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Trade unions: rebuild, renew, resist
September 2016
Issue: 
495

A relic of a bygone era – or a billion-strong social movement fighting for workers’ rights everywhere?
The reality of trade unionism today falls somewhere in between. In the Western world, union-busting laws, globalization and internal conflicts have left many trade unions reeling. In some countries of the Global South, trade unionists face discrimination, danger and even death. Meanwhile, workers’ rights are being sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed gone mad: zero-contract hours, sub-contracting, privatization, outsourcing and special economic zones are all part of a ‘race to the bottom’ being run by transnationals concerned only about their profits.
Yet all is not lost. From Colombia to China, Bangladesh to Barcelona, workers are still fighting for their rights – and, sometimes, winning. This issue, New Internationalist looks at the state of the unions, how they need to adapt to the new reality for workers in the 21st century, and why they are more important than ever.

Included in this issue

Country Profile: Uganda

Trade unions – the facts

From the changing workplace to zero-hours contracts, precarious working and outsourcing: workers are open to extreme exploitation...

Out of the ashes of Rana Plaza

The factory collapse in 2013 caused an international outcry – but have labour conditions improved? Thulsi Narayanasamy reports...

Big Bad World

Polyp's monthly cartoon.

Mixed Media: Books

Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy by Ece Temelkuran; The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira; Remembering Akbar by Behrooz...

How not to build peace: what's been missing from the UN process

UN peacekeeping is big business, but is it achieving its aims? asks Louisa Waugh.

Mixed Media: Music

NYN by Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis; ‘They Will Kill You, If You Cry’ by Khmer Rouge Survivors.

#VetsVsHate – and Trump

The latest view from the US, by Mark Engler.

The fight goes on: Workers’ struggles and successes from around the globe

Around the world, trade unions are facing fierce repression. But workers are still uniting to stand up for their rights and, in...

A long road to reconciliation

Seven years after the end of the civil war, Jo Eckersley and Ashwin Hemmathagama assess Sri Lanka’s progress.

Taking matters into their own hands

Labour rights in post-socialist countries such as Russia, China and Vietnam are being fought for from outside, not within,...

Mixed Media: Films

The Lovers and the Despot, directed and written by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan; The Confession, directed by Ashish Ghadiali.

Other issues