More than 2000 trade unionists representing over 100 of the world’s most powerful trade unions have gathered in Cape Town for the 4th UNI Global Union Congress. Running over a three day period, the event will seek to address current inequalities in the work sector, as well as bringing about strategies to better represent the global work force. The congress has been billed as the largest gathering of trade unions on the African continent.
According to UNI general secretary, Phillip Jennings, the role of the trade union was taking on a great deal more importance than before. With an expanding wealth gap between the rich and the working class, he said the congress would look at the current state of the world economy.
“What we have today is a global economy which is not working for the working people. More than half of the worlds working population, which is 3 Billion, are in vulnerable employment or informal employment,” he explained.
Furthermore, there were over 200 million people currently in the formal sector who were sitting without employment.
Also an area of concern is the distribution of economic benefits. The economy is currently witnessing unprecedented levels of income inequality, with most of the funds floating towards 1% of the world’s elite. As such, Jennings said that those in the working class were earning wages that were simply not sufficient to meet the demands being made of them.
“What we have decided to do is make a real political issue of income inequality. What do we do with this information? We take it to the G20, to global institutions, and we take it up in national economies. The purpose will be to try and lift the share of wages in the wealth produced by nations,” he said.
Jennings stressed that part of the solution to this inequality, was to have a strong trade union movement that would be able to negotiate collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the working class. With this in mind, the first task of the UNI congress would be to address methods of building the trade union sector, making it a more effective force.
“There rest of the people are turning around and saying that this is an economy geared for the wealthy. And therefore, for that they need strong trade unions,” he suggested.
The UNI Global Union Congress runs from the 7th until the 10th December. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)