UNI answering the ITUC call for a global organising offensive
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow threw down the gauntlet on organising a further 20 million workers at the ITUC World Congress and UNI picked it up.
During a session on organising and building power for workers, UNI and its partner global unions, IndustriALL and the ITF showed how they are winning the battle to organise across the world from Turkey, through Bangladesh to Colombia.
Workers from the commercial workers’ union in Colombia, Unión , Tumtis in Turkey and the Bangladesh garment workers were joined on stage by the General Secretaries of UNI, IndustriALL and ITF, Philip Jennings, Jyrki Raina and Steve Cotton respectively, in a show of strength and unity.
The message from all of the speakers was simple: we are changing the rules of the global supply chain game.
Three of the most important game changers were highlighted by the workers’ testimonies: – a collective bargaining agreement for DHL in Turkey against all the odds; the first ever collective agreement in the retail sector of Colombia covering 12,000 workers in 73 Carrefour stores (now owned by Cencosud); and 50,000 new union members in Bangladesh in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy.
A few years ago, Luz Marina Díaz Jiménez was a Colombian Carrefour shop worker. Now she has seized her opportunity and is leading the commercial workers’ union, Unión and helping to defend the rights of her fellow workers.
She told the ITUC participants that if it had not been for UNI’s support and the formation of the union, many workers would have feared losing their jobs when the Chilean multinational Cencosud took over the Carrefour stores in Colombia.
UNI General Secretary, Philip Jennings paid tribute to Luz Marina and the other young people in Colombia who are daring to energise a union movement in one of the most dangerous countries in the world to stand up and be counted as a trade unionist.
Jennings said, “We are changing the culture in Colombia, starting with Carrefour. Luz Marina had the courage to take up the leadership because she realised she could do something for her country. She and other young Colombians have risen above the fear.
“We are not stopping with Carrefour/Cencosud in Colombia. With the support of the ITUC and our other partners we have projects in commerce as well as property services, finance and many more. We have changed the dynamic, using our global framework agreement with Carrefour as leverage. We don’t underestimate the risks but are committed to Breaking Through and organising around the world, in all our regions and all all our sectors."