Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mr Dear Goes to Washington

I'm still here in Washington at the Global Unions Council Organising, Recognition and Union Rights Conference.

For a while there it didn't look promising as we were treated to a succession of long speeches liberally peppered with quotes from those giants of the labour movement - Oscar Wilde and George Meaney - warning against taking up conference's time with long speeches. When someone quoted Mother Teresa I almost lost the will to live.

But things picked up - and it's just as well. Here's some facts we have to contend with:
* Employment is growing worldwide yet there is less 'decent' work
* Workers have a positive view of trade unions yet union density is falling (in the UK it is just 28%).
* Collective bargaining coverage is decreasing - in the UK it is now just 35%.
* As bargaining coverage declines so inequality grows.

The question for us all here is how do we go about changing this.

Well the conference itself is a start - it is historic. It is the first time ever all the representatives of the global trade union movement have come together. Hey, we've even got both parts of the US labour movement here - the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition.

Today we set about trying to come up with practical ways to organise globally. Capital is global, unions must be too. In practical terms that means how do we share resources, devise strategies for building unions, learn from each others experience of good and bad organising initiatives, look at the role of research and communications in building unions, at the political obstacles and opportunities, consider the pros and cons of international framework agreements and so on. A lot of good ideas came up.

Tomorrow we will try and pull together a plan of action which the Global Unions Council - at which I will represent the International Federation of Journalists - will be charged with putting in to practice over the next couple of years.

As usual a lot of the best discussions happen around the fringe - and the media and journalists unions from the US, Australia, Canada and UK have really used that time to share experiences on a range of topics.

As well as the conference I have today sorted out a quote for the Press Gazette end of year round up, and wrote a model letter as part of our campaign to get MPs to target those who abuse work experience and drafted a quote for use tomorrow on Conrad Black being sent down. It couldn't happen to a nicer crook!

No comments: