International trade union extending global reach

* Global coordination to increase influence over companies

* Working with unions in Australia, Scandinavia

* Europe-wide ties seen a long way off

By Kylie MacLellan

MANCHESTER, England, June 2 (BestGrowthStock) – The first
international trade union said on Wednesday it was taking steps
to expand its global membership by merging with other unions to
boost its influence over multinational firms.

Union activity in Britain and much of Europe is set to
increase over the coming months as governments impose painful
austerity measures aimed at tackling huge budget deficits which
have left financial markets jittery. [ID:nLDE65115B]

Workers Uniting, which was formed in 2007 by Britain’s
biggest trade union Unite and North America’s largest private
sector union the United Steelworkers Union (USW), has already
developed informal links with manufacturing unions in Australia
and expects them to formally join it soon.

It is also in merger talks with several Scandinavian unions.

“Increasingly our members work for multinational companies
and they need to know what is going on elsewhere in the world,”
Richard O’Brien, UK director of Workers Uniting, told Reuters.
“The aim is to get back on to a level footing where you can
actually affect production and affect decisions and force
fairness upon employers.”

Workers Uniting, which represents more than 3 million
workers in Britain, Ireland, Canada and the United States, has
already coordinated on collective bargaining across the
Atlantic, including during negotiations with paper and packaging
firm Georgia-Pacific LLC [KCHINP.UL] .

ACHILLES HEEL

At Unite’s conference in Manchester, where a collection was
held to raise money to support striking Vale (VALE5.SA: ) workers
in Canada, delegates backed a motion calling for Workers Uniting
to extend its global links so it could challenge the strength of
international companies more effectively.

O’Brien’s U.S. counterpart told the conference that working
as a global union would help prevent companies using the threat
of relocation during negotiations over pay and conditions.

“We will be a presence around the world and transnationals
will not be able to play one country off against another or one
union against another. That has always been our Achilles heel,
nationalism,” said USW international director Jerry Fernandez.

But while Workers Uniting is keen to expand its reach within
Europe, the formal inclusion of European trade unions is likely
a long way off due to a history of greater cooperation between
industry and workers in countries such as Germany, O’Brien said.

“For example German companies have supervisory boards which
always have union representation on them,” he said. “They
haven’t needed to look for outside assistance.”

“Whenever there is a situation where a multinational company
is looking to downsize they always go for where it is easier and
cheaper to do and mainly that is in Britain. In Germany it is a
lot more complicated, a lot more expensive, a lot more time
consuming, same in France and Italy.”

Despite this, Workers Uniting has had positive discussions
with German public sector union Verdi, he added. “The Germans
will come to it in the end but it may take a generation.”

Stock Market Today

(Writing by Maria Golovnina)

International trade union extending global reach