Building strong national trade unions is crucial. The strong unions which are in a permanent democratic relationship with workers, are capable of achieving real gains through collective bargaining, by organizing the unorganized, striving for trade union unity at the national level and building unions through training, education and effective exchange of information.
Organize the unorganized
Organize the unorganized
Given the enormous challenges working people face in today's globalised economy, organizing remains a basic task for all trade unions and organizing drives should be carried out by IMF affiliates themselves.
The shift from secure to insecure forms of employment, the attacks on trade union rights and the fragmentation of collective bargaining systems has seriously eroded our capacity to organize and effectively represent the interests of workers. In addition to that the structural change in employment, in particular in the developed countries has resulted in a decline in the proportion of blue-collar workers who are traditionally well organized and an increase in the proportion of highly educated and non-manual workers. The trade unions have found it more difficult to organize these workers.
To win and defend metalworkers' rights, we need strong, national unions in all countries. Therefore, one of the key objectives of the IMF is to encourage workers to build independent, democratic and representative national unions that are autonomous from employers, political parties and governments. This includes overcoming weaknesses in existing unions and, where required, building new unions capable of tackling the challenges of today.
However, it is not only a question of what unions do. In some countries, such as Belarus, Colombia, Thailand and the Philippines, governments and companies actively work to eliminate trade union structures, murder and intimidate activists or alternatively to fragment union structures and encourage enterprise level unionism, which seriously undermines the possibility for trade union strength. All workers, regardless of their status, must have the right to organize. The IMF and its affiliates must fight for legislation that allows workers to make their own decisions regarding their representative structures, and will pressure companies to always respect workers' decisions instead of hiding behind national laws when these do not conform to internationally recognized labour rights.IMF affiliates will:
- Prioritise organizing as a key means of building union strength at the national level;
- Utilise organizing strategies at the sectoral level and in key TNCs;
- Provide practical solidarity support to unions attempting to organize workers anywhere, particularly along the supply chain of TNCs, and including in the affiliate's home country;
- Fight to remove legal barriers which prevent precarious workers from joining national unions;
- Step-up organizing of non-manual workers, who account for a growing part of the workforce, to build greater solidarity and bargaining strength; and
- Push for the elimination of legal restrictions on the right to organize for non-manual workers.
- Support unions in developing their own organizing campaigns and strategies, particularly for organizing women, migrants, youth, and workers in precarious employment;
- Strengthen its efforts to raise awareness about organizing non-manual workers' in all regions, promote the exchange of information and experiences on organizing tools and policies, and address topics of special relevance to non-manual workers;
- Identify and develop union organizing opportunities with affiliates, especially where TNC investments create new or growing concentrations of workers. The IMF Executive Committee, informed by the Regions, will prioritise the countries which should be the focus of this work. This will include countries such as China where the IMF currently has no affiliates;
- Utilise IFAs or other means to develop cross-border organizing campaigns;
- Co-ordinate organizing activities:
- throughout supply chains by targetting contractors and workers in different forms of precarious employment;
- in EPZs, where workers' rights are ignored and exploited; and
- wherever multi-company, or multi-plant organising campaigns could be coordinated;
IMF will provide assistance to trade unions that:
- are committed to activities leading to self-reliance;
- have established their own priorities and identified their needs;
- are working in accordance with the IMF Action Programme;
- are building union structures that respond to workers' needs locally and internationally and that include women at all levels;
- are able to organize activities or are prepared to closely co-operate with the appropriate IMF regional office;
- are building union structures that are democratic, and independent of political parties and employers;
- are ready to co-operate with other IMF affiliates at local, national and international level; and
- are confronting and fighting repressive governments.
Strive for trade union unity at the national level
In countries where national unions are vulnerable or enterprise unions predominate, the IMF will work with affiliates to promote national unity and strengthened national structures. This includes developing strategies to prevent workers' organisations from being played off against one another or becoming dependent on management. Using tools such as Country Councils, the IMF will work to avoid competition and encourage co-operation and solidarity between workers.
Given that strong national unions are often born out of different historical backgrounds, it is necessary to seek unity of action even when unification into a single national union is not realistic. The IMF will focus its attention on ensuring that the unions we support have the capacity to organize, bargain and prioritise work on a national level, and that different unions within a country work in concert in the interests of all metalworkers.
In countries where labour legislation does not permit national unions, the IMF will work with national centres, other global unions, and the ITUC to assist workers and their unions in overturning laws that prevent workers from forming national unions. To assist affiliates in achieving unity at the national level, the IMF will:
- Utilise IMF Country Council structures to build greater unity and solidarity in action; and
- Focus its union building activities in countries where affiliates are predominantly enterprise-level unions in TNC's on the strengthening of national structures, and on building unity among unions by encouraging changes in union structures.
IMF affiliates will:
• Work with other affiliates at the national level to build common positions and platforms on issues affecting metalworkers, particularly collective bargaining.
Build unions through education, training and effective exchange of information
Training and Education Where appropriate, the IMF will cooperate with the ITUC, TUAC, the ILO and union-friendly partner organisations to organize and provide education and training aimed at building strong national unions. The IMF Secretariat, with advice from the Executive Committee and the Regions, will prioritise this work to best meet the Action Programme objectives. Where there is cooperation with donor organisations, the primacy of the IMF objectives and the independence of the IMF will always be maintained.
Education and training for union building will include topics such as:
- Globalisation, the rise of corporate power and challenging neoliberalism;
- Collective bargaining policies and effective collective bargaining skills and structures;
- Health and safety issues;
- Equal rights;
- Introduction of new technologies;
- Skills development and life long learning;
- Internal and external communication strategies;
- Financial union management (including effective collection of membership dues and appropriate and transparent expenditures);
- Implementation, monitoring and enforcement of IFAs; and
- • Other trade union topics that are of interest and concern. Consistent with the principles outlined above in sections 3.1.1 and 3.1.2, the IMF will provide resources for union building projects on the condition that they:
- Build organisations independent of employer and government control;
- Enhance democracy within the organisation and encourage and enable members, particularly youth and women, to take part in the activities of the organisation. Projects should contribute to eliminating political, racial and gender discrimination;
- Increase the capacity of the organisation to carry out its own core union activities, building self-reliance, particularly in the area of education;
- Strengthen solidarity within the organisation, among unions in the country and/or region, and inside the IMF; and
- Support independent trade unions confronting and fighting repressive governments.
Information on the work of the IMF and its affiliates needs to be more systematically communicated. This information can help affiliates in the different regions to learn from one another and build up their strength.
The IMF will:
• Work towards establishing a more effective internal information system, using the IMF website, newsletters, the quarterly journal and other means of communication.
IMF affiliates will:
- Inform the secretariat about what type of information they are interested in; and
- Provide the IMF with information about their activities.
3.2 Strengthening collective bargaining
Achieving and strengthening collective bargaining is the core activity of trade unions and remains the best instrument for improving wages and conditions, regulating the relationship between employers and workers and solving problems at the workplace. Its impact goes beyond the workplace and affects the living conditions and development prospects of communities. Collective bargaining should be increasingly used as a tool for trade unions to engage with communities and promote the broader interests of workers as citizens and consumers.
Over the past decade the trade union movement has been attacked by employers, governments and their allies who are determined to weaken collective bargaining, thereby weakening the union movement. In particular, employers are eager to eradicate national, sectoral, and sometimes even enterprise-wide collective bargaining. Using the threat of outsourcing production and services, they push for more flexibility and other concessions. New forms of employment and work practices are imposed on employees, increasing stress and insecurity. In developing countries, foreign investors in particular demand deregulation of labour law and other regulatory changes, which have negative impacts on the development opportunities for these countries. The IMF will work with affiliates to ensure that collective agreements continue to provide a framework for intervening on all work issues including decent wages and working conditions, including working time, work organisation, pace of work and health and safety.
In the long-term, and as companies increasingly operate globally, collective bargaining at the international level, while respecting the rights of national unions, must be the goal of the IMF. As a first step, an information and coordination system should be established. To develop and strengthen global and national collective bargaining efforts, the IMF will:
- Develop ways to exchange information on collective bargaining that build on the experiences gained at the regional level in Europe and elsewhere;
- Build commonality for bargaining among affiliates at the global level, e.g. by developing global union positions on issues such as precarious employment and training;
- Conduct cross-border negotiations with TNCs with the involvement of functioning global union networks and an IMF coordinator, based on clear case by case mandates from affiliates. In order to have a framework of action for these cross-border negotiations, the IMF Executive Committee will develop IMF guidelines with the support of the Secretariat, which will also describe the roles of the IMF coordinators. Not only may IFAs be negotiated, but also topics such as health and safety and training; access to information and other issues of common interest; and
- Assist affiliates in building collective bargaining capacity at the national level.
IMF affiliates shall:
- Provide information on collective bargaining experiences to others; and
- Strive to remove legal obstacles to collective bargaining at the national and sectoral level.