Trade union and worker issues take center stage at WUF11

Trade union and workers’ issues and concerns were on top of the list of discussions in the 11th Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF). Held in Katowice, Poland, this year’s global conference on sustainable urbanization showcased a week-long intervention from different sectors and stakeholders, which concluded with a trade union and workers' roundtable on 30 June. 

Led by the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the Public Services International (PSI), trade unionists spoke on issues related to the working conditions in the public services, care, transport and construction workers, and areas of activity relevant to the implementation of SDGs. They also discussed the various democratic and participatory processes and policies that could help workers obtain fairer working conditions and their role in building sustainable cities.

The roundtable also presented examples of bad urbanisation, which the resource speakers say occur when policies are imposed by external and vested interests, either by global corporations or unaccountable authorities. The trade unionists assert that the cities workers want must be anchored on the principles of inclusive local development, equitable access to local quality public services, policies that generate decent work and socio-economic inclusion, and participatory urban planning rooted in the lived experiences of those who bring cities to life. 

BWIs Global Coordinator for Construction Linnea Wikström concurred. She said that “a radical transformation of the construction sector is required to ensure that a just transition to a green and just economy that delivers new jobs and opportunities for the most affected."

For her part, Reaz Chuttoo of the BWI-affiliated Mauritius Construction Union (CMWEU) raised the growing number of migrant workers dying at construction workplaces due to poor working and lodging conditions. This was followed by Shinichi Akiyama of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) who said that “universal access to social protection is a key area in achieving sustainable development.”

The roundtable concluded by affirming that workers and trade union representatives are active shapers of progressive urban development. “Workers build cities, operate the local public administration, deliver vital public services to residents, and bring the communities and the local economies to life.” 

This year’s WUF was co-organised by the UN-Habitat, Poland’s Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy and the Municipal Office of Katowice.

The full recording of the round table is available on the UN Web TV