Significant achievements were made by Histadrut members at the 28th Congress of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). The congress met last month in Geneva, under the title "Fighting For Our Future", with the participation of representatives from 202 organizations from 85 countries. The discussions focused on burning issues such as trade union rights, gender equality, climate justice, and the struggle for peace, democracy and human rights.
The chairman of the Histadrut’s Union of Food and Pharmaceutical Workers, Eliezer Belo, and the director of international relations at the Histadrut, Avital Shapira-Shabiro, were elected to the IUF's leadership committee. Belo, who participated in the IUF congress for the first time, told 'Davar':
"At the conference, I was exposed to the hardships experienced by union professionals from around the world. The convention was very beneficial and saw impressive achievements for the Histadrut in the international sphere, thanks to our diligent and energetic international secretary, Avital Shapira."
Shapira-Shabiro was elected as an Eastern Mediterranean representative in the Women's Committee of the Congress. At the congress she spoke on the activities of the Histadrut and Na’amat, the largest Israeli women’s organization. Shapira shared the movements’ achievements in the struggle against domestic violence and the promotion and empowerment of women in the workforce. She told 'Davar':
"I see great importance in the participation of the two branches of the Histadrut which are members of the IUF: the Union of Food and Pharmaceutical Workers headed by Eliezer Belo, and the Union of Hotel, Chemical and Agricultural Workers headed by Freddy Cohen. Highlighting the achievements of unions in Israel and internationally is crucial. I am proud of my election, after a difficult struggle, to the leadership and women's committees of the organization. We will strive to strengthen ties and increase cooperation with our counterparts around the world, while continuing to protect the interests of the Histadrut in the international arena."
Shapira-Shabiro spoke before the plenary session of Congress on the subject of trade union rights. In her speech, she mentioned the collective agreements signed by the Histadrut in the food, tobacco and catering industry with multinational companies operating in Israel (Sodexo, Nestlé, Philip Morris, etc.). She also spoke on the fight for gender equality and the eradication of domestic violence; as well as the professional training provided to Palestinian workers in the hotel industry in Israel, in collaboration with IUF.
According to Belo and Shapira-Shabiro, participating in the Congress strengthened the infrastructure for connections with unions from around the world and the building of strategic connections with the leadership of the IUF.
The decisions of the congress touched on a variety of issues concerning workers around the world, such as the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, working youth, women’s health and safety in the workplace, abolishing child slavery in agriculture, LGBTQ rights, strengthening the hotel industry in Africa, human trafficking through the Mediterranean Sea, prevention of violence and sexual harassment in the agricultural sector, and the fight against fascist regimes.
During the congress, an emergency report was presented concerning rising restrictions on unions in various regions. The congress focused on several vital topics, such as the state of trade unions in Belarus, the attack on the participants of the IUF conference in Latin America, the imprisonment of the head of a labor association in Algeria and the suppression of the trade unions there, and an attack on the trade unions in Kyrgyzstan.
The hotel industry's ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 epidemic and its consequences were also discussed at the congress. Additionally, the struggle to sign collective agreements and ratify the Convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO) regarding the right of association and regarding the right to organize and collective bargaining was discussed. The Congress plenary even ratified the organization's charter for the prevention of occupational harassment and sexual harassment at work.
This article was translated from Hebrew by Etz Greenfeld.