Final Conference highlights achievements and future directions

The ’Building trade union capacities for better collective bargaining and sustainable industrial recovery in Central and Eastern Europe (BTUC4R)’ project has been a groundbreaking initiative in the history of industriAll Europe (IAE),. bringing direct support to affiliates for organising and recruitment on the ground. This innovative approach was the central theme at the recent international conference held in Prague, where over 65 participants from 13 countries gathered to take stock, evaluate progress and discuss follow-up action.

The BTUC4R Conference served multiple purposes; reviewing the project's work, drawing conclusions, and building a robust network of organisers across various regions. Participants engaged in discussions about creating effective organising strategies and supporting specific campaigns.

The definition of an organised workplace is simple and easy to prove:

  1. Comprehensive and adequate training of union rep organisers
  2. Overview of the organisational situation (mapping)
  3. Sufficiently high union density
  4. Ample participating membership
  5. Strike ready

Successful organising follows a clear process, without shortcuts: identifying issues, educating union leaders, providing union solutions and reaching agreements. In her opening remarks, Isabelle Barthès, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, underscored the project's significance and the broader challenges facing European workers:

"The BTUC4R project has demonstrated that on-the-ground support can be a game-changer for union organising and recruitment”, she stated. "This is just the beginning; we must continue to build trade union power despite the challenging environment”.

The landscape for European workers is challenging, as reported by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC): 73% of countries violated the right to strike, and 54% violated collective bargaining rights. Europe has seen the steepest decline in workers' rights globally, making tailored recruitment and mobilisation strategies crucial, not only but also for new forms of work, young workers, and emerging industries.

Over the past two years, the BTUC4R project has focused on building trade union capacity from the bottom up. Key achievements include organising efforts in five countries, the appointment of eight trained organisers, and the participation of 18 companies, primarily within the automotive supply chain sector in Central and Eastern Europe. These efforts have resulted in an average membership increase of 5% in targeted companies.

“While the BTUC4R project is now concluding, industriAll Europe’s commitment to building trade union power remains steadfast. 'Building Trade Union Power’ (BTUP) is a marathon, not a sprint”, Isabelle Barthès emphasised. The Conference's final sessions focused on recommendations and commitments for future cooperation, ensuring that the momentum gained will continue to grow.

Talk-Walk-Fly: Joint gate Action at Aero Vodochody

A practical highlight of the conference was the company gate action at Aero Vodochody, the largest aircraft manufacturer in the Czech Republic, where participants supported the local union chapter of OS KOVO in distributing leaflets, and engaged directly with workers, demonstrating the Conference's theme of moving beyond talk to concrete action.

As the BTUC4R project wraps up, the lessons learned and networks built will serve as a foundation for the ongoing efforts to strengthen trade unions across Europe, adapting to the ever-changing world of work.

*This project is financially supported by the European Commission DG EMPL.*