Transforming unions into truly representative organizations and promoting their ability to advance the interests of workers require that unions organise their work informed by the idea of leveraging power. This includes power based on a critical mass of members – numerical or associational power derived from organising among women and other neglected and vulnerable groups in informalised dimensions of the labour markets. It also requires identifying pressure points in production structures and supply chains that can be leveraged to bring pressure to bear on capital to meet the demands of workers. Power to advance workplace and socio-economic interests will also be enhanced when unions work closely with progressive civil society groups around a common agenda directed at capital and/or the state. In this regard, FES TUCC has developed learning and information resources that highlight the various power dimensions available for trade unions.
We believe that education is a central tool for transformation and emancipation. Over the last years, our partner the Global Labour University (GLU) has evolved into a very unique platform for developing strategies to enforce decent work conditions for workers in both the informal and the formal economy. The GLU campus at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is the only such site in Africa. Especially the GLU Engage/Transfer programme enables activists and unionists to not only acquire theoretical and ideological knowledge, but also to make strategic use of their power resources and to come up with concrete and practical solutions for vulnerable workers on the ground.
Of course, in order to effectively represent workers and to become real drivers for societal change unions also need to critically assess their own organizational structures and need to strategize to reach women, youth, and vulnerable workers. Despite the fact that in some sectors, such as retail, women constitute a large proportion of the labour force, they remain a marginalised and neglected segment both in the workplace and in the unions. Thus, the ability to make unions more representative and responsive to the interests of all workers will rest on ending the marginalisation of women. In pursuit of this goal, FES TUCC is working together with UNI to drive a campaign to promote and win parental rights agreements in the retail sector. By identifying and training women activists in various countries we are ensuring that women play a leading role in the campaign. Another example for internal transformation is our youth work with IndustriALL. Through a bottom-up approach affiliates were first encouraged to establish youth structures at the national level. These local platforms then laid the foundation for an institutionalized structure within IndustriALL and actively shape the work of the regional committee from below.
The Global Labour University Online Academy also offers free online courses on the economics of wages & collective bargaining, decent work in global supply chains and International Labour Standards.
The new online course on Fair Wage Strategies in a Global Economy provides knowledge and practical skills to engage in research and negotiations for fair wage setting. Participation in the course is free of charge. For 49 Euros, participants can get a Certificate by the Berlin School of Economics and Law upon successful completion of the course. Participants from non-OECD countries can apply under online(at)global-labour-university.org for a scholarship to do the certificate for free.