Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

19 May 2000 to 20 May 2000
Ghent, Belgium

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) was established in 1949 and now has 215 affiliated organizations in 145 countries and territories on all five continents with a membership of 124 million. As a confederation of national trade-union centres, it links trade unions in the respective countries. The ICFTU works closely with the International Labour Organization and has advisory status on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
In 1997 the vast archive of the ICFTU (230 metres) was entrusted to the IISH thanks to mediation by the Belgian sister institute AMSAB - Institute for Social History and immediately catalogued and made available to researchers. The International Association of Labour History Institutions (IALHI) convened a group of five specialists to write a history of the ICFTU and its predecessors since the late nineteenth century. The Belgian government (especially the prime minister's services) provided financial support, as did the IISH.
In early 2000 the fruits of these efforts appeared as an extensive study with chapters by Michel Dreyfus (covering the period 1902-1919), Geert Van Goethem (1919-1945), Anthony Carew (1945-1949 and 1949-1972), Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick (1972-1990s) and Marcel van der Linden (Conclusions), supplemented by short biographies, financial and membership figures, a chronology and an extensive subject bibliography.
The book, understandably entitled The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, is the first serious history of the organization and reconstructs its complicated past from its origins during the Cold War through anti-colonial struggles, European unification, international campaigns against Apartheid and many other issues. The emphasis on institutional aspects is intended to provide a foundation for more extensive theoretical studies.
The book was the main subject of the Conference.