Philip Jennings: “We have been a witness to history, and we have made history”
In an interview with local television channel NRTV, outgoing UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings talked about his long and eventful career at the helm of UNI Global Union. UNI Global Union is based in Nyon and represents over 20 million people worldwide. UNI Global Union was born in the year 2000 and brought 4 global unions together, the single biggest change in global union structures in generations. Under Jennings’ direction, UNI has become a powerhouse in the international labour movement and has been a militant advocate for workers’ rights around the world.
“I feel very positive about my retirement” said Jennings. “I’ve had a full career as a trade unionist fighting for labour rights, human rights, democracy and better working conditions for people all over the world.”
Jennings has been General Secretary since 1989. He recalled that a mere week after taking his position as General Secretary of FIET as a 36-year-old, the drama of Tiannamen Square unfolded, and only months later, the Berlin Wall came down in one of the seminal moments in recent history.
Jennings said this was a thrilling time as “we put our energy into ensuring a union voice in a transformed central and eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.”
“We were engaged in the long fight against apartheid - I am still proud to say that I met and shook Nelson Mandela’s hand and we supported the struggle for the liberation of him and his people. UNI Global Union has been a witness to history and we have made history.”
“We now have new challenges to face. We must combat the rhetoric of the rabid far-right, who falsely claim to have the best interests of workers at heart. Democratic spaces are closing and trade union rights are being threatened. We will continue to stand up for workers’ rights, even in the most difficult of circumstances.”
Artificial intelligence and digitalization have been earmarked to fundamentally transform the world of work as we know it. Jennings urged decision makers and thought leaders to emphasise the human aspect of the digital revolution.
“We need to remain positive, we can tackle inequality, the digital revolution and the closing of democratic spaces through strong unions and putting people first.”
Jennings was pressed by NRTV journalist Nasrat Latif about his future and the future of UNI Global Union with the organisation’s Liverpool World Congress coming up in under a week. Jennings remarked that he will remain in the region which he has grown to love over the years and was fulsome in his praise of UNI’s new and historic proposed leadership team.
“When you leave an organisation, you always want to be sure that the house is well set for the future, and with Christy Hoffman as candidate for General Secretary and Alke Boessiger as Deputy General Secretary we are definitely well set.”
Christy Hoffman has extensive experience from her union roots in the USA where she worked her way up from shop floor to top leadership. Hoffman has been Deputy General Secretary of UNI since 2010 and Boessiger has years of UNI experience behind her.
“Christy and Alke made history in the push for ethical global supply chains as key architects of the groundbreaking Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. I am full of confidence and hope at the prospect of these two fantastic women leading this great global union into the future.”
2500 participants from over 100 nations will convene in Liverpool with the elections of Jennings’ successor scheduled for the morning of June 19th.