FAQs

What is UNI Global Union?

UNI Global Union is a global union representing 20 million workers from over 150 countries worldwide.

Headquartered in Nyon, Switzerland, UNI represents workers in skills and services – the fastest growing sectors in the world of work.

UNI's mission is to build power for working people in service sectors world-wide through the growth of unions and expansion of collective bargaining; to improve the working and living conditions for workers; and support decent jobs for all and sustainable economic growth.

Belonging to a local trade union was once enough to protect your rights and to improve your conditions at work. Working people came together because they were stronger together. Your local union was able to defend you, intervene with your local employer in times of trouble and help to improve your conditions. As local union members you were strong.

In a workplace now dominated by powerful multinational companies, the conditions under which local employees work are largely dictated at the regional and global levels.

The interest in building links across national borders has marked the trade union movement and we have developed this idea further with the creation of UNI Global Union.

At UNI Global Union, national unions remain our pillars. Those unions continue to organise workers, negotiate and mobilise for a fair deal at work. However, in today’s global workplace it is no longer enough to only have only local unions. It is now necessary for those unions to affiliate to a global union for representation on an international scale.

How and when was UNI Global Union founded?

UNI Global Union was founded as Union Network International in 2000. UNI brought together four global union organisations: FIET (International Federation of Employees, Technicians and Managers), MEI (Media and Entertainment International), IGF (International Graphical Federation and CI (Communications International.)

We began the new century with a new global trade union. UNI represented a powerful response from the worldwide labour movement to corporate globalisation, new technologies and changes in business and commerce.

In March 2009, Union Network International changed its name to UNI Global Union.

The Bangladesh Accord

On April 24th 2013 a factory in the suburbs of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka collapsed and rained down eight stories of rubble onto the workers trapped below. The Rana Plaza tragedy was to become the deadliest garment factory disaster in history, costing the lives of 1,129 people – only 200 fewer than those who died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center 12 years earlier.

The workers who perished in the Rana Plaza tragedy, and millions more still working in Bangladeshi clothing factories today, were local workers toiling in unsafe and unacceptable conditions dictated by the race-to-the bottom business model of global clothing brands.

Forming a powerful alliance with IndustriALL Global Union, UNI set out to change the rules of the game in the global supply chain. The result was the Bangladesh Accord - a legally binding safety agreement signed by two global trade unions, a number of Bangladeshi unions, with more than 180 brands from 20 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Almost half of all Bangladeshi factories for the export market and two million workers are covered by its scope.

A huge factory inspection programme is now in full swing. Each factory is examined for structural integrity and fire and electrical safety. We have employed a dedicated team of more than 100 technical experts and engineers.

The Accord is an example of unions leading the charge to improve ethical standards. Since we signed the Accord in May 2013, we have been working constructively with retail brands to safeguard the integrity of the supply chain in Bangladesh.

Who we represent

Through our sector global unions, UNI represents workers in Cleaning and Security, Commerce, Finance, Gaming, Graphical and Packaging, Hair and Beauty, Information, Communication, Technology and Services Industry (ICTS), Media, Entertainment and Arts, Post and Logistics, Care, Sport, Temp and Agency workers, and Tourism industries as well as Professionals and Managers, Women and Youth.

A total of 90% of new jobs are expected to be in these sectors in the next decade. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.

Our unions are situated on the front lines of the revolution in work and the transformation of jobs. Our affiliates are key players in national economies and national union centres, with many affiliates occupying the top echelons of the union membership league table.

Each UNI sector is a global union in its own right with action plans aimed at organising, raising industry-wide standards, regulation, and negotiating global agreements with companies. Each sector has a global and regional reach with governance structures to match.

To develop issues across sectors, UNI has three groups which are working to promote global equality, to champion youth and to bring professionals and managers into unions.

Our Sector Global Unions

UNI Property Service Global Union: UNI Property Service Global Union brings together national unions around the globe working to improve the lives of workers who clean and maintain buildings and provide private security services.

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UNI Commerce Global Union: UNI Commerce Global Union works to improve working conditions in the retail and wholesale sector. This sector is often the largest source of jobs in the private sector. In a short time the commerce sector has grown from local to global and has developed global supply chains.

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UNI Finance Global Union: UNI Finance is the global union for finance and insurance workers. UNI Finance is fighting for a new world financial order and is dealing with the need to bring a fundamental change in regulation of the financial sector.

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UNI Gaming Global Union: UNI Gaming brings together national trade unions in the gambling and gaming sector. It supports employees in achieving better agreements with companies and promoting the defence of labour rights.

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UNI Graphical & Packaging Global Union: UNI Graphical & Packaging is a global union representing over 150 trade unions throughout the world. The graphical and packaging industries consists of a diverse range of sectors including newspapers, general printing, brochures, graphic design and multimedia, security printing, cardboard, plastic and flexible packaging.

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UNI Hair and Beauty Global Union: UNI Hair and Beauty is the global union representing hairdressers and beauty workers. The vast majority of workers in this sector are women, therefore strategies for organising more women into trade unions are a top priority in this sector.

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UNI ICTS Global Union: UNI Information and Communication Technology Services (ICTS) represents millions of IT and communications workers around the world. UNI ICTS affiliates work together to build union power to win union rights, organise and improve working conditions at telecom and ICT multinationals across the world.

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UNI MEI Global Union: UNI MEI is the global union in the media, entertainment and arts representing staff, freelance, independent and contract workers in these sectors. It brings together over 100 unions and guilds in more than 70 countries.

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UNI Post & Logistics Global Union: UNI Post & Logistics represents millions of members worldwide and is one of UNI’s biggest sector global unions. In order to respond to the developments taking place in the post and logistics industry, the sector has developed a strategic plan with the aim of expanding the sector, improving the effectiveness of UNI Post & Logistics Global Union and better serving the needs of our affiliates.

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UNI Sport PRO Global Union: UNI Sport pro is a global platform for independent athlete associations and unions representing elite athletes from over 60 countries and many sports such as football, basketball cricket, rugby, ice hockey, cycling, handball, track and field, skiing, swimming, water polo, Gaelic sports and baseball. 

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UNI Temporary Work Agencies Global Union: With the temporary employment segment of the global workforce constantly growing, UNI Temporary Work Agencies is working to improve the conditions of temporary agency staff and temporary agency workers and to raise the standards of the industry.

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UNICARE Global Union: UNICARE is the Global Union for the private care sector and social insurance industry. We represent workers in 78 unions worldwide. 

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What do we do?

Stronger together: Uniting national trade unions across borders to provide a stronger voice in services on the global level.

Growing unions: Our Breaking Through strategy is aimed at growing and strengthening unions to improve the working conditions and lives of workers in the services and allied sectors.

Global agreements with companies: A Global Framework Agreement is an agreement negotiated between a multinational company and a global union in order to establish an ongoing relationship that ensures the company respects the same working standards in all the countries in which it operates. UNI has negotiated 53 Global Agreements that have set fairer standards and conditions for more than 10 million workers around the world.

Influencing global institutions and policies – At forums for global leaders such as the G20 and World Economic forum, UNI influences global policy on a range of issues. We have taken our messages regularly to the IMF, UN Global Compact, World Bank and OECD.

Influencing regional institutions and policies – As part of our overall architecture, UNI has a strong regional structure engaged in ensuring the voice of working people can be heard at regional structures such as the European Union, African Union, ASEAN and others. UNI has a worldwide network including an office in Uruguay, a Caribbean support centre, African offices in Tunisia, Ivory Coast and South Africa, its head office in Switzerland, a further European office in Brussels, and Asian offices in Tokyo and Singapore.

Demanding responsible business: We work to expose and correct irresponsible business behavior through mobilizing affiliates across borders. Whilst many companies publish Corporate Social Responsibility policies, often these are not put into practice and it is our job to monitor their use. We also use the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN Guiding Principles, and the Ruggie Principles, which set out standards and duties of states and companies in terms of responsible behavior and business-related human rights abuses.

Changing global finance: Influencing regulatory standards in financial institutions and challenging serious regulatory breaches, risks and trends.

Regulation: Monitoring, reporting and challenging breaches of regulatory standards in sectors such as finance, post and public broadcasting.

Research on working conditions and trends: Producing in-depth reports on working conditions, trends and future trends both globally and across our working sectors.

Our presence: Global and Regional

The 20-million strong UNI Global Union family has a global network of offices and four distinct regions, each with its own conferences, regional secretary and staff.

UNI Africa represents workers in from 168 unions in 36 African countries. With offices in Ivory Coast capital Abidjan and in South Africa, UNI Africa is led by Regional Secretary Zakari Koudougou and will play host to the 2014 UNI Global Union World Congress in Cape Town.

UNI Americas represents service and skills workers across the Americas and the Caribbean. The Americas region is facing a new political, social and economic reality where three quarters of jobs are now in the service sector. The accelerated urbanization processes in the region has created more and more work, and UNI Americas strives to raise standards and for workers to be able to unionize and bargain collectively. With its Head Office in Montevideo, Uruguay, UNI Americas is led by Regional Secretary Adriana Rosenzvaig.

UNI APRO is based in Singapore and represents workers across Asia and the Pacific. With a further office in Tokyo, Japan, UNI APRO is led by Regional Secretary Chris Ng.

UNI Europa unites trade unions organizing in the service and skills sectors across Europe. Based in Brussels, UNI Europa is well positioned to influence regional policy at the European Union, European Parliament and other key organisations. UNI Europa is led by Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig.

The World Congress

Every four years, UNI Global Union holds its World Congress. In 2014, the 4th UNI World Congress was held in Cape Town, South Africa. The Congress laid out the strategic plans, fixes priorities and elects the top leadership and World Executive.

The theme of UNI’s World Congress in Cape Town 2014 was Including You which encompassed the fight for union growth; the promotion of a new fairer and sustainable global economy; and the future world of work where quality jobs, collective bargaining, and social protection will be the keys to success in an increasingly volatile global labour market.

Our Leadership

Philip J. Jennings has been General Secretary of UNI Global Union since its creation on 1 January 2000 and has been described as the labour movement’s “Global Warrior”. Philip was re-elected as General Secretary during the Cape Town Congress for a further four years until 2018.

In a globalization process gone wrong, Philip sees unions as part of the solution to build a sustainable and fairer global economy. He says economic inclusivity is the key and that is why “Including You” was chosen as the theme of the next World Congress in Cape Town.

He firmly believes that it is time for big business to work together and create a more responsible world. He has taken this message to the G20, IMF, World Bank, OECD and the World Economic Forum – tireless in his pursuit of a ‘seat at the table’ for working people. Philip was instrumental in ensuring that the labour movement finally achieved a seat at the G20 table with the establishment of the Labour 20 (L20) which is now an integral part of the G20. Philip also chaired the Commission on the Future of the Irish Trade Union Movement.

In 2011, Philip accepted the nomination of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to serve a three-year term on the board of the UN Global Compact. He also received the Nagasaki International Peace and Friendship prize from Nagasaki City Major Tomihisa Taue, and was appointed an ambassador for the Prefecture of Nagasaki by Governor Hodo Nakamura in 2011.

In 2013, Philip won La Côte newspaper’s Personality of the Year award for the Léman region of Switzerland.

From 2010 to 2013, Philip was included in the Bilan Magazine list of the most influential people in Switzerland. He was also voted as one of the top 100 personalities by the Swiss L’Hebdo publication.

Christy Hoffman has dedicated her working life in pursuit of economic justice through building strong labour unions.

As UNI’s Deputy General Secretary, she has a leadership role in the development and implementation of UNI’s “Breaking Through” program which focuses on union growth across the world. She has negotiated a number of global agreements with employers which secure the rights of workers to organise and played a key role in the recent negotiation of the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Before joining UNI, Christy served in various capacities at the Service Employees International Union, including Director of the Global Organising Department and Associate General Counsel. She has also worked in the United States for the Teamsters, Mineworkers and Machinists unions.

Christy has wide union experience, ranging from workplace to national and international leadership positions. Beginning her career as a rank and file activist and local leader, she later became an organiser and then labour attorney for some of the leading private sector unions in the US. She has extensive experience as a negotiator and campaign strategist, playing a key role in some of the well-known US labour disputes such as the national strike against UPS in 1997.

With UNI, she served as the Organising Director of the UNI Property Services Global Union from 2004 to 2009. Under her leadership, the sector achieved a number of global agreements with leading multinationals and ran innovative campaigns to advance the organising goals of the sector.

Breaking Through

At UNI Global Union’s 2010 World Congress in Nagasaki, members endorsed UNI’s Breaking Though strategy for Union Growth. The aim of Breaking Through is to grow and strengthen affiliated unions and UNI Global Union to improve the working conditions and lives of workers in the services and allied sectors.

UNI has now signed 52 global agreements with multinationals aimed at improving working conditions, unionisation and ensuring that companies act responsibly in line with the UNI Guiding Principles as formulated by John Ruggie and the OECD Guidelines.

UNI is working with its affiliates to organise the global service sector workforce at a time of unprecedented precarious work, and record youth unemployment.

Our breakthroughs and major successes to date

UNI Global Union is changing the rules of the game in the global supply chain. The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, led by UNI and IndustriALL in the aftermath of the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy, now has the signatures of more than 180 brands from 20 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

In addition, 52 Global Agreements with multinational companies such as Carrefour, Securitas and G4S have helped to set fairer standards and conditions for more than 10 million workers around the world. These agreements, along with the Bangladesh Accord, show that sustainable change is possible and that unions are more relevant than ever.

UNI is one of the labour movement’s leading organisations in terms of public communications and social media. UNI is regularly featured throughout international media including New York Times, BBC, Guardian, Financial Times, El Pais, ZDF, Le Monde and many more.

Our digital output has tens of thousands of followers, including General Secretary Philip Jennings who is a leading voice on Twitter with around 100,000 followers.

UNI is breaking the cycle of violence against trade unionists and striving to create a safe environment for trade union work. At Carrefour Colombia, we negotiated the country’s first ever collective agreement in the retail sector. It has a woman as president and it is thousands strong.

UNI is taking the organising voice into the global realm. We have shown we can succeed, even at Walmart, where we have won organising rights across the globe. We have also built union alliances at multinational giants such as IKEA and H&M.

UNI’s organizing fund supports our affiliated unions in organizing thousands of unions around the globe.

Youth

Young members are the lifeblood of the trade union movement, they are the trade union leaders of tomorrow.

Trade unions therefore need to intensify their efforts to integrate young members, including them into decision-making structures.

The fundamental aim of UNI Youth is to unite young people globally to assess common issues and concerns, to develop focused plans of action and to address them within the democratic framework of their trade unions.

Equal Opportunities

UNI Equal Opportunities fights to grow and strengthen our affiliated unions by breaking through divisive barriers created by the inequalities that perpetuate our world. We fight against all forms of discrimination in the workplace including discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, lifestyle, religion, HIV Status and disability in order to improve the working conditions and lives of workers.

Equal Opportunities celebrates and encourages diversity. We recognize that everyone benefits from a diverse and more colourful workplace, as each individual brings a unique and different skill set strengthening the whole.

Providing equal opportunities for all workers is vital to UNI Global Unions Mission and it cannot be achieved without each individual pitching in. Therefore, we hope to count on your support.

Professionals and Managers

Professionals and managers are at the cutting edge of economic, technological and organisational change. P&M workers play key roles in companies, organisations and society, and they represent a growing part of all UNI Global Union sectors. UNI P&M coordinates trade union policies for P&M workers at the global and regional level through UNI’s network of affiliates.

UNI has reinvigorated its work on professionals and managers to recognise the growing importance of this group.

UNI P&M supports and coordinates trade union policies for professionals and managers at the global and regional level through UNI’s network of affiliates and its secretariat.

UNI Global Union Breaking Through Awards 

The UNI Global Union Breaking Through Awards are in recognition of outstanding organizing success by a UNI affiliate to meet the organizing objectives of the UNI Global Union Breaking Through Strategy.

With the Breaking Through plan, UNI is focusing its work to change the rules of the game in the global labour market and ensure justice and equality for working people.

Winners of the UNI Global Union Breaking Through Awards 2012
Winners of the UNI Global Union Breaking Through Awards 2011
Winners of the UNI Global Union Breaking Through Awards 2010