World Federation of Trade Unions
|Full name||World Federation of Trade Unions|
|Founded||October 3, 1945|
|Members||78 million workers of 210 trade union organizations, from 105 countries across all six inhabited continents (2011)|
|Office location||Athens, Greece|
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The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was established in 1945 to replace the International Federation of Trade Unions. Its mission was to bring together trade unions across the world in a single international organization, much like the United Nations. After a number of Western trade unions left it in 1949, as a result of disputes over support for the Marshall Plan, to form the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the WFTU was made up primarily of unions affiliated with or sympathetic to Communist parties. In the context of the Cold War, the WFTU was often portrayed as a Soviet front organization. A number of those unions, including those from Yugoslavia and China, left later when their governments had ideological differences with the Soviet Union.
The WFTU declined as a result of the collapse of the Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, in particular in Europe, with many of its former constituent unions joining the ICFTU. That fall seems to have come to an end since the congress in Havana in 2005 where a new leadership was elected with Georges Mavrikos, a Greek union activist from PAME, leading member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), at its head.
In January 2006 it moved its headquarters from Prague, Czech Republic to Athens, Greece and reinvigorated its activity by putting focus on organizing regional federations of unions in the Third World, by organizing campaigns against imperialism, racism, poverty, environmental degradation and exploitation of workers under capitalism and in defense of full employment, social security, health protection, and trade union rights. The WFTU devotes much of its energy to organizing conferences, issuing statements and producing educational materials and courses for trade union leaders.
In recent years, the WFTU has successfully managed to recruit several trade unions of importance in Europe, amongst which the Rail Maritime Trade Union in Great Britain, the Unione Sindicale di Base in Italy. In France, the CGT federation of food processing industry has maintained its affiliation with the WFTU. The CGT federation of Chemical industries sent delegates to the last congress in Athens in 2011. In 2013, two local CGT railway workers branches have taken steps to become affiliates with the WFTU.
The different offices of the WFTU across the different continents organize regular exchanges and militant visits of trade union activists from an affiliate to another in order to further discussions, foster internationalist ties, establish an international activity of its affiliates around shared objectives and campaigns, against common adversaries.
In Africa, unions of major importance such as COSATU in South Africa, have affiliated with the WFTU.
As part of its efforts to advance its international agenda, the WFTU develops working partnerships with national and industrial trade unions worldwide as well as with a number of international and regional trade union organizations including the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU), the Permanent Congress of Trade Union Unity of Latin America (CPUSTAL), and the General Confederation of Trade Unions of CIS countries.
The WFTU holds consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the ILO, UNESCO, FAO, and other UN agencies. It maintains permanent missions in New York, Geneva, and Rome.
Example of National affiliates of the WFTU include:
- All-China Federation of Trade Unions (former official affiliate, nowadays 'friendly' relations)
- All-Workers Militant Front (Greece)
- Zenroren (Japan)
- Unione Sindacale di Base (Italy)
- Bangladesh Trade Union Kendra
- Vietnam General Confederation of Labour
- National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (UK)
- Congress of South African Trade Unions
- Bolivian Workers' Center
- Workers' Central Union of Cuba
- General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW)
- Confederación General de Trabajadores del Peru (Peru)
- General Federation of Trade Unions (Syria)
- Centre of Indian Trade Unions (India)
- Worker's Trade Union Coordinating Body (COS) (Catalan Countries)
- Workers' House (Iran)
2 national federations of the French CGT (confederation general du travail) are affiliated to the WFTU : Food and wood processing federation, chemical and oil federation.
Trade Union Internationals
During the late 1940s, the WFTU unsuccessfully tried to reach an agreement with already existing international trade secretariats. When the Union split in 1949 they were left without an organization at the level of specific industries. Therefore, they created the:
- World Federation of Teachers Unions – known by its French acronym FISE, this is the earliest affiliated union, founded in 1946. It maintained a degree of independence from the WFTU not exercised by the other TUIs.
- In 1949, the 2nd World Congress decided to create a series of sectoral unions, after their negotiations with already existing international trade secretariats failed. At first these were known as Trade Departments or International Federations, but they adopted the appellation "Trade Union Internationals" by the mid-1950s. The original TUIs formed in 1949 and 1950 were:
- The WFTU functioned during the Cold War largely as a front organization, bringing together unions and western unions.
- Trade Union International of Agricultural and Forestry Workers (also known as the TUI of Agricultural, Forestry and Plantation Workers)
- Trade Unions International of Building, Wood, Building Materials and Industries
- International Union of Trade Unions of Postal, Telephone and Telegraph Workers (also known as the TUI of Postal, Telegraph, Telephone and Radio Workers)
- Trade Union International of Chemical and Allied Workers
- Trade Unions International of Miners
- Trade Union International of Food, Tobacco, Hotel and Allied Industries Workers (also known as the TUI of Food, Tobacco and Catering Workers or the TUI of Food, Tobacco and Beverage Industries, and Hotel, Cafe and Restaurant Workers)
- Trade Union International of Metal and Engineering Workers (also known as the TUI of Workers in the Metal Industry)
- Trade Union International of Textile and Clothing Workers
- Trade Union International of Leather, Shoe, Fur and Leather Products
- Trade Unions International of Seamen and Dockers
- Trade Unions International of Land and Air Transport Workers
Over time, some of these original eleven would expand their bases, change their names or merge:
- In 1953, the TUIs of Seamen and Dockers and Land and Air Transport Workers merged to form the Trade Unions International of Transport, Port and Fishery Workers. By 1985, this union had adopted its present name, Trade Unions International of Transport Workers.
- In 1954 the TUI of Chemical and Allied Workers expanded its sectoral base and became the Trade Unions International of Chemical, Oil and Allied Workers.
- In 1955 the International Union of Trade Unions of Postal, Telephone and Telegraph Workers expanded its scope to all public employees and became the Trade Unions International of Public and Allied Employees.
- In 1958 the TUIs of Leather, Shoe, Fur and Leather Products and of Textile and Clothing Workers merged to form the Trade Union International of Textile, Leather and Fur Workers Unions.
- In 1983 the TUI of Miners expanded its scope and became the Trade Unions International of Miners and Energy Workers. In 1986 it became the Trade Unions International of Energy Workers before ceasing activities.
Other than the initial eleven, two new TUIs were formed during the course of the Cold War:
- Trade Union International of Workers in Commerce formed in 1959
- Standing Committee of Trade Unions in the Graphic Industry formed in 1961, allied with, but not formally affiliated to the WFTU.
Post-Cold War developments
After the dissolution of the Eastern bloc, the Trade Unions International of Energy Workers and the Trade Union International of Metal and Engineering Workers temporarily suspended operations. In 1998 a conference was held in Havana which merged these two organizations and the Trade Union International of Chemical, Oil and Allied Workers in a new group, Trade Union International of Energy, Metal, Chemical, Oil and Allied Industries. This organization was reorganized again as the Trade Unions International of Energy Workers in 2007. This left the metal workers an opportunity create a new TUI the next year, Trade Union International of Workers in the Mining, the Metallurgy and the Metal Industries.
In 1997 the Trade Union International of Agroalimentary, Food, Commerce, Textile & Allied Industries was formed by the merger of the Trade Union International of Agricultural, Forestry and Plantation Workers, Trade Union International of Food, Tobacco, Hotel and Allied Industries Workers, Trade Union International of Workers in Commerce, Trade Union International of Textile, Leather and Fur Workers Unions.
The Trade Union International of Workers in Tourism and Hotels was founded in 2009, the Trade Union International of Banks, Insurance and Financial Unions Employees in 2011 and the Trade Union International of Trade Unions of Pensioners and Retired Persons in 2014.
- 1945: Louis Saillant
- 1969: Pierre Gensous
- 1975: Enrique Pastorino
- 1982: Ibrahim Zakaria
- 1990: Alexander Zharikov
- 2005: George Mavrikos
- 1945: Walter Citrine
- 1946: Arthur Deakin
- 1949: Giuseppe Di Vittorio
- 1959: Agustino Novella
- 1961: Renato Bitossi
- 1969: Enrique Pastorino
- 1975: Sandor Gaspar
- 1994: Antonio Neto (Brazil)
- 2000: K. L. Mahendra
- 2005: Shaban Assouz
- 2016: Michael Mzwandile Makwayiba
- "WFTU Report of Action 2006-2010". 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
- Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, p.84
- TUIs CONTACT DETAILS
- Facts about international Communist front organisations 1957 p. 55
- Coldrick, A. Percy and Jones, Philip. The international directory of the trade union movement New York : Facts on File,  pp. 170–71
- Directory of World Federation of Trade Unions Washington Office of International Labor Affairs, June 1955 pp. 47–49
- Facts about international Communist front organisations pp. 31–32
- Directory of World Federation of Trade Unions 1955 p. 48
- Directory of World Federation of Trade Unions Washington Office of International Labor Affairs, December 1958 p. 52
- Directory of World Federation of Trade Unions 1955 p. 49
- Directory of World Federation of Trade Unions December 1958 p. 56
- Project for Articles of Association p. 16
- Coldrick, A. Percy and Jones, Philip. The international directory of the trade union movement New York : Facts on File,  p. 183
- The World Federation of Trade Unions, 1945-1985. Prague; Published by the WTFU in cooperation with PRACE Czechoslovak Trade Unions 1985 pp. 156–7
- Europa World Year Book London; Taylor & Francis, 2004 p.342
- Report of Action 2006-2010 p. 106
- Report of Action 2006-2010 p. 116
- Initial intervention of Congress Founding - Feb. 5, 2014
- Fabio BERTINI, Gilliatt e la piovra. Il sindacalismo internazionale dalle origini ad oggi (1776-2006), Roma, Aracne, 2011
- World Federation of Trade Unions Web Site
- Recollections of the WFTU's activities in 1968
- Guide to World Federation of Trade Unions. Reports and Minutes, 1945-1949. 5396mf. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Martin P. Catherwood Library, Cornell University.