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#ISS14: Stay Together for the Kids or Divorce? Unions and Social Democratic Parties

This article draws on the plenary Union-Party Relationships: Stay together for the sake of the children or get a divorce?

There’s a few ways to think about unions and their relationship with parties. Warring lovers? Separated? Have parties already left their former union bedfellows? Here in the UK, the relationship is certainly on the rocks. It’s not the only country where that’s the case, though.

India

1974 saw one of the country’s biggest strikes, when 1.7m rail workers walked out. It was brutally crushed, with 1000s fired and jailed. ‘A reign of terror was unleashed’, says Sujata Gothoskar from the Forum Against Oppression of Women, India.

Three years later, the union leader was Minister for Industries – forcing the still-fighting workers to go quit their struggle.

It’s a telling example of the effects parliamentary activity under capitalism. And it’s not an isolated case – the large Communist Party of India (Marxist) has many such examples. Meanwhile, the Congress Party is now committed to neoliberal policies, while the recently elected BJP poses an even more frightening future for workers. Existing parties are a ‘no-no’, then.

But the union movement in India is deeply divided, growing out of the national independence movement in a country with a definite lack of class politics – differences of caste, gender and a whole host of other divisions spring up.

In the messy political situation post-independence, unions were firmly linked with ‘their’ party, while independent unions were often viewed with suspicion.

It might partly explain why density is just 8% today. At the same time, unions’ political clout has been shrinking – in 1971, 21% of parliamentarians were linked with unions. By 2004 it was 4%. Now, it’s around 2%. So the chance of union-friendly policies is arguably remote; unions aren’t even consulted anymore by government.

But in this midst of this political decline and division, independent organisations are forming, despite (or perhaps because of) the neoliberal onslaught India has been subjected to since the ‘90s. At the company level, unions are emerging free of partisan strangleholds. The Self-Employed Women’s Association has soared to over one million members in just a few years.  Cross-party platforms are developing within central trade unions, and there are attempts to form an independent federation of unions.

Such initiatives complement the emergent broad fronts – including battles for the right to food or work, some of which have been successful. Alliances with women’s groups, human rights organisations and sexual minorities are forming, bringing the most disenfranchised into contact with the union movement.

These movements lack a partisan voice however, one with the power to actually implement their desired policies. For Sujata Gothoskar, it’s time for a new workers’ party. The chances, in a country and a left-wing still deeply split, are admittedly remote.

South Korea

Options in South Korea look similarly problematic.

The union movement there after World War Two was fiercely repressed. But, perhaps ironically, neoliberalism in recent years has coincided with democratisation – allowing, as in Brazil and South Africa, some institutionalised power. This ‘taste of political power’ only came when unions were legalised in 1998, says Lee Changgeun, Policy Director at the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)

But are party links the way forward? There are several possible routes to political influence, including union-party links; collective action – such as general strikes in Italy, France and Spain; social pacts like in Sweden, Germany and others; lobbying in the US or electoralism in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.

Yet Korea lacked a progressive party until 2001, following the failure of both a general strike and a social pact with government and employers. The Democratic Labour Party (KDLP) was formed, winning ten seats in 2004 and five in 2008. Yet it soon split over a corruption scandal, before reuniting…and then in 2012 splitting again.

The path to power looks like one ridden with pot-holes. Such flaws provoked the KCTU to adapt a more pragmatic policy, dropping exclusive support for the KDLP in 2012.

Within the KCTU, around half of union members blamed union members themselves for the partisan chaos. Most, however, primarily blamed the party.

But for the KCTU, the problem was that it treated members as political subjects – merely mobilising votes and finance for party through ‘political substitutism’, leading the body to lose capacity and a leading role to deal with conflicts.

Two years on, 62% of members feel strongly they need a progressive party – a class-based party, in fact. And 40% of members think the KCTU should be the one to found it. It’s a daunting prospect.

For now, the union has set itself on a ‘workers political empowerment’ campaign, putting party issues within the context of that broader project. At some point however, the question of party politics may have to be revisited. As in India, it’s an unenviable prospect.

Germany

The decades following the Second World War in Germany was filled with student radicalism and a revival of discussion following democratisation. Many left wing groups emerged in student circles – but often ignoring workers themselves! In this context, Karin Pape (GLI Geneva) found unions a safe haven, becoming involved in a Luxembourgist organisation called Gruppe Arbeiterpolitik and reaching out.

After university, such radical students entered the workplace – often as union staff – and often became key radicals – in spite of not being in the Social Democrats, which by 1959 had abandoned Marxism. Yet the paid staff of the unions were entirely Social Democratic. And if you weren’t, well, you weren’t hired. Within companies though, communists were often elected for being excellent activists – but in spite of not being SPD. But the relationship between the SPD and the unions was fairly fluid – there was no element of control. ‘Unions didn’t really tell members to vote SPD…they just expected it!’

But perhaps at the heart of this relationship was a constant fear of the alternative, i.e. workers supporting the USSR. So concessions such as the welfare state were granted.

The Fall

This all changed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Once the USSR was finished, such concessions weren’t necessary anymore. The Social Democrats, like many European parties, became neoliberal, even when the Christian Democrats would not dare.

Since then, union/SPD links have been fraught. Many trade unionists are now Green or support the Left Party. And the food workers union recently elected a woman who was not a member – both being firsts!

There are positives and negatives however. Now, there is no ideology or political direction within unions. Unions simply draw up demands, check them against party platforms and ask members who to vote for. The politics is lost.

So, stay together or divorce? Unions and the SPD are an old couple – they’ve missed the divorce (and as Dave Spooner said, there’s definitely no ‘sex’ anymore). As for the children, they’ve forgotten about them. That, perhaps, is the most worrying thing.

Maybe the same applies to the relationship between social democratic parties and unions across the world

Josiah Mortimer is a guest blogger for the Global Labour Institute’s third International Summer School for trade unionists at Northern College this week. The views expressed in this article are therefore solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of GLI.

You can follow all of the conference online on the GLI site, through Union Solidarity International, and on Twitter: #ISS14.

 

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#ISS14: How workers can win

There’s a question every trade unionist must stop and ask at some point: ‘what am I organising for?’

Kirill Buketov (image from USi)
Kirill Buketov (image from Union Solidarity International)

For Kirill Buketov, international campaign officer of the International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), the central driver behind is fundamentally that ‘we are dissatisfied with the way the world is run.’ Putting this into positive action means being political – and possessing a few vital qualities.

Buketov raises some examples. In Moscow under the Soviet Union ‘what really shook the system is when workers went on strike.’ But to be successful, it took organisation and leadership. At first, workers struck without any idea what they wanted – state officials simply sent them back to work until they had some demands. It was only when they had a strategy that change began. In contrast, the Occupy movement was unsustainable and didn’t last because it lacked organisation.

For Buketov, every conflict is at root the same – ‘you need organisation, strategy and commitment to win – to fight until the very end’. He points also to the Kazakhstani oil workers’ struggle in 2011 when 26,000 workers walked out for six months. It was brutally crushed and achieved nothing. Why? They decided not to have organisation, changing their negotiators every time. There was no strategy or organisation.

But the most poingnant example is today in Ukraine. There, the Maidan movement was a genuinely popular democratic movement – and it achieved Yanukovich’ resignation. But right-wing forces abused the situation to lead the country after the left failed to create structures, organisation and strategy for when Yanukovich resigned. In sum, the right-wing were more prepared.

In a global economy however, if we want to be organised, we must work cross-borders. That’s where social media steps in – rank and file cross-border movements can utilise Facebook and Twitter to help build international platforms for organising people to fight and win.

The recent Thai shrimp industry slavery scandal, which the IUF is currently working on, shows that operating internationally for solidarity across borders is more vital than ever. To win, workers will need the ‘organisation, strategy and commitment’ that Buketov stresses is necessary. And with 250,000 slaves in the industry, they really do need to win.

Josiah Mortimer is a guest blogger for the Global Labour Institute’s third International Summer School for trade unionists at Northern College this week. The views expressed in this article are therefore solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of GLI.

You can follow all of the conference online on the GLI site, through Union Solidarity International, and on Twitter: #ISS14.

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#ISS14: The secret war on workers in Asia

This article draws on the plenary ‘The Fall & Rise of Labour?’ at the GLI International Summer School.

There’s a war going on in Asia – and it’s one that, unlike ISIS in Iraq or the chaos in Syria, is failing to make the headlines. It’s the war on workers that is taking place across much of the continent, according to the Executive Director of the Asia Monitor Resources Center in Hong Kong, Sanjiv Pandita.

The geographer David Harvey has termed this process ‘accumulation by dispossession’. Across the continent, workers are being forced off their land to make way for plantations, mining, or even real estate. They’re resisting – but employers and police are using the age-old methods of repression.

The recent surge in attacks on citizens has been propelled by the expansion of neoliberal policies in Asia, including controversial ‘export processing zones’ which lack any labour or environmental standards. In such areas, ‘everything is a commodity’ according to Pandita, particularly when inequality has soared in Asia, and particularly China, more than any other region of the world over the last 20 years.

And the figures are astonishing. 300 million people – almost the US population – are currently on the move in Asia, forced from rural land into the cities. This scale is ‘unprecedented at any time in the history of the industrial world’.

Of course, some end up in the factories that spring to mind in your head – the Yue Yuen factory in China where 80,000 shoe workers recently struck, or Foxconn where your iPhone was probably made. Most workers, however, don’t end up there.

Most will find themselves in an even more unregulated informal economy – picking shells, working informally on construction sites, gathering rubbish, and sex work. Informal work like this ‘employs’ up a quarter of Asia’s total population – one billion people. That’s 70% of total vulnerable employment in the world. It’s dangerous work, too. Over one million people die every year from work-related deaths in the region, according to conservative estimates.

These workers are not only dispossessed from their land and resources – forced out by multinationals with the help of the local state – but from their rights. And with very often no identifiable employer – whether because the supply chains are so long or because they are ‘self-employed’ – organising for better conditions is hard. But it can be done.

Following the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, the last year has seen some of largest strikes in Asia’s history. Again, the numbers are eye-watering. 100m workers in India went on strike last year – in one day. Millions stopped work in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, the latter of which won a 50% wage hike in the textiles sector. Cambodia similarly saw a major general strike last December, met with a violent crackdown. And in Korea – mostly informal workers took radical action, particularly bricklayers.

Within these struggles, the question of unity between ‘formal’ and informal work has to be addressed. ‘We have to believe all working people are one – no matter what they are doing’, Pandita says. The question is how to bring all of them together. New ways of organising are occurring – the challenge, with no or secretive employers, is how and where to bargain. Instead, the bargaining must be political.

Even where informal workers are organising however, it is often separately. Home-based workers, sex-workers and street vendors are getting organised – but not as one.

In such situations, the question of leadership also emerges, somewhat problematically. Movements often draw external middle-class organisers who take over. Yet ‘the agents of change have to be workers themselves. We have to just be catalysts.’ Perhaps the current situation is just a temporary phase while grassroots leadership develops.

From Western workers, solidarity has to be genuine – ‘it can’t be based on pity’. Movements against ‘accumulation by dispossession’ are rising up, and the challenge for those in the global North is to offer solidarity without co-opting them. One thing is certain however – with living standards in the West being crushed by austerity, ‘all of us are workers now’. It’s time to start organising like we believe it.

Josiah Mortimer is a guest blogger for the Global Labour Institute’s third International Summer School for trade unionists at Northern College this week. The views expressed in this article are therefore solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of GLI.

You can follow all of the conference online on the GLI site, through Union Solidarity International, and on Twitter: #ISS14.

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#ISS14: Capitalism, anti-capitalism and the trade union movement – reviving labour amid crisis

The global labour movement is at a crossroads.

That’s the verdict of Bill Fletcher of the American Federation of Government Employees, speaking to the Global Labour Institute’s International Summer School in Barnsley this week. Workers are being hit by neoliberalism across the world – that much is obvious – but politically, the issue is this: how are unions to respond in the face of supposedly left-wing parties that have conceded to many of the neoliberal policies unions despise?

It’s question being asked while the populist right soar in much of the global north – filling the void where previously socialist politics would have existed.

Fletcher sees the current attacks on workers – from privatisation to public sector cuts – as representing the ‘obliteration of the social contract’ that emerged following the Second World War. But it was a social contract that was also ‘historically specific’ – built amid fear of the red threat.

It’s a message echoed by Asbjørn Wahl of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees. For him, the tripartite state-union-employer relationship dominant across much of Europe following World War Two was the ‘child of class compromise’ – a child that’s now left home. In other words, there’s no going back. But neither should we. Capitalist and union cooperation dampened the radicalism of working class in an attempt to bolster support for the Cold War.

While it did lead to several decades of social progress in the West, social democracy became a mere ‘mediator between classes’. Such mediation became the final aim of the labour movement. And in capitulating to this, they gave up on socialism, contributing to an ideological crisis on the left.

Yet the end of the social democratic accord in the 1980s has made nation states less and less responsive to popular demands, while the stresses of neoliberal globalisation turn populations against one another. For Fletcher, the system’s weakness has created a breeding ground for a right-wing populism – what he amusingly calls ‘the herpes of capitalism’ – that is now on the rise across Europe and elsewhere. At the same time, any resistance to the neoliberal project is met with repression.

There is clearly a strong sense of alienation among people however. It’s up to the left to politicise this discontent. To do this will require broad new social alliances, concrete alternatives, and unions taking on broader political responsibility amidst mainstream party capitulation, Wahl claims. Such alternatives must be built on a minimum programme that includes standing against austerity, taxing the rich, cancelling public debt, socialising finance and defending democracy.

The current crisis is of course political. The response must also be political – rebuilding labour movement and rebuilding left must go hand in hand. There’s no going back to the corporatism of the 1970s. But Fletcher argues unions can be a ‘civilising force amid the current chaos’ – if they go through a reformation.

Such a reformation must involve the re-radicalisation and re-politicisation of unions instead of continuing a business or servicing model. And that’s no small task. But if the labour movement is to get out of this current conjuncture, we can’t depend on doing the same and expecting different results. Nor can we rely on revivalism and nostalgia for some by-gone social democratic past. Instead, we need a fresh start if we’re going to have any chance of challenging the ‘capitalism on crack’ that is the current paradigm. That will include working with social movements like those that organised the millions-strong Madrid march against austerity in March. If we do this, Wahl says, ‘we have a chance to avoid extinction’. It is, therefore, a chance we can’t afford to miss.

Josiah Mortimer is a guest blogger for the Global Labour Institute’s third International Summer School for trade unionists at Northern College this week. The views expressed in this article are therefore solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of GLI.

You can follow all of the conference online on the GLI site, through Union Solidarity International, and on Twitter: #ISS14.

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Dave Spooner at #ISS14: ‘A Starter Kit for International Trade Unionists’

Dave Spooner has kicked off the GLI’s International Summer School 2014 with a ‘Starter Kit for International Trade Unionists’ – a guided tour around the political and organisational landscape of the global labour movement.

Dave Spooner - image from USiLive
Dave Spooner – image from USiLive

The summary below is taken from the 2013 summer school proceedings. You can watch the full video of Dave Spooner’s 2014 session here thanks to Union Solidarity International.

The Starter Kit began with a discussion of the two types of ‘global unions’. The first type, global union federations (GUFs) used to be called International Trade Secretariats, and are the industrial wing of the international trade union movement. The political wing is the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and its variants. So there are two levels – industrial and political. Moreover, the ITUC represents national TUCs, while GUFs represent sectoral unions.

GUFs

GUFs are based on industries and sectors, paid for through union subs. The International Transportworkers’ Federation (ITF) for example is made up of different transport unions. ‘They are paid for by you’ through a percentage of members’ subs – ‘a coffee per member per year’.

There are a number of GUFs, such as the BWI (the Building and Woodworkers’ International, representing largely construction workers), EI (Education International), IndustrALL (a manufacturing/industrial GUF merger), IFJ (International Federation of Journalists), IUF (representing primarily food-workers), PSI (a public sector GUF), UNI (for service sector workers) and so on. These meet together in their combined website Global Unions, a useful resource which contains all the information about global union campaigns.

Examples of GUFs

The IUF (The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations) was founded 1920, representing 336 unions in 120 countries and 12m workers. Like most GUFs, it is based in Geneva. The GLI’s own Dan Gallin was general secretary of the IUF for 29 years.

The ITF (International Transport-workers’ Federation) is based in London, and organises seafarers, railways, road, urban transport, tourism, fisheries and so on, representing 681 unions of 4,500,000 workers in 148 countries.

A final example, the BWI, is based in Geneva, representing construction, building, forestry, wood and paper workers (among others). It represents 350 unions, 12m members, and 135 countries. The BWI congress, held every 4 years, unfortunately coincides with this year’s ISS.

Unions can be affiliated to multiple GUFs. Indeed, Unite is affiliated to most GUFs as it represents a wide range of workers and sectors.

What do GUFs do?

  • Trade union development and education
  • Solidarity actions – GUFs are active in resisting repression with solidarity actions through email campaigns, petitions, pickets etc.
  • Research – e.g. digging up information on target companies
  • Co-ordinating representation in transnational corporations. Unilever has factories all over the world and comes under the IUF’s remit. The IUF thus tries to bring together all Unilever’s unions to meet and plan action internationally in order to stop workers being pitted against each other by bosses.
  • UN and employer association representation
  • Information exchange – a ‘telephone exchange on a giant level’
  • Campaigning – from long hours and stress for lorry drivers, to food safety and land rights and everything in-between

GUFs often get involved in national disputes. National unions put out a call for solidarity, and GUFs respond by sending representatives, starting global campaigns etc.

The global federations also offer training, and can put unions in contact with other unions worldwide, organising joint training for example.

However, it must be remembered that they are not huge organisations, the ITF being the biggest with just 100 staff in London, plus staff regionally across the world. The IFJ probably has less than a dozen staff globally, while the IUF has around 100 staff and the BWI around 50.

The International Trade Union Confederation

The ITUC can be described as the global ‘TUC of TUCs’. Most countries have more than one TUC, and indeed some have dozens, while in UK we have only have one. The ITUC itself is quite new, formed in 2006 as a merger between two others confederations – the ICFTU (formed in 1949 and social democratic/democratic socialist) with the WCL (formed in 1920s and a Christian trade union federation of mostly Catholic unions based in Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Latin America and so on). Today the ITUC is based in Brussels, and Sharan Burrow is its General Secretary.

But what’s it for?

  • Representing the trade union movement on international governmental bodies – e.g. ILO, WB, IMF, WTO etc.
  • Campaigning for workers’ rights, e.g. through publishing its annual trade union repression report.
  • Organising solidarity actions against repression, especially governmental repression. It played a major role in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.
  • Research and union development
  • The ‘Decent Work’ agenda

The World Federation of Trade Unions

Established in 1945, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) is a Communist union confederation strong during the Cold War which dates back to the Labour Union International. A Bolshevik confederation, the WFTU could be described as a ‘transmission belt of party policy to unions and to workers’, strongly following the party line.

The WFTU is was based in Prague, dominated by state-controlled unions plus other communist unions. However, it essentially collapsed after the Cold War ended, though remnents remain. Indeed, some unions are returning to the WFTU, which is today based in Athens and led by PAME, a radical Greek union confederation. It is seen as undergoing something of a resurgence.

Global Unions: Regional Structures

Many GUFs give their regional branches a high level of autonomy, allowing them to set their own policy, budgets, campaigns and so on. However, this degree of autonomy varies, with some being more centralised than others.

The International Labour Organisation

In terms of the ILO, we must first note it is not a trade union body, instead being part of the UN like UNICEF. However, unions do have strong representation in the ILO at 25%, with the ITUC holding many representatives. Employers’ associations also send representatives, holding 25% of seats, while governments hold 50% of ILO representation. As an organisation, the ILO can be seen as a ‘theatre of class warfare’.

A key role of the ILO is to set global labour standards, meeting annually for over two weeks in Geneva to debates labour standards – a process which takes months of preparation. In the case of domestic workers however, it paid off – they won. But it can go the other way.

Core Labour Standards

A key issue for the ILO is determining what the core rules are which should govern everyone. However, the ILO sets rules only for governments, not companies, creating a problem – you can only complain to the ILO about governments. Moreover, ILO Conventions (of which there are hundreds) have to be ratified by national governments, and as the ILO has no enforcement powers, ILO decisions are essentially voluntarily enforced.

The core tenets of the ILO are:

  • Freedom of association
  • Right to collective bargaining
  • Elimination of forced labour
  • Effective abolition of child labour
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • Decent work is big theme in the ILO too.

Important Debates and Issues in Global Unionism

A key debate within union federations today is that of ‘new capitalism’, represented through trends such as the financialisation of modern global corporations. Corporations are becoming more like casinos, sitting on vast stacks of cash. In a context of austerity, ‘there is lots of money – but it’s within the big corporations’. The US car company GM makes more money by ‘gambling on stock markets’ than making cars. Indeed, what companies now make is secondaryif they can make more money by gambling, they will do. This is having a major impact on us and workers generally.

Another major debate is ‘the problem with Europe’ – the demise of ‘Social Europe’. Social partnership was traditionally promoted by EU. However, the financial crisis means ‘the employers have walked out of the restaurant leaving workers to foot the bill’. Nonetheless, many unions in Northern Europe sadly continue to cling on to idea of social Europe. Moreover, the ETUC and European Industrial Committees were established and funded by the European Commission, and are often completely independent of the global union structures. The PSI and European Public Service Unions (EPSU) are completely independent, while the IUF is more involved in its European counterpart. Nonetheless, solidarity is very difficult in this context.

Climate Change, Energy and the Union Movement – Very few unions take climate change very seriously, although as climate change begins to hit this is starting to change. ‘When the lights start going off, you’ll start knowing there’s a serious problem’. In Pakistan garment factories are moving elsewhere, not because of industrial disputes, but due to power cuts.

The Future of Public Services – what do we think that public services should be? What’s our alternative – simply demanding more money funding and winding the clock back? Or democratic control?

The Rise of Precarious Work – Work is changing under ‘new capitalism’. Spooner notes his father had a job for life, yet ‘my kids won’t have that future’. All jobs are becoming precarious. ‘My kids may have period of unemployment, self-employment, agency work, etc. etc.’ Work is thus cut up and insecure. What do unions do about it?

On the other hand, most people in the world don’t even have precarious work – they have informal work, with people doing whatever they can, including selling their labour on the streets.

Rebuilding Unions from Below – Many unions are facing a crisis, with membership declining, facing huge attacks while maintaining structures which were created in a period of industrial peace. Yet there are few national collective bargaining agreements now. We need to rethink unions and rebuild from below. Unite Community Membership, StreetNet International – an international TU federation of people who make their living on the street – home based workers organising (your hand-stitched shoes are likely to have been made by home-based workers in Bulgaria, with 35k members in their union – they have strikes and do collective bargaining!), factory occupations in Greece and so on. All positive examples of new organising techniques.

Where are the politics? – Meanwhile, social democratic parties globally are declining, and relationships between unions and them are collapsing, particularly in Europe. The onward march of neoliberalism and austerity continues – ‘government policies are carrying on as they were’. ‘The crisis is permanent’, as they say. We need to think about political strategies to counter this.

The Resurgence of the WFTU – what does this mean? Why are the structures being revitalised a little? The RMT union in the UK has just affiliated to WFTU. In South Africa, NUMSA is considering it too. Does it stem from frustration with ITUC? Perhaps – the ‘ITUC hasn’t realised there’s a crisis happening for workers!’

Do we have a democratic socialist alternative? Here, we are clear in saying we are democratic socialists.

Sharan Burrow says ‘we are in a labour war across Europe, the US, [and] emerging democracies’. That’s from the head of the ITUC. The situation is serious.

All of these themes will be discussed over the course of the week, so look out for blogs of all the other main sessions!

Josiah Mortimer is a guest blogger for the Global Labour Institute’s third International Summer School for trade unionists at Northern College this week. The views expressed in this article are therefore solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of GLI.

You can follow all of the conference online on the  GLI site, through Union Solidarity International, and on Twitter: #ISS14.

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International Summer School 2014 Begins – Welcome!

Today marks the start of the third Global Labour Institute International Summer School at Northern College in Barnsley.

Over 80 labour movement delegates from 28 countries have descended on Barnsley for an inspiring week of debate, discussion and education on the situation of the international labour movement and its politics in the 21st century.

Workers in 2014 face enormous challenges, from austerity to ecological destruction and political turmoil. #ISS14 hopes to provide a platform for debate as to how to deal with these global crises and to inspire a new generation of global union activists.

The International Summer School this year comes at a time as Britain is preparing for potentially its largest day of strike action since the General Strike of 1926, which will be taking place this Thursday.

Our team of conference rapporteurs and Union Solidary International (USi) will be live-blogging and reporting on the Summer School over the course of the week, both on the GLI and USi blogs. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions – whether in person or on Twitter.

Make sure to follow and contribute to the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #ISS14 and following @GLI_UK and @USILive.

A huge welcome from the GLI team to those who have travelled far and wide for the Summer School!

We hope you have an excellent week and come away feeling re-energised and ready to take on the threats to workers across the globe.

 Solidarity!

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Global Labour University (GLU): Masters Programme Applications

The Global Labour University (GLU) invites trade unionists and labour activists to apply to its Masters programmes in ‘Labour Policies and Globalisation’ at the University of Kassel  and the Berlin School of Economics and Law (Germany) and the newly launched Masters in  ‘Labor and Global Workers’ Right’s’  at Penn State University (USA).  For application and programme details, please visit http://www.global-labour-university.org/

The Global Labour University is a collaboration between the ILO, universities and trade unions and offers postgraduate programmes on labour policies, economics, workers’ rights, globalization and development to trade unionists around the world.  The GLU invites applicants to become part of a global network of scholars and activists to debate and shape the future of the global labour movement.

The final deadline for applications is 1 March 2014.  At both campuses a limited number of scholarships will be awarded to qualified applicants in need of financial support.

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2012 International Summer School

The GLI 2012 International Summer School, on “The Political Agenda of the International Trade Union Movement”, in partnership with Unite the Union, is being held on 9-13 July 2012, Northern College, in the UK.

The summer school is an opportunity to debate and question what are, and what should be, the politics of the international trade union movement. Participating national unions and Global Union Federations are sending delegations of activists, with an emphasis on young trade union members.