What is IUF? (1996)

  This document has been made available in electronic format by
Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives COPAC


What it is
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant,
Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) is a
worldwide federation of trade unions representing workers
employed in:

   * agriculture and plantations
   * the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages
   * hotel, restaurants and catering services
   * all stages of tobacco processing.

Membership in the IUF is open to all bona fide, democratic trade
unions, regardless of ideological or political orientation.

The guiding principle of the IUF is international labour
solidarity. Our purpose is to strengthen member unions through
mutual support. We are committed to promoting and defending trade
union rights and human rights in general, as well as the right
of workers to control decisions affecting their lives at work and
in society. We oppose all forms of exploitation and oppression.

As a "union of unions", the IUF follows the policies established
for it by its affiliates. Its effectiveness in any and all
situations depends on its members acting together for a common
purpose. It serves as a central clearing-house for information
which its affiliates wish to exchange and as a coordinator of
activities in which they wish to engage. 

What is does
Through its secretariat (international office) and regional
offices, the IUF services the needs of its member unions by

   * mobilizing and coordinating assistance during industrial
     disputes or political conflicts;
   * intervening with governments, international organizations
     and/or employers in defense of human, democratic, and trade
     union rights;
   * convening meetings of affiliated unions to exchange
     experiences and ideas and to plan common programs;
   * monitoring the activities of companies in the food and
     allied industries and the political and economic
     developments which affect workers;
   * promoting women's equality at work and in society and
     enhancing trade union democracy through increased women's
     participation in union activities and structures;
   * distributing information on such matters as development in
     collective bargaining, occupational health and safety,
     employment, trade and technology;
   * carrying out trade union education programs.

One of the principal functions of the secretariat is to respond
to calls for assistance from unions which turn to the IUF when
a conflict requires international attention.

Frequent causes for such requests are violations of trade union
rights, and other anti-union measures by governments or employers
as well as industrial disputes. The secretariat's task is to
inform IUF affiliates of the case and to coordinate the responses
needed to solve the problem.

In the case of a strike, for instance, member unions can be asked
not to supply a certain market or company through exports. In
other conflict situations, solidarity actions, including work
stoppages and boycotts, may be organized. International campaigns
directed against governments and employers guilty of repression
have also been effective in arousing public attention and play
an important role in defending the rights of workers and, at
times, their lives.

The secretariat also intervenes directly with employers on behalf
of member unions, especially in the case of transnational
companies (TNCs). In its relations with TNCs, the IUF's guiding
principle is to defend and advance the interest of members
throughout these corporations' global operations. Backed by a
large international membership, representatives of the IUF can
have access to management levels which individual unions find
difficult to reach. The interests of affiliated unions can thus
be represented when 

   * management and the union are unable to arrive at a
     settlement at local level, or
   * the nature of the issue at hand exceeds the jurisdiction of
     the affiliated union (for example, transfers of production
     from one country to another).

Here again, the effectiveness of the IUF is wholly dependent upon
support from affiliates.

Conflicts with managements of transnational corporations have
been effectively resolved when the determination of affiliates
to support each other through concrete solidarity actions became
a reality.

Who we work with
The IUF Rules recognize that "the interest of the worker in the
food and allied industries cannot be defended in isolation from
the other sectors of the working class and , indeed, from the
entire working population". The IUF shall therefore "cooperate
with other international organizations representing workers and
consumers, provided such organizations share the basic
assumptions on which IUF policies are based, in defense of common

The IUF seeks to contribute to the building of broad popular
coalitions committed to the basic objectives of the labour
movement as a means of advancing the struggle for a better world.
For this purpose, it forms alliances, in the first place with
other trade union organizations - international and national -
based on free trade union principles, but also with human rights
movements, church groups, environment and consumer organizations,
political parties of the labour movement and others.

Such coalitions have proven their value in dealing with problems
caused by transnational corporations, or in influencing the
policies of governments and intergovernmental organizations.

Meetings and conferences
The IUF provides a forum for trade unionists from around the
world to exchange ideas, compare experiences and work toward
solutions to their problems. Statutory meetings - Congress and
Executive Committee - determine policy guidelines and programs
for the organization. regular meetings are also held on women
workers' issues.

Three IUF bodies - the Trade Groups for unions representing
agricultural workers, hotel, restaurant and catering workers, and
tobacco workers, hold conferences to examine the situation in
their respective industries and establish programs of action.
Other industry conferences are organized as the need arises. The
secretariat publishes detailed documentation for such meetings
and issues records of their proceedings.

Meetings for unions representing employees in the largest
transnational corporations in the IUF sectors have been held
since 1971. Their purpose is to allow unions to gains insight
into the global activities of transnational employers, to learn
about each other's achievements and problems in collective
bargaining, and to strengthen global trade union organizing and
representation with the company.

Research and publications
In order to respond to the need of affiliates for accurate and
up-to-date information, the secretariat collects and disseminates
date on the industrial sectors covered by the IUF member
organizations, collective bargaining trends, the activities of
transnational firms, occupational hazards, relevant social,
economic and political developments and other issues of interest
to unions Any affiliates may request information from the
secretariat. If it is not readily available at the Geneva office,
a survey can be undertaken among member unions concerned.

Circulars issued by the secretariat to affiliated organizations
serve as an important means of disseminating information, of
informing affiliates about the activities of member organizations
and of the secretariat, and of reporting on solidarity actions.

The secretariat also issues a number of regular and occasional
publications. Most appear in five languages (English, French,
German, Spanish, and a Scandinavian language) and are distributed
free of charge to affiliates.

The IUF News Bulletin is issued six times a year and serves both
as a secretariat newsletter and a trade union information
journal. Sent to trade union organizations around the world and
to many individual union members, it is available to the public
by subscription. Regional publications geared to local concerns
and a Japanese edition of the news Bulletin are published by the
IUF's regional offices.

Other publications include Women at Work, a periodical
information bulletin, and Labour Issues, as series of information
brochures on issues of general concern to the labour movement.

The main objective of the IUF trade union education program is
to contribute to the strengthening and the independence of
unions. In order to achieve this, the IUF conducts education
projects directed at training union officers or other member
designated by the union for their tasks as educators of the rank
and file.

Education projects are designed to enable affiliates to develop
and carry out education programs which fit their actual needs.
This is accomplished through preparatory seminars where
comprehensive education programs are developed cooperatively with
the participation of appropriate union officers and the IUF. The
unions then continue to carry our their own long-term education
projects. The program is designed to encourage eventual union

A full-time education officer is employed by the IUF and is
responsible for organizing the programming collaboration with the
IUF regional offices and the participating unions. Projects are
currently being conducted in Africa, Asia, Eastern and Central
Europe, and Latin America. Special emphasis is given to women's
equality and participation in trade union activities and

The program is partly financed through contributions from
affiliated unions in the industrialized countries and partly by
the participating unions themselves.

Who decides
The IUF is operated by its affiliated unions. Each member
organization can send delegates to the IUF congress, held every
four years. Congress determines policies and lays down guidelines
for the work of the organization. It elects the members of the
Executive Committee, the President, six Vice-Presidents and the
General Secretary, adopts all changes in IUF Rules and admits new

The Executive Committee, composed of 46 members representing
geographical regions, meets annually to oversee the activities
of the IUF, its finances, membership, staff and programs and the
implementation of Congress decisions.

The President, who may serve for one term only, as a rule, chairs
IUF meetings and is consulted by the General Secretary on all
important matters arising from day-to-day activities.

The President, the six Vice Presidents and the General Secretary
together form the Administrative Committee, which meets several
times a year to supervise the activities of the secretariat and
regional offices and to deal with issues arising between meetings
of the Executive.

The General Secretary is the principal full-time official of the
IUF and is responsible for the work of the secretariat and the
carrying out of decision by Congress and the Executive Committee.

Regional Organizations exist in Africa, Latin America,
Asia/Pacific, North America and Europe. They have their own
Rules, which must be approved by the IUF Congress and pursue
independent activities in close collaboration with the IUF and
its governing bodies. Regular conferences elect a regional
secretary and regional committee, who are responsible for
activities in the regions. IUF Representatives in other regions
are appointed by the Executive Committee in consultation with
affiliated unions in the area. All report directly to the IUF

For further information, contact:

     Rampe du Pont-Rouge
     1213 Grand Lancy, Geneva

     Tel.      +41 22 793 2233 
     Fax.      +41 22 793 2238 
     E-mail    iuf@geo2.poptel.org.uk