What better time for the a group of students from the international labour and trade union studies MA at Ruskin to explore the work of European and global trade union institutions than the same week of further student discontent in London and during the run up to protests in Dublin today directly attacking the government's austerit package as a result of the EU bailout.
The MA visit to Brussels allows students to investigate at first hand how national and European trade unions influence the work of the EU institutions. Similarly, meetings with global union federations (GUFs) enable a better appreciation of key global challenges to labour movements and the way in which GUFs respond.
Below is a sample of pictures from the four-day day and show (top to bottom): Isabelle Schomann (legal researcher at the European Trade Union Institute), Kathleen Walker-Shaw who heads the GMB's Brussels office, and in the final picture Duncan Smith (Education International) and Jim Baker (Co-ordinator, Global Council of Unions).
Given the proximity of the visit to national and Irish protest, which represent the phenomenon of fallout from the global recession, the student group had a perfect backdrop against which to assess how trade unions can respond to the continuity of neoliberal economic and political strategy and the way in which it is shaped and propelled by constituent agencies from the World Bank to the European Union.
A great time was had by the students and I look forward to their greater understanding of the work of unions at the European and global levels being evidenced in their written and seminar work.