• Paul Nowak (TUC)
  • Jim Moher (published historian and former national union officer )
  • Geoff Tiley ( TUC and author)
  • Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick (Birkbeck, University of London)
  • Simon Dubbins (UNITE the Union)

In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels urged ‘workers of the world to unite, as they had nothing to lose but their chains’. They didn’t do so then and haven’t since but have combined in trade unions in every part of the industrialised world with significant results in improving their workplace situation and their nations’ social welfare provision. Since then, trade unionists have also banded together globally to bring about more fundamental changes to the status of the working class and to call a halt to the periodic bloodletting of nations in wars. However, they have found that workers can be nationalistic as well, in support of their nations against other nations. Two world wars have resulted with massive carnage of populations in every nation. Today trade unions are less confident about appealing to fellow workers abroad, but in the face of multi-national corporations evading national governments’ rules and standards, they still aspire to build international agencies to regulate such abuses.

This seminar looks at the various efforts trade unions made in the twentieth century to unite globally and to enforce International Labour Organisation standards in all countries.


  • Opening remarks – Paul Nowak, General Secretary, TUC
  • From IFTU to WFTU  | Dr Jim Moher, published historian and former national union officer
  • A second internationalism of Labour | Geoff Tiley, Senior Economist TUC and author
  • The ITUC and the reunification of the international trade union movement | Dr Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Law, Birkbeck, and Vice president, Birkbeck UCU
  • The current global picture and ITUC | Simon Dubbins, Director of International & Research, UNITE the Union
  • Discussion

IHR Seminar Series: History & Policy Trade Union Forum