The 4th ITUC World Congress concluded in Copenhagen today with the re-election of Sharan Burrow as General Secretary of the 207 million-member movement

More than 1,200 participants took part in five days of debate to shape the policies and priorities for the international trade union movement for the next four years. The Congress was addressed by Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen and International Labour Organization Director-General Guy Ryder.

ITUC President João Felicio read a letter from former President of Brazil, Lula da Silva, thanking the trade union movement for the solidarity and collective action to protest against his unjust imprisonment.

Refugees and migrants were recognised by Congress with the message that refugees are welcome in our workplaces and our communities. Trade unions are committed to campaign for peace and provide not only the right to decent work, but also the right to safe haven and access to public services including health and education.

Two candidates, Susanna Camusso and Sharan Burrow, were nominated for the position of General Secretary and Burrow was elected by a close margin.

Five urgent resolutions were passed calling for:

  • human rights and peace in Colombia;
  • solidarity with workers and students in Iran;
  • labour law reforms in Hungary;
  • labour rights and solidarity with independent trade unions in Kazakhstan; and
  • freedom for Lula.

“We leave the Congress united to build workers’ power to change the rules. The international union movement stands for peace, democracy and rights for working people. We must defeat and transform the failed economic model of today. We must defend workers’ and other human rights and demand a new social contract. As the world shifts, with technological and climate change and as people move, because of desperation or from choice, we must have a Just Transition. And equality for all people is at the centre of our mandate,” said Sharan Burrow.

At the conclusion of the World Congress, unions committed to:

  • organise, to create a 250 million-member ITUC over the next four years, to build workers’ power;
  • a new social contract, where businesses, including platform businesses, are made to take responsibility for their workers; and a UN Business and Human Rights Treaty;
  • a Just Transition to sustainable economies to tackle climate change and keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees or less;
  • reverse the trend of low-wage growth and rising inequality through collective bargaining, increased minimum wages and social protection; and
  • close the gender pay gap, fight discrimination and racism and take forward action against gender-based violence.
    These are foundations for the future of work.

“Companies like Amazon, whose business model is based on extracting public subsidies, paying little or no taxes, mistreating or dehumanising workers, were sent a clear message. If you do not change the way you operate, if you don’t respect the rights of workers, we will change you. We will change the rules and break up Amazon,” said Burrow.

The statement adopted by the ITUC World Congress included four pillars – on peace democracy and rights; regulating economic power; global shifts - just transitions; and equality – which set out the ITUC agenda for the next four years.

Women delegates attending the ITUC World Congress increased from 42 per cent in 2014 to 46 per cent in 2018.

The ITUC General Council elected Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, as ITUC President.

Cathy Feingold of AFL-CIO (USA) and Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson of LO Sweden were elected as the ITUC Deputy Presidents.

Owen Tudor, Victor Báez and Mamadou Diallo were elected as the ITUC Deputy General Secretaries.

The next ITUC World Congress will be held in 2022.

The official video record of the plenary sessions and leaders’ speeches will be available at:

For more information, contact Gemma Swart at +32 479 06 41 63 [email protected] (English) or Theo Morrissey at +32 499 14 56 95 [email protected] (English, French, Spanish).