UNI Congress in Nagasaki Brings MoveUP Closer to Global Unions

November 10, 2010

MoveUP President Andy Ross and Vice-President David Black are attending the Union Network International (UNI) 3rd World Congress as delegates on behalf of MoveUP. They are joining over 2,200 registered participants from around the world.

David and Andy spent Monday settling in to their hotel, registering for the Congress, finding their way around Nagasaki and visiting the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum as arranged by UNI. They were welcomed at the Nagasaki airport and throughout the city of Nagasaki by volunteer members of UNI affiliated unions in Japan. The volunteers were ubiquitous throughout the city and very visible in their bright red UNI jackets. They ensured all the delegates found their way around and had their questions about the Congress or Nagasaki answered. The famed hospitality of the Japanese was outdone by the citizens of Nagasaki and the volunteer union members assisting with the Congress.

Andy and David found the Atomic Bomb Museum a deeply moving experience. The Museum presents a retrospective of Nagasaki as it was on August 9th, 1945, at two minutes after 11 am when the atomic bomb exploded 500 metres above the city. Nagasaki’s population was 240,000 people at the time. Over 73,000 lives were instantly extinguished. More than 70,000 people were injured, many to die later of their injuries. The museum is filled with heart-rending photos and stories of the victims and survivors. There are still people alive today who are struggling with the physical and emotional effects of the A-bomb. The City of Nagasaki has dedicated itself ever since to the pursuit of peace and nuclear disarmament, using the symbol of the universally recognized origami crane.

On Tuesday morning Andy and David met with UNI affiliates from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss a UNI response to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings happening next week in Seoul, South Korea. UNI has been working with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on making sure that the voices of working people are at the table when these trade organizations meet. UNI and the ITUC have had success at organizations like the World Trade Organization, G8 and G20, and in the European Community, but have not had success at APEC as of yet, despite the fact that employer associations do have a voice in the process. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is a participant in these ITUC activities.

UNI affiliates heard from Professor Rene Ofreneo, of the University of the Philippines, on what APEC means to workers in the Asia Pacific Region. (View Professor Ofreneo’s report here.) The group reviewed a background document and discussed what is happening to the members in affiliates in many of the countries represented in the meeting. The affiliates endorsed a program to:

  • Reverse the global “race to the bottom”
  • Upgrade labour and social standards for all
  • Begin the “race to the top” for workers rights, conditions and wages
  • Work for a system of fair and balanced trade
  • Deal with the challenges of climate changes proactively and work for “green jobs”
  • Secure a seat for workers at the APEC table

The meeting endorsed a statement on APEC.

The Congress proper opened on Tuesday afternoon. The host was a TV anchor and a member of the Japan Broadcasting Labour Union. The President of RENGO, the Japanese Labour Central welcomed the UNI affiliates to Japan for the Congress. He briefed the delegates on the state of unionized workers here in Japan. There were greetings from the new General Secretary of the ITUC, Sharan Burrow, who underlined the role of UNI in the global union movement. The Congress received greetings from both the Mayor of Nagasaki and the Governor of Nagasaki Prefecture, who wished the delegates well in their Congress. The Chairperson of the Japanese UNI Liaison Council advised the delegates that UNI affiliates in Japan now have more than one million members in Japan. UNI Global Union President Joe Hansen (from the United Food and Commercial Workers) addressed the Convention on some of the activities of UNI since the last Congress in Chicago in 2005. The afternoon closed with an inspiring address from a 23 year old member of one of UNI’s Japan affiliates. The member works for the Japanese post office and she first became involved in her union after being bribed with two pieces of cake. She became further involved her union and UNI youth and preparations for this Congress. The evening closed with a reception where Andy and David met and spoke with delegates from Egypt, Italy, South Africa, Senegal, Japan, and spoke briefly with the General Secretary of UNI, Phillip Jennings.