International union networks are achieving improvements in working conditions for employees across global corporations, ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said today.

Speaking at an international conference of more than 200 union representatives from around the world, Mr Combet said that transnational union networks represent a practical and effective response to the challenges of economic globalisation.

The three-day conference at Newcastle north of Sydney is also being addressed today by New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and the National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), John Maitland.

Mr Combet said a Global Labour Agreement signed last week between the worlds largest gold company, Anglogold, and the 20-million strong International Chemical, Energy and Mineworkers federation (ICEM) provided for union recognition and a commitment to industrial rights in the companys operations worldwide.

“Through global agreements with companies like AngloGold, unions are developing opportunities for working people who are directly affected by globalisation,” Mr Combet said.

“Coordinated international campaigning by union networks in companies like Rio Tinto has also been successful in improving industrial relations practices at company operations,” Mr Combet said.

The CFMEU and the Maritime Union of Australia are hosting the conference, which begins today. Delegates from international unions including ICEM and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) are attending from the United States, South Africa, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Belgium and Canada.