International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Reference work entry
Part of the The Statesman's Yearbook book series (SYBK)

Origin. Founded in Nov. 2006, the ITUC was formed through a unification process that included the merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) with the addition of several national centres that had not been affiliated with either organization. The WCL was established in 1920 as the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions, but went briefly out of existence in 1940 owing to the suppression of affiliated unions by the Nazi and Fascist regimes. It reconstituted in 1945 and became the WCL in 1968. The founding congress of the ICFTU took place in London in Dec. 1949 following the withdrawal of some Western trade unions from the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which was founded in 1945 but had come under Communist control.

In Nov. 2017 the ITUC represented 202m. members of 331 affiliates in 163 countries and territories.

Aims. The ITUC aims to defend and promote the rights of workers, particularly the right to trade union organization and collective bargaining; to combat discrimination at work and in society; to ensure that social concerns are put at the centre of global economic, trade and finance policies; to support young people’s rights at work; and to promote the involvement of women in trade unions. Its main priorities are: Count Us In!; Countries at Risk; Domestic Workers; Global Coherence; Global Governance of Migration; and Organising.

Organization. The Congress meets every four years to set policies and to elect the General Secretary and the General Council, composed of 70 members, which is the main decision-making body between congresses. The President and Deputy Presidents are appointed by the General Council. The Founding Congress was held in Vienna in Nov. 2006. Its second Congress was held in 2010 in Vancouver and its third in Berlin in 2014. Its fourth Congress is scheduled to take place in Copenhagen in Dec. 2018.

The ITUC has regional organizations for Africa, the Americas, the Arab countries, Asia-Pacific and Europe. It has offices that deal with the International Labour Organization (Geneva), the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (Washington, D.C.) and the International Maritime Organization (London). There are also offices in Moscow and Sarajevo.

The ITUC is a member of the Council of Global Unions, which was created in 2006 as a tool for structured co-operation and co-ordination.

  • Headquarters: Bd du Roi Albert II, Nº5, bte 1, B-1210 Brussels, Belgium.

  • Website:

  • Email:

  • President: João Antonio Felicio (Brazil).

  • General Secretary: Sharan Burrow (Australia).

Copyright information

© The Author(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019

Personalised recommendations