Vamos: Looking back at BWI’s 5th World Congress

On 4-7 October, the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) held its 5th World Congress in Madrid, Spain. Hosted by its affiliates, the UGT-FICA and CCOO-Habitat,  the global event was attended by more than 750 delegates coming from various continents in the world, 31 percent of whom were women trade unionists and workers. 

Rallying its trade union affiliates worldwide to “organise beyond borders,” BWI reasserted  the trade unions’ principles of internationalism and global trade union building to break the barriers that promote inequalities in gender, work, digitalisation and access to peace and climate justice. 

The four-day congress passed numerous resolutions on burning issues and areas of work that the global union will tackle in the next four years, such as climate justice, MNCs, future of work and global peace.  A total of 34 resolutions and 9 statute amendments were carried by the Congress.

BWI’s New Strategic Plan for the next four years was also approved by the Congress plenary. The said plan aims to build on BWI’s major victories and gains in the last five years and improve the working and living conditions of affiliates in the building and wood sectors by promoting and defending human and trade union rights, increasing trade union strength, pushing for a stable and high level of employment in our sectors, and influencing policies and strengthening the capacity of institutions and tripartite structures in relevant sectors.

The Congress also elected the global union’s new Presidium.  Per-Olof Sjoo, of the Swedish Forest and Wood Workers' Union, was reelected as BWI President together with Ambet Yuson as General Secretary. Five (5) Deputy Presidents, in line with the approved statutory amendment to the Presidium’s composition, were also voted to office. They are: Saul Mendez Rodriguez, General secretary of the National Union of Construction and Similar Workers (SUNTRACS) in Panama, Pierre Cuppens, Secretary General of the ACV Bouw Industrie en Energie, Gail Cartmail, UNITE Assistant General Secretary, Dietmar Schafers of IG BAU and Sandar, a Myanmar woman trade union leader, who is recipient of BWI’s Rights for All Award.  

One of the highlights of the Congress was the conferment of the BWI Awards to outstanding labour leaders and trade unions. Recipients of the “Fair Games Award,” also known as the “Jin Sook Lee Award” were the leaders of the Community Leaders’ Forum in Qatar, and the Union of Construction and Woodworkers (GBH) in Austria for their outstanding work in building a decent work legacy around mega-sporting events.

Meanwhile, Sandar, a Myanmar woman trade union leader who is at the forefront in the Burmese trade unions’ struggle to reclaim democracy from the military junta, received BWI’s “Rights for All Award.” 

To affirm their commitment to global peace, hundreds of trade union delegates formed an iconic and giant human peace sign to assert that peace is the bedrock of democracy. They said that without peace, there is no justice. And without justice, there is little hope for human and trade union rights, and democracy.

Some of the distinguished guests who attended BWI’s World Congress were Spain’s Secretary of State for Employment and Social Economy Joaquin Perez Rey, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director General Gilbert Houngbo, former ILO Director General Guy Ryder, UGT-FICA General Secretary Pedro Hojas and CCOO General Secretary Daniel Barragan. 

The event concluded with the announcement that Brazil will be hosting BWI’s 6th World Congress in 2026. 

BWI’s 5th World Congress was livestreamed online for affiliates who were not able to physically attend the event due to varying COVID-19 protocols and restrictions in their respective countries.