Monday, January 01, 2007

Birth of the first global super-union

Birth of the first global super-union

Amicus, IG-Metall and two US labour groups join forces
to confront the power of the multinationals

By Oliver Morgan, industrial editor
Guardian (UK)
December 31, 2006

British, American and German unions are to forge a pact
to challenge the power of global capitalism in a move towards creating an international union with more than
6 million members.

Amicus, the UK's largest private sector union, has
signed agreements with the German engineering union IG-
Metall and two of the largest labour organisations in
the US, the United Steelworkers and the International
Association of Machinists
, to prevent companies playing
off their workforces in different countries against
each other.

The move, to be announced this week, is seen by union
leaders as the first step towards creating a single
union that can present a united front to multinational

Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: 'Our
aim is to create a powerful single union that can
transcend borders to challenge the global forces of
capital. I envisage a functioning, if loosely federal,
multinational organisation within the next decade.'

Amicus is itself planning to merge with the Transport &
General Workers' Union in May to create a 2 million-
strong labour organisation. Between IG-Metall's 2.4
million members, the USW's 1.2 million and 730,000 at
the Machinists', a merger would create an organisation
with some 6.3 million members.

Simpson added that multinational companies 'trade off
countries and workforces against each other' and that
forging such solidarity agreements as have been signed
with German and US unions is the best way to combat
such practices.

UK unions have repeatedly claimed that global companies
shed British jobs first because employment protection
legislation here is weaker than elsewhere. In April,
for example, Peugeot announced it was closing its Ryton
car manufacturing plant near Coventry with the loss of
2,300 jobs, saying that work would be transferred to
Slovakia, where labour costs were cheaper, and France,
Peugeot's home turf.

Simpson's views are shared by Tony Woodley, general
secretary of the T&G, who said earlier this month that
a trade union acting in a single country was an idea
whose time had passed.

The T&G has worked closely in the past with overseas
unions. It has combined on organising and campaigning
activity with SEIU, the North American service
employees' union, which has 1.3 million members.
Although the T&G has not gone as far as Amicus in
turning co-operation into formalised agreements,
Woodley has said he believes unions must act together
internationally to combat the growing influence of
global capital.

Simpson has said in the past that UK unions are
currently small players and need to grow in scale. He
believes that unions have not managed to maintain their
influence in the face of the growth in influence of
global companies, a fact demonstrated by the demise of
the wage premium between unionised and non-unionised

Amicus has discussed a merger with IG-Metall in the
past. In 2000, Sir Ken Jackson, Simpson's predecessor,
held talks with Klaus Zwickel, then head of the German
union, about such a move.,,1980298,00.html

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