[ International Development Cooperation ]
Cooperation with Trade Unions
The representation of workers' interests by trade unions
constitutes an essential part of democratic development. Cooperation with
trade unions is therefore the Foundation's activity with the longest tradition.
All trade union-related activities of the Foundation are closely coordinated
with the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), its affiliated unions, the
International Trade Secretariats and the International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung involves trade unions in
national and international political discussions and furthers workers'
representation by inviting unions to joint meetings with governments, political
parties, universities, associations and employers.
Many structural changes in the economy (technological development, international
division of labour, international financial transactions) continue to challenge
all trade unions. Everywhere, representing workers' interests has become
more difficult. With the assistance of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the
relatively small trade union organizations of Africa, Asia and Latin America
are trying to strengthen their competence for political and economic action.
Enlarging trade union organization and adapting their internal structures
continue to be on their agenda. In many countries trade unions have been
involved in the process of democratizing political systems and must now
adapt their own work and organization accordingly. While the number of
accidents at work is on the decline in the industrialized countries, the
problem of safety at work is becoming increasingly acute in the developing
countries, in particular in countries with rapid industrialization.
In February 1994, representatives of the African regional
organization of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, of
four trade secretariats of the German Trade Union Federation and staff
members of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung from numerous African countries
met in Harare with the Vice-Chairman of the Foundation, Ernst Breit, to
discuss future cooperation with the trade unions in Africa. The Foundation
intends to concentrate its activities on countries with highly developed
trade union structures (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, Egypt,
Tunesia), to support activities of emerging trade unions in some of the
other countries (Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique) and thus to strengthen
trade unions in Africa generally.
The roughly 50 national trade union projects of the Foundation concentrate
particularly on improving the competence of trade union leaders. The following
topics are addressed: economic policy of trade unions in the context of
structural changes in the economy; respect for human and trade union rights;
improving safety and accident prevention at work; labour legislation, mobilization
of members and strengthening of the decision-making and administrative
structures of trade unions.
In working with the international trade union organizations, the question
of coordination and cooperation in individual branches of industry and
in transnational corporations is becoming increasingly important. New forms
of cooperation have to be identified. More attention will also have to
be paid to the question of how to connect trade union activities in Europe,
especially in the European Union (newly created European works councils)
with the world-wide activities of the trade secretariats.
Trade Union Cooperation by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung:
Since FES started activities in Brazil, its partner in
the trade union sector has been the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT).
CUT was established in 1983 as the umbrella for autonomous and authentic
trade unions, as opposed to the old aligned trade unions. With some 5 million
members it has developed into the most important and probably most progressive
trade union organization in Latin America today.
In view of continuous massive state intervention in industrial relations
and a lack of shop-floor union representation, the main issues in the cooperation
between FES and CUT remain bargaining and shop-floor policies. FES passes
on international experience and for example supports the design of training
curricula. Furthermore, FES assists the young federation, which is still
struggling with organizational deficits, in applying modern methods of
organization and planning. FES also encourages a better representation
of women in the decision-making bodies of the unions. Finally, FES is extensively
involved in a joint project of the European Union, DGB and CUT for the
establishment of a trade union college in Southern Brazil.
When CUT celebrated its 10th anniversary in August 1993, FES was given
a special award as a tribute for its many supportive activities.
For centuries, manual work has been regarded as inferior
in the hierarchically structured Thai society. The newly established Thai
trade unions deplore that their members receive little recognition in society.
Politicians and the labour administration also deplore this mentality because
it impairs the modernization of the economy. In 1991 a committee was established
with the aim of founding a museum on the history of labour. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
has supported the preparations of archivists, occupational health and safety
experts, politicians and trade unionists. The museum was opened in 1993.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung will continue to support the activities of
the museum until 1995 with appropriate scientific measures and meetings.
By illustrating the history of work, of trade unions, and of industrial
accidents which attracted world-wide attention, the museum demonstrates
to the general public how important manual work has been for Thai development.
©Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition mv&ola | August 1997