Ihmisiä rakennustelineillä

Supervision of workers’ interests is a risky business out in the world

Blog post

I attended the congress of IndustriALL Global in September. IndustriALL Global is a global union federation representing workers in the industrial sector.

IndustriALL unites and supports member unions just as Akava does to its member unions in Finland. This cooperation between industrial workers and the unions that represent them is truly global. Some of the key goals that IndustriALL Global pursues with its member unions are the right to association (not a given in all countries), the right to a decent income and the rights of women and young people in work life.

Almost 700 delegates attended the remote congress. Through mutual cooperation, we can ensure fair global competition and avoid being played against each other. Decent working conditions and salaries also affect what work is done in Finland and at what price.

Every year, a large number of people die for doing the same work as I do.

I want to shed light on the dark side of our work, a side that is ignored all too often. Let's start with Finland and the Nordics. We have effective negotiation systems and the parties involved in these negotiations are all rational people, even though we may strongly disagree on certain things and occasionally even see strikes. During our congress, I heard several people describe how their colleagues have been thrown into prison, assaulted or killed. Every year, a large number of people die for doing the same work as I do. Yet others go on. They may cry and they may feel scared, but they do not give up. The international community supports, consoles and praises those who continue this dangerous work. In our minds we silently hope that we will meet again, alive and free.

The promotion of workers’ interests is nothing short of a calling in countries where life resembles the Wild West. Governments impose sanctions and obstacles to work. Companies, small and large, treat their employees like slaves, at worst, as a few delegates described during the congress. Even many Western countries have a prevailing union busting mentality. Employers do all they can, and often legally, to disturb the ranks of those who try to form unions. There are even special operators in the United States who specialize in making unionization more difficult in various ways (union busting). The staff of trade unions in South American countries have been killed and the same continues. In many countries, you can go to jail for unionism, as recently happened to Belorussian trade unionists.

International work is important for a variety of reasons. What I have addressed here is related to the overall sense of security and the freedom to work while ultimately aiming for a fair and equal work life for all. I myself am grateful for being able to do this in a safe society. I wish everyone else could say the same.