Economic globalisation, the worldwide abolition of trade and investment barriers, and new technologies have brought about major structural changes in the manufacturing industry. Increasing outsourcing, the emergence of supply chain network enterprises and industry-related services have further blurred the divisions between traditional industry sectors.
This development has contributed to a number of mergers between national unions in the industry, especially in Europe and North America, but also in other parts of the world. Global redistribution of jobs and transfers of production have enhanced this trend, as unions which are losing members, are joining forces to pool their services, reduce overlapping activities and using limited resources in a more efficient manner.
At the global level, however, the development towards greater unity has been slower. Yet, the core activities of the existing five independent Global Union Federations (GUF) in the industry, as defined by themselves in their policy documents, are to a large extent the same. They include negotiating and implementing international framework agreements with transnational companies, setting up cross-border union networks to unite workers in these companies, co-ordinating union-building and education projects, mounting solidarity campaigns to guarantee the observance of trade union rights, and co-operating with other GUF’s and the ICFTU on campaigning for a social dimension to globalisation.
As a result of national mergers, an increasing number of industrial trade unions are affiliated to a several GUF’s and thus financing overlapping activities. The fact that national unions are losing members, adds pressure on the ability of GUF’s to guarantee a sufficient membership fee income to take care of their core tasks. A failure to respond to these challenges may lead to unwanted cuts in services and insufficient capacity for efficient international trade union response.
On the other hand, transnational companies are becoming bigger and more often cross the traditional industry boundaries. A united trade union front across these boundaries is required to offer a real counter-weight to their power.
It is important to take action while it is not yet dictated by economic necessities. Concrete co-operation between the industrial GUF’s is limited. All efforts should be made to increase practical co-operation and strategic partnerships between the GUFs in their above-mentioned core tasks, as well as common services, joint projects and regional activities. In some cases, mergers may prove to be the most efficient way of using scarce resources and avoiding the duplication of activities.
The 31st IMF Congress therefore resolves, that the IMF Secretariat shall
continue its efforts to increase cooperation between the GUFs in order to strengthen the labour movement for the benefit of working people throughout the world
examine the possibilities for increased practical co-operation and where appropriate, consider the possibility of restructuring the GUFs to respond to the above challenges, and
report regularly to the Executive Committee and Central Committee on progress in this area, and where appropriate, present proposals for strategic decisions on increased co-operation and a review of the current structures of the GUFS.