Education International
Education International

Speech by Anita Normak, General Secretary, International for Building, Wood Forestry and Allied Workers (BWI)

published 22 July 2007 updated 22 July 2007

Below is the Speech by Anita Normak, General Secretary, International for Building, Wood Forestry and Allied Workers (BWI) in English:


Mr President, Delegates,

First let me thank you for the invitation to come to your Congress and to let me say a few words on behalf of the Global Union Federations and the Global Unions family. We are quite a few here from the other GUFs and there is a reason for this. Your Geneal Secretary Fred van Leeuwen is also the Chair of the Council of Global Unions and has been, and is doing a very good job of coordinating our actions and activities and has gained a lot of respect being the Chair.

There is a need for much stronger cooperation and coordination between us in different sectors to fight poverty and get better and more decent working conditions for all of our members.

As was said, I represent the BWI, the International for Building, Wood Forestry and Allied Workers.

But first, let me be a bit personal. I am just coming from a few days vacation in the village where I was born up near the polar circle in Sweden. The school is still there, now used as place to gather the about 20 people still living there. When I started school we had to travel by bus to the nearest village. We had several classes in the same room and very few from the villages went to higher education.

Then came the big leap or the big change and I was lucky to be in the midst of it. The government decided to subsidize education up to a much higher level, and even during university.

Many, many of us who would not have had the chance before could now study. And as my mother said, knowledge is a very light burden to carry. Teachers played a very important role in pushing for better access to education in that situation – and you continue to do that.

We have to fight together for access to good education for all and to get children out of child labour – we do that in stone quarries in India and you are doing a lot of good work here. Children should learn, not earn.

The other thing I wanted to mention is your role a watchdogs over your and the children’s working environment. Schools are built by construction workers so it is also their working environment.

Unfortunately bad quality construction and dangerous materials in schools is still a big problem due to efforts to cut costs by local governments and others. One example is the increasing use of asbestos containing materials – killing hundreds of thousands inside and outside the construction industry. Asbestos cement is quite often used in school roofs in India for example. And unfortunately this production and use is still supported by some governments, notably the Canadian.

Let us work together for safe schools providing good working environments without dangerous materials.

Finally – climate change is a big issue today. Awareness starts at school. We as BWI are very much involved in work on sustainable development in forestry together with environmental organisations. The ITUC and the Global Unions are increasing their involvement in climate change issues. You play as usual an absolutely crucial role here in awareness raising.

Teach the children to love nature – and plant as many trees as possible together with them.

Thank you.