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The world

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Logo ITUCIn the annals of the history of the international trade union movement, the 1 of November 2006 will stand out as a day of particular historic significance. In the Austrian capital of Vienna, a brand new international trade union organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) was set up, after the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) held their respective dissolution congresses. ITUC consists of 306 organisations. Besides the trade unions, which were affiliated to WCL and to ICFTU, also a number of independent trade union confederations joined ITUC. This makes that ITUC represents more than 168 millions of members spread over the world. ACV-CSC affiliates with 1 550 000 members, which makes it the 12th largest trade union in the world.

In pledging themselves to a new unitary but pluralistic international trade union confederation, ACV-CSC together with former WCL-organisations wish to contribute to the new international trade union spirit and a new internationalism more responsive to the challenges of our time. 306 trade unions from 154 different countries will act as a stronger countervailing force to face up against the negative effects of the current neo-liberal globalisation.  This countervailing force is also supported by the international Trade Action, the Global Union Federations (GUF’s) representing workers in different industries or sectors, and who are now united in one Global Union Federations Council.

During its launching Congress in Vienna, Guy Ryder was elected as General Secretary of the new International Trade Union Confederation. In its charter, ITUC states firmly that it wants to weigh more on the decision-making processes of international institutions such as IMF, WTO and World Bank. ITUC aims to be more than just a well-oiled lobby machine, but also wants to be strong mobilizing force. ACV-CSC President Luc Cortebeeck is the newly elected vice president of ITUC.  “The priority for the former WCL organisations is building up grass root trade unionism and the further development of the organisations on all levels”, Luc Cortebeeck asserts. “We will make this into the cornerstone of the new international trade union organisation”, Cortebeeck goes on to say. “Together we will defend the pivotal role of training and mutual exchange of experiences. Because this is the only way forward for a new internationalism based on solidarity, diversity and shared values and friendship.”  

International Labour Organisation (ILO) 

The International Labour Organisation is a United Nations organisation specialising in social policy. The ILO is extremely important for workers and their organisations all over the world. It is the only international organisation where the workers are fully represented in all activities and decision-making processes. Furthermore, the ILO has to power to adopt international labour conventions. The approval of a new convention is often preceded by years of technical preparations and consultations between the unions, the employers and governments at both national and international levels. The work on the union side is coordinated by the international umbrella organisations, the WCL and the ICFTU. 

Since 1919 182 Conventions and 190 Recommendations have been approved. Conventions only become binding upon a Member State once it has ratified them. The Fundamental Standards listed in the 1998 Declaration must be respected by all Member States. These relate to freedom of association, collective bargaining, forced labour, child labour and discrimination in the fields of employment and equal opportunities. The ILO closely monitors the implementation of the conventions in the different Member States. It has set up a surveillance system for this purpose, with the close involvement of workers’ organisations. 

ACV-CSC chairman Luc Cortebeeck has been elected three years in a row as spokesman of the workers’ organizations in the Standards Commission of the ILO.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and TUAC

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is composed of the industrialised countries. Its main role is to provide information and advice in the fields of economic and social policy. It has also drawn up a social code of conduct for transnational corporations. However, the unions do not always support all of the OECD’s studies. The OECD has an advisory committee made up of workers’ organisations, known as the TUAC, and the ACV-CSC is very involved in the work of this committee. 

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The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB) 

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are the most important international-level financial institutions. Their tasks include supporting currencies, ensuring financial stability and providing government loans. They have a huge impact on countries’ social policies. Member States desiring support have to comply with structural adjustment programmes, which usually involve substantial public spending cuts. In the past, scant attention was paid to the negative effects of these programmes on education, health, employment and poverty reduction. In recent years the international umbrella organisations WCL and ICFTU, the ILO and the ACV itself have lobbied IMF and World Bank decision-makers, drawing their attention to the social consequences of the structural adjustment programmes.


The WTO is the international organisation responsible for settling disputes arising from trade agreements. Like the IMF and the World Bank, it is a body whose role is to regulate the world economy. 

At recent WTO conferences large numbers of non-governmental organisations have demonstrated for WTO reform.

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