BWI European Regional Conference kicks off in Sarajevo

Around 160 delegates and observers from 52 construction, wood and forestry and allied materials’ trade unions across 31 European countries attended BWI’s European Regional Conference which opened on 19 September in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The two-day conference is set to adopt European political priorities and agree on actions for the next four years, along with new regional women and youth action plans, and in line with the global strategic plan and resolutions adopted by BWI’s 5th World Congress last year. 

Opening the conference, Johan Lindholm, Vice-President for Europe of Sweden’s Byggnads, delved on the challenges brought by the pandemic and war to the region. “By the time Europe was recovering from the pandemic, war came to the region through the brutal aggression of Ukraine by Putin’s led Russia. However, unions across Europe displayed great strength and solidarity as they continued to organise and fight for decent work. Our struggles will continue. An injury to one anywhere is an injury to all,” Lindhold said. 

Meanwhile, BWI Deputy President Saul Mendez Rodriguez raised the urgency of preserving tropical rainforests, which he said is responsible for the balance of the climate on all continents, before the climate crisis reaches a “point of no return.” “Preserving the Amazon rainforest, as well as the forests of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia, is everyone's responsibility. “We have a lot to share with each other as workers and trade unionists. Common challenges and struggles, but also our victories, and strategies that have been successful can serve as inspiration for us to become stronger together,” Rodriguez said. 


“BWI is acting globally for our common causes. From Latin America, we accompany Pan-Europe, Asia and Pacific, Africa, North America as part of the same struggle. We will be wherever it is necessary, for workers' rights in this challenging period,” he added. 

The regional conference is set to elect a new European Regional Committee, European Vice-Chair, Regional Youth and Women’s Committees tasked to lead the region for the 2023-2026 period. Together with BWI European Regional Representative Genvieve Kalina, the elected team has the enormous responsibility of charting the new course of action for Europe’s building, construction, wood and forestry unions.

During the conference, the European delegates are expected to assess their major achievements despite the challenging times marked by a pandemic, war in Ukraine, a cost of living crisis, and relentless attacks on trade union rights. Coordinated actions to leverage workers’ power through collective bargaining and advocacy will also be tackled. Campaigns on key issues relevant to workers such as occupational health and safety, climate justice, inclusive trade unions, globalised rights, and equal future forecasting are also anticipated to be deliberated. 

Kalina said that European trade unions are in the middle of a critical time. “Amidst the war in Ukraine, tense geopolitical relations and industries wilting after years of underinvestment,  we will fight back to reject any return of austerity in Europe and for a more socially just, sustainable and democratic future for our workers. Together, we are stronger.”