International Associations of Trade Unions in Particular Sectors

International Associations of Trade Unions in Particular Sectors


organizations uniting the trade unions of particular branches of production in different countries.

Trade union internationals exist within the framework of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). They were established as autonomous organizations beginning in 1949 with the aim of defending both the general interests of all workers and the specific interests connected with a particular branch of production. In 1966 the general council of the WFTU adopted a resolution, confirmed by the Seventh World Congress of Trade Unions in October 1969, expanding the autonomy of the associations. Each association has its own individual charter and its own program of demands, based on the economic and social program of the WFTU and consistent with its basic aims and general orientation.

In 1976 there were 11 such trade union internationals in operation, uniting unions from socialist, capitalist, and developing countries, including some not belonging to the WFTU. The associations do not limit themselves to the struggle for the workers’ trade needs but vigorously support the struggle of the workers for peace and democracy and against colonialism. One of their most important tasks is the creation of international trade union unity. The highest body of each association is the international industrial conference, held as a rule once every four years. The conference elects an administrative committee and a control commission. A secretariat carries out the day-to-day work.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has international trade secretariats that unite trade unions in particular industries. These arose in the last third of the 19th century, disbanded during World War I, were revived and disbanded again during World War II, and were revived again in the postwar era. In 1976 there were 16 secretariats, whose work was coordinated by a communications bureau.

In 1976 the World Confederation of Labor (WCL) had 12 international industrial federations, which functioned as international union associations for particular industries; in practice their activity was limited to Western Europe, ties with unions in the same industry on other continents being maintained primarily through the WCL regional organizations.

There are also autonomous international associations of unions within particular industries; the trade unions of the USSR and other socialist countries belong to some of them. The anticommunism of a number of leaders of the industrial associations of the international trade secretariats and of the international industrial federations interferes with joint action between these unions and unions belonging to the WFTU. However, under the pressure of the workers’ growing urge for unity, the unions of different international associations in the same branch of industry have fairly often been able to cooperate in joint actions, despite the anticommunist position of right-wing reformist union leaders.


Encyclopedia browser ?
Full browser ?