BWI opens 5th World Congress, celebrates unities and victories amidst multiple crises

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), representing 12 million workers worldwide, formally opened its 5th World Congress on 5 October 2022 in Madrid, Spain with a celebration of hard-won victories and higher unities even in the face of multiple crises faced by working people worldwide. 


The massive event was hosted by BWI’s Spanish affiliates UGT-FICA and CCOO-Habitat led by UGT-FICA General Secretary Pedro Hojas and CCOO General Secretary Daniel Barragan. It was attended by 746 delegates, 31 percent of whom are women, and coming from various continents in the world. BWI’s Congress rallied all its trade union affiliates to “organise beyond borders” to reassert the principles of internationalism and global trade union building, and break barriers that promote inequalities in gender, work, digitalisation and access to peace and climate justice. 

The event started with a community singing led by the BWI Youth Choir representing different regions in the world. BWI President Per-Olof Sjöo opened the Congress by celebrating the global union’s deep roots in its trade union affiliates and firm commitment to democracy. “We are faced by numerous crises worldwide. And we can only progress through our capacity to organise workers. BWI has deep roots in its affiliates and has a democratic structure. Democracy brings legitimacy. And in our trade union democracy, affiliates are always invited to actively take part in policy-making and election of our leaders,” he said.

Joaquin Perez Rey, Secretary of State for Employment and Social Economy congratulated BWI’s work through the years and stressed the importance that the global union is doing and the relevance of trade unions. “Without trade unions, there is no democracy, justice and peace. Without trade unions, the world will not be a gentle and humane place. Trade unions are not obstacles. They are an indispensable force to realise real development. They are dependable organisations even in the most dire situations,” he said. 

BWI Vice President for Pan-Europe Johan Lindholm also reaffirmed the relevance of trade unions despite the challenging situation faced by many workers. “We, the trade unions must unite and become a potent force to counter the numerous crises caused by global authoritarianism, military conflicts, xenophobia, climate change and the pandemic. We must put a stop to these existential threats and organise beyond borders.”

Meanwhile, CCOO’s Barragan praised BWI’s strong commitment to women empowerment and participation in unions, and the overall struggle for gender equality. “I laud BWI for opening its 5th Congress with a massive conference of women workers from industries that traditionally are the male-dominated. It is amazing and truly inspiring. We also commend BWI’s strong sense of solidarity especially amidst the numerous crises worldwide.”

UGT-FICA’s Hojas, for his part, said that trade unions are at a turning point. “We must work together, invest on social dialogues and step up to do what is expected of us by the workers. Unionism always work and adapt to ever-changing environments. In this endeavor, workers especially construction workers, will have a major role.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), through its Director General Gilbert Houngbo,  also sent its solidarity message via online to BWI’s Congress.  The ILO committed to attend to BWI’s key issues and advocacies, particularly the global union’s campaign to make workplace health and safety a fundamental right and Convention. 

The Congress’ opening ceremonies concluded with a musical performance from Spanish artists, which was followed by a solidarity cocktail where delegates were able to interact with one another. #