Facing an unprecedented crisis, the global trade union movement advanced workers’ rights worldwide in 2020.
During UNI Global Union’s recent World Executive Board, more than 150 representatives from unions on every continent celebrated those wins and doubled down on their commitments to overcome the challenges facing workers in the year to come.
Recognizing the threats that lie ahead, UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman said, “We face a future of continued health risk for essential workers, job loss for many, restructuring in our industries, new technology which may degrade and reshape our working lives and an increase in the power and wealth of the digital monopolies.”
But there are reasons for hope.
Hoffman continued, “Since the early days of the pandemic, unions have worked around the clock on behalf of essential workers, and UNI has developed guidelines across many sectors. Additionally, we have helped affiliates negotiate conditions for safe workplaces, including access to PPEs, hazard pay and other essential rights.”
Many of these wins were celebrated, such as dental assistant organizing by Danish union HK Privat, the Health Services Workers’ Union of Ghana, Australia’s SDA organizing at Amazon, and Foodora gig worker victories by the CUPW in Canada.
But UNI leadership is thinking beyond the immediate needs of workers in the crisis and how unions can innovate in the long term. The global union has launched a campaign to revalue and elevate essential workers. It is pushing to hold multinational corporations like Amazon accountable. Through organizing centres in Western Europe, Central Europe, and Colombia, UNI has helped unions grow their capacities and expand their toolkits. It has also been a leader in ensuring workers’ rights are respected as remote work explodes and the world of work becomes digitized.
However, cooperation and solidarity were a consistent theme running the meetings, and UNI is proud to be a hub for joint action.
“Covid-19 has exposed glaring weaknesses in our global economic model. It has made the most vulnerable, even more vulnerable, and it has made the rich, even more wealthy,” said Ruben Cortina, President of UNI Global Union.
He continued, “But the virus has also shown that there is an opportunity for systemic change—to revalue labour and to help working people win. A worldwide problem needs a global answer, and our labour movement is playing a crucial role in developing solutions, and together, we will emerge from this crisis stronger.”