to engage a longstanding controversy around specific strategies for organizing migrant workers.

Some labour activists contend that trade unions are based on the commonality of interests of workers and that a division into special interests (migrants vs. non-migrants) undermines solidarity – others argue that unequal opportunities related to migration status require special support as a precondition for solidarity.

What approaches do different unions choose acting in diverse contexts to organise migrants and what are they based on? What activities does this involve?

Panelists and workshop participants are asked to reflect on how their union strategies towards migrant workers have engaged this challenge, where it has succeeded and where it has failed. We wish to pay particular attention to one aspect that shapes the circumstances of many migrant workers: precarious legal status (no residency or work permit).

Online campaigning: Collaboration, competition, clicktivism
Trade unions have been campaigning online since the 1990s.  But in recent years, new organizations have sprung up that often take on the same targets and issues, such as Avaaz,, SumOfUs, and Campact.  How should unions respond to this?  What role should the new campaigning organizations play? Are they a threat — or an opportunity — for the labour movement?

Fair Play? – Working conditions at mega-sports events

Workshop organised with IG BAU and BWI

Construction workers who are the builders of the stadiums, infrastructure, hotels, and other facilities related to global mega-sports events such as the Olympics and the World Cup are instrumental players in the success of these games; however, they often work long hours for low wages and under unsafe and difficult conditions.  The situation for migrant workers is much worse as evident by the reports in the preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the World Cup in Qatar.  Migrant workers are often exploited and find themselves in positions of forced labour.  BWI is working with trade unions to not only organize workers in the host countries but to also galvanized its affiliates to support these efforts nationally and globally to ensure that workers have decent work, safe and healthy working conditions, and living wages.

Climate change and new energy regimes – what do trade unions do about it?

Workshop organised with IG BAU

Social priorities of trade unions also include maintaining a healthy environment for working people and their families. Therefore, trade unions have a duty to take an active part in tackling the problems caused by climate change which is no longer the domain of environmental experts. Climate change is real and already happening. It affects citizens’ rights and democracy, and must be addressed also at the level of social dialogue and collective bargaining. What we need is a massive effort to transform our economy to a sustainable low carbon economy to maintain societies in which it is still worth living and working. This will need a lot of work done in a very short time. Are unions fit for tackling this challenge? What options have trade unions so support a sustainable development of our economy? And how should they act in the future to prevent an excessive climate change?

Book presentation: Dan Gallin on the Global Labour Movement

Dan Gallin (Global Labour Institute) will be presenting his new book, published by LabourStart,  on the Global Labour Movement.

New unionism in Israel: The struggle to unite Arab and Jewish workers in the fight for social progress and peace

Speaker: Assaf Adiv, WAC-MAAN

Limits of solidarity
(Workshop organised by LabourNet Germany)

Solidarity  – as long as it is limited to signing petitions and email campaigns, is largely unproblematic. And it works – but to a limited extent, because it is either directed to governments or is dependent on the good will or dependency on a good image of a corporation.

But what happens, if of say 4 factories of a company 2 are up for closure? The competition in the Zero-Sum-Game of waged jobs that are (seemingly) essential for our existence but scarce creates systemic limits for solidarity.

How can this limit be overcome? How can we create conditions under which it is possible to think and live solidarity?

This question is being adressed too rarely in our opinion – we’ll do it in this workshop.

Speakers: Helmut Weiss, Mag Wompel (LabourNet Germany)

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