The promotion of national trade union centres across the globe is a practical means towards the consolidation of all existing trade unions in a country under an umbrella body.
For the purpose of information, a national trade union centre has been defined as a federation or confederation of trade unions in a single country. What is clear about this definition is that it makes no reference to a single trade union that has a number of divisions as part of its structure.
It therefore stands to reason that where an individual trade union, irrespective of its size, promotes that it is a congress, is not only fooling itself about what it is not, but can be rightly accused of misleading the public and violating the very principles for which the labour movement stands.
Truth to be told, where it obtains that a single trade union masquerades as a congress, this should be denounced by the state, the media and all right-thinking people. For such to be tolerated is disgusting, as it brings into question the ideals of integrity and honesty, which are two of the basic tenets or principles with which the labour movement identifies and promotes.
In applying the definition of a trade union national centre, it is unexplainable how any single trade union could purport to be a congress and, worse yet, a national centre. Based on this, it is to be reiterated that where any individual trade union publicly declares itself as a congress, that this should not be encouraged. As a matter of fact it should be denounced.
Should it be the case that there is a variation of the understanding of what is a national centre by the local authorities, then this should be known to all. If it is that there is recognition and acceptance of what constitutes a trade union national centre across the globe, then it means that any other process is fundamentally flawed.
This is not a case of who favours one organization over the next. It is basically a matter of what is right and what is wrong. Any application that deviates from this sends mix signals, and certainly raises concerns about fairness and justice.
The recognition of an individual trade union as the voice of labour over a national centre, based on the notion that it has the most unionized members, does not seem right. If the matter of membership size is to be used in determining a national centre in a domicile, then this would make a mockery of the current definition of what constitutes a trade union national centre. If the idea of recognition is based on historical antecedents, whatever that is supposed to mean, then this too is nothing short of dumbfounding.
As far as the established practices in industrial relations are concerned, it is well known that the global standards which are set and observed are those that are agreed upon by governments, trade unions and the private sector, who are the parties to agreement on conventions and recommendations coming out of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Annual Labour Conference.
It is therefore disconcerting and a matter of contradiction that any government of the 187 member states of the ILO would recognize a trade union national centre as the apex body, but not accord it the requisite status to represent the workers at the regional or international level.
It is usually the case that there are specific fora which are tailored for designated representatives. At the level of the International Confederation of Free Trade Union (ICFTU), which is recognized as the global body for national trade union confederations, representing the global trade union movement in every continent, it is expected that the leadership of the national centre would be representative of that organization at that level.
If this is the standard, it is unexplainable if the ICTU were to deny national centre membership in deference to an individual union in a country. In reasoning through this, it certainly can be the source of contention. In like manner the same can be the case where it appears a national centre is bypassed in preference for an individual trade union.
It is accepted that trade union national centres play a pivotal role in the protection of workers’ rights. Further, these centres are important to the promotion of trade union cooperation and solidarity. It therefore seems prudent and sensible for every country around the world to recognize, promote, respect and embrace the existence of a trade union national centre.
(Dennis De Peiza is labour management consultant Regional Management Services Inc.
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