Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Global Solidarity from the General Council

The fifth chapter of this year's report to Congress from the General Council of the TUC deals with the international work of the world's oldest trade union centre.

Following a brief introductory paragraph it moves on to a section entitled "building stronger unions" (paragraph 5.2) which - bizarrely - is about no such thing, but instead amounts to a list of worthy international bodies on which the TUC is represented, with an itinerary for those representatives over the past year.

The next section - on solidarity - is a far more positive contribution to informing and enlightening the reader and runs through problems faced by trade unionists, and solidarity action taken by the TUC, across the world. Coming from a union branch with an energetic and effective International Officer, I'm familiar with many of the issues raised but the information in paragraph 5.3 of the General Council report ought to be shared widely with the rank and file.

The report goes on to report on the TUC's role in relation to the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - dealing, amongst other things, with the campaign for a Robin Hood tax and for workers rights in China. It's odd that the reference to China is here and not in the section on "solidarity" since surely developments in relation to the workers movement in the country with the largest working class in the world must be the most significant issue in international trade unionism?

The TUC still has, we are told, an international development strategy even though, under the Coalition Government, the Department for International Development (DFID) have cut us off with a penny (or rather without one) and, through TUC Aid, has supported work on the rights of disabled workers in Tanzania and on HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue in Nigeria.

We are also, it would appear, dead chuffed that Guy Ryder (the candidate backed by the TUC) has been elected Director General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Whilst I can see that it is no mean feat that, for the first time, a non-Government candidate has been elected to head a major UN agency, the fact that, at the behest of our own dear CBI, the Employers' Group collapsed the ILO's "Committee on the Application of Standards" - preventing discussion of 25 serious violations of labour standards - suggests to me that tripartism is now at much at risk internationally as it is in the UK.

An otherwise interesting chapter of the report then concludes with a list of which officials sit on which Committees of the European TUC and on the European Economic and Social Committee (even UNISON's Local Government Service Group knows to put such detail in an Appendix!)

In spite of the elements of tedium and travelogue in this chapter, and the failure to acknowledge the work of affiliates, this chapter does provide some of the residual justification for the existence of the TUC in helping to coordinate the international work of our movement in this country.

Perhaps, however, I just feel better disposed towards the General Council at the end of Chapter Five of their report than previously just because - like any British liberal (or social democrat) they are always more radical abroad than at home?

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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