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International trade union structures

The TUC and UK trade unions form part of a global trade union movement with its own distinct organisations and structures.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)

Visit the ILO website.

The ILO is an agency of the United Nations. The ILO is a tripartite organisation which brings together representatives of governments, employers, and trade unions to set labour standards, develop policies, and devise programmes promoting decent work.

The ILO's Core Conventions are the fundamental basis of international labour law.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Visit the ITUC website.

The ITUC is a worldwide union network that represents 207 million workers in 163 countries and territories. The ITUC membership is composed of trade union centres, like the TUC, from around the world.

The ITUC’s primary mission is to promote and defend workers’ rights through international cooperation between trade unions, global campaigning, and advocacy within major global institutions. The TUC General Secretary, some TUC General Council members, and senior TUC staff sit on the boards of the ITUC advisory councils.

The TUC also takes part in the ITUC Pan European Regional Council (PERC).

Our sister trade union centres

The TUC is a trade union centre, made up of 48 affiliated UK trade unions. There is some variation to how sister trade union centres abroad operate.

Some countries, like the UK, have a single, unified trade union centre - for example the DGB in Germany or the CUT in Brazil.

Other countries have multiple centres differentiated on historical or political lines. For example, in France, there are six union centres affiliated to the ITUC, the largest of which are the CGT and the CFDT. In India, the ILO lists 11 major union centres, attesting to India's diversity of political and organisational traditions.

There is also some variation in how sister centres engage in industrial relations. For some federations, like the TUC, industrial relations is primarily the responsibility of affiliate unions with their own discrete organisational structures. Other federations engage in industrial relations directly, with the centre operating more like a trade union in its own right.

The TUC is active in pursuing and maintaining alliances with global sister centres. These alliances are a vital channel for international trade union solidarity.

Complete list of ITUC affiliates.  

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

Visit the ETUC website.

The ETUC is a specifically European confederation of trade union centres, of which the TUC is a member. The ETUC also contains sectoral organisations, to which UK trade unions are affiliated directly. For example Unison, as a public service union, is an affiliate member of the European Public Service Union (EPSU).

Although the ETUC works closely with the European Union, ETUC membership is not limited to EU member states. Trade union centres in non-EU member states like the UK, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, and Turkey all take part in the ETUC.

Complete list of ETUC affiliates.

Global Union Federations (GUFs)

GUFs are international union organisations based on sectoral/industrial lines. Many UK unions affiliate to GUFs on the basis of the industries they organise, linking them together with unions in the same sector around the world.

The main GUFs are:

Building and Wood Workers International represents unions in the building, building materials, wood, forestry and allied sectors.

Education International is the voice of teachers and other education employees around the globe. 

IndustriALL Global Union organises unions in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors. 

International Arts and Entertainment Alliance (IAEA) The alliance has three sections: the International Federation of Actors (FIA), the International Federation of Musicians (FIM), and the Media, Entertainment and Arts section of the UNI Global Union (UNI-MEI).

International Domestic Workers Federation is a membership-based global organisation of domestic and household workers that is made up of both unions and associations.  

The International Federation of Journalists is the world’s largest organisation of journalists promoting international action to defend press freedom and social justice.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation affiliates global transport unions on land and sea. Its work is especially vital for protecting trade union activity in international waters.

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations represents workers employed in agriculture and plantations, the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages, hotels, restaurants and catering services, and all stages of tobacco processing. 

Public Services International is dedicated to promoting quality public services in every part of the world, its members work in social services, health care, municipal and community services, central government, and public utilities such as water and electricity.

UNI Global Union represents unions in the fastest-growing sectors in the world—skills and services. Its charge is to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining.

The Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC)

The Trade Union Advisory Committee is an international trade union organisation that has consultative status with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and its various committees. TUAC’s role is to represent organised labour’s views within the OECD and to help ensure that global markets are balanced by an effective social dimension. The TUC is an affiliated member.

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