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Union Organisations, Social Movements and the Augean Stables of Global Governance

Peter Waterman

CSGR Working Paper No. 211/06

October 2006



The traditional international union organisations are currently engaged in a series of 'social partnership' initiatives at global level. Prominent amongst these is that addressed to 'global governance'. This project comes from outside and above the unions, is addressed to the existing hegemonic interstate instances, and is carried out primarily by lobbying. This orientation is increasingly challenged by a 'global justice and solidarity movement', more concerned with the democratisation of the global, and more oriented to consciousness-raising and mobilising than lobbying. The new movement, moreover, operates in places and spaces, with forms and understandings, that relate rather to a contemporary globalised-informatised capitalism than to the old national-industrial-colonial one which gave rise and shape to the international unions. Trade unions will have to abandon the discourse of global governance for that of global democracy, and to operate on the terrains of this new movement, if they are to effectively defend and advance worker rights and power under the new global despensation.

Keywords: Globalisation, trade unions, social partnership, democratisation, social movements, governance.