Update on global union movement campaigns

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Photo of Zoom call with 134 participants

The global pandemic and its impact on workers lives and livelihoods, the urgency to organize for a better world, and vaccine equity dominated discussions and decision-making at recent global union executive meetings of the International Transport Federation (ITF) and IndustriAll.

Unifor and its predecessor unions have long been affiliated with both global unions. National President Jerry Dias is a member of the executive committee of IndustriAll and National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne sits on the ITF executive board and co-chairs IndustriAll’s North American regional executive.

It was reported at the IndustriAll Executive Council that the pandemic highlights the failures of the global economic system. Participants on the call heard that the labour movement has seen many crises, nevertheless this time it is different and the implications for organized workers across the globe are profound.

Dias said it is clear that this latest crisis means unions must play a historic role in defending a better world for workers. “At no time in modern era have unions been needed more and we must all rise to the occasion of these times. Workers lives, health and jobs are depending on it.”

IndustriAll will hold virtually its 3rd Congress this September.

With respect to the ITF, the global union has been front and centre fighting for transport workers and demanding justice for seafarers to aviation workers – all of whom have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The ITF is leading a number of important grassroots campaigns on global supply chains, public transport, and fighting for union rights for workers in many jurisdictions of the world. The ITF executive board also struck a special advisory group on the gig economy.

Speaking to the ITF executive in favour of the special advisory group, Payne said: “We all know that if there is a way to exploit workers and avoid abiding by global rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, capital will find it. Our collective responsibility is to the workers of the world who find themselves trapped in these work arrangements with no collective bargaining rights, no social protections, no health and safety, and exempt from even minimum wages.”

ITF Women’s Committee meetings highlighted nine key demands for #GenderEqualNewNormal that guarantees good jobs for all workers. Work demanding nations adopt the ILO Convention 190 continues as well as the ITF Sanitation Campaign and action to end gender-segregation of transport jobs.

It was clear from reports from trade union women from around the world that women workers have born a disproportionate impact from the pandemic.

Leslie Dias, Unifor’s representative on the ITF Women’s Committee, noted just how devastating the crisis has been for women workers across many sectors of the economy including the aviation sector: “The service, hospitality, airline sector which are predominately women have been devastated. Women once again are economically disadvantaged and need a united global solution to fight both the pandemic and inequality.”

Payne said to get through this crisis and build a better world for workers it will require strength and solidarity at the global level, but also a commitment to organize for the kind of world we envision for all workers.

“Words will not get us there, co-ordinated action, organizing and solidarity will,” she said.

Watch Unifor Local 111 member Krista Lee Hanson in the ITF campaign for stronger public transit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMQBCSX0OUo