Global Unions

Building and Woodworkers International

27 February 2008: The Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) is the global union federation for unions covering workers in the building, building materials, wood, forestry and related areas of work. The BWI has 317 national affiliates in Africa and the Middle East (77), Asia (75), Europe (113), North America (7), Latin America and the Caribbean (44)

With millions of children at work, many of them working as labourers in construction, BWI promotes practical solutions to the child labour crisis through schooling, campaign and organising. In India, the BWI campaign Children Should Learn Not Earn! has set up schools for child workers, pulling thousands out of building sites and getting them into the classroom.

Similarly, the BWI Gender Empowerment programme has helped train thousands of women workers in union work to combat low pay and dangerous work in construction and wood and forestry.

With 100,000 workers dying every year from asbestos related diseases, Health and Safety is a key concern. BWI- affiliated unions are campaigning for a global ban on asbestos. In Latin America, bans have already been implemented in several countries. BWI has also launched with other global unions the first ever international zero occupational cancer campaign. Workers in BWI sectors have elevated risk of developing different types of cancer as a result of their occupational exposure.

BWI has succeeded in gaining the inclusion of the ILO core labour standards in systems for certification of wood and forestry products, such as Forestry Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes. In Africa this has helped unions to fight poverty through sustainable forestry and better working conditions.

In the defence of human and workers rights BWI helps train promoters of trade union and humans rights and backs legal actions with global solidarity work.

With more than 12 multinational construction and wood industry companies signed up to global agreements BWI has given practical meaning to international social dialogue and the promotion of ILO Conventions. BWI has lobbied the World Bank for the adoption and implementation of ILO core labour standards as mandatory to procurement policies.

In May 2005 mandatory clauses were added to World Bank construction contracts on forced labour, child labour, non-discrimination, and other labour standards. In 2006, the private sector wing of the Bank required its clients to respect core labour standards.