In an honour for the role of women in the trade union movement and the role of Australian unions internationally, the President of the ACTU, Sharan Burrow, was elected the first woman President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today (Friday) at the conclusion of its World Congress held in Miyazaki, Japan.

The ICFTU was established in 1949 and represents 23
affiliated union organisations from more than 150 countries with more than 150
million individual members. The ICFTU cooperates closely with the International
Labour Organisation (ILO) and has a consultative status with the Economic and
Social Council of the United Nations.

The election of the first woman president of the ICFTU is historically
significant for the global trade union movement and occurs at a time of high
participation for women at the ICFTU Congress with one quarter of the executive
positions now held by women.

The election of an Australian to lead the global trade union body is also a
sign of international recognition for Australia’s contribution to trade
unionism and furthering the rights of working people around the world.

Sharan Burrow takes up the prestigious role immediately and follows Fackson
Shamenda, President of the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions, who was elected in
2000. She will continue as President of the ACTU and fulfil the
responsibilities of the two roles.

Sharan Burrow said:

“This position is truly an honour. I hope to use my term as ICFTU
President to uphold the rights of working people and the role of trade unions
around the world. The main priorities of the ICFTU are to secure fundamental
rights for working people across the world, develop international labour
standards, improve gender equality, help end workplace discrimination and tackle
instances of exploitation by multinationals.

“Where governments fail to hold multinational corporations to account
for decent labour standards the international trade union movement will take up
these issues and defend the rights of people who are denied fair wages and
decent working conditions.”

“Companies that portray themselves as good corporate citizens in
developed nations like Australia the US and Europe while exploiting workers in
export processing zones and in less developed countries will find themselves the
focus of internationally co-ordinated trade union campaigns.”

“The 18th World Congress has also signalled the merger of
the ICFTU with another international labour organisation, the World
Confederation of Labour (WCL). This will bring an extra 30 million more members
into the world confederation, pushing total membership of the ICFTU to 180
million. One of my first major tasks as ICFTU President will be to oversee the
merger of the ICFTU and the WCL and create a broader and more effective
international trade union movement.”

Media Contacts: Sharan Burrow ph: (from Australia) 0011 81 801 008 6028
Available (Australia AEST) from 5.00pm – 6.00pm, 10 December 2004

Or 7.15am – 8.00 am (Australia AEST) at the Sheraton Grand, room 1420,
(From Australia) 0011 81 985 211 133