History: purpose and founding of ICTUR

ICTUR was founded in 1987 at a meeting in Prague, attended by eleven international and regional organisations, including the WFTU, OATUU, ICATU, CPUSTAL, the Asia-Pacific Trade Union Coordinating Committee, and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). The founding conference was called to implement a resolution of the 11th World Trade Union Congress of the WFTU, held in Berlin in 1986, at which unions representing 297 million workers had called for the foundation of an ‘International Centre for the Defence of Trade Union Rights’. That conference complained of ‘an unprecedented frontal attack on trade union rights on the part of transnational employer groups and governments acting on their behalf’. An organisation was needed, it was said, to take up ‘the struggle for liberation from neo-colonialist and TNC exploitation’.

ICTUR was tasked with ‘monitoring and reacting to anti-trade union attack’, the ‘promotion and expansion of trade union rights’, ‘work against restrictions on trade union rights, as recognised by the International Labour Organisation’, and for the ‘introduction, restoration and expansion of those rights’, to work against ‘the brutal violation of and / or non-respect of trade union rights in practice (arrests of trade unionists, arbitrary dissolution of trade unions, seizure of trade union property, repression of strikes, etc.)’, to ‘study the application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations on trade union rights’, to ‘set up and facilitate exchanges of experience’, and to ‘set up practical solidarity campaigns centred on these objectives, and against all forms of national and social oppression’.

ICTUR was established as an entirely independent organisation, with its own executive, staff, and a governing body comprising largely academics and lawyers appointed for their expertise in trade union questions. This independence quickly led to friction between ICTUR and some of its founding organisations. However, ICTUR’s assertive advocacy of trade union rights, and the strong support of a number of lawyers’ organisations, has sustained the organisation over the decades.

In 1992 ICTUR began publication of International Union Rights journal.

From the late 1990s ICTUR began to share legal and technical information with, the ICFTU’s trade union rights department, notably on trade union rights situation in Colombia and elsewhere. Other global unions, initially PSI and ICEM, began to participate regularly in ICTUR’s meetings. They were later joined by IUF, UNI and EI. Amnesty International also regularly began to attend ICTUR’s meetings, as did other human rights NGOs.

In 2001 Sharan Burrow (then president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, now general secretary of the ITUC) became ICTUR’s president, joining a roll call of previous leaders who include Zwelinzima Vavi (formerly of COSATU), and the NZCTU’s Ken Douglas. Other leading figures from the trade union world at this time included Hassan Sunmonu (former leader of the Nigeria Labour Congress and of the OATUU), who was a vice president of ICTUR for more than ten years.

Throughout this period ICTUR has operated on a modest annual budget sourced from a large number of relatively small contributions from unions, lawyers, human rights organisations, and individual members and subscribers. ICTUR receives no grant funding from governments, private trusts, or foundations. It employs two members of staff at its office in London.

The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

Established in 1987, ICTUR is a non-profit organisation
based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.

Can Mezzanine, 7-14 Great Dover Street,
London, SE1 4YR, UK
Email: ictur@ictur.org / Web: www.ictur.org