The World Organisation of Workers (WOW) was founded in September 1921 in Luxemburg, under the name of International Union of Christian Trade Unions for Clerical Workers, as a trade union for clerical workers in the private services. The founders, representatives of five national unions from Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Austria, envisioned a trade union based on the Social Christian principles in which man and universe were created by God, or persuasions coinciding with that, and that solidarity between people of all classes should lead its actions.
In 1920 the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions (IFCTU) was created to represent the interests of Social-Christian oriented labour unions. It was not long before the WFCW decided to become a member of the new IFCTU.
During World War Two many of the IFCTU and WFCW unions decided not to cooperate with the occupied forces of Nazi-Germany. This resulted in difficulties for the leading figures of both organisations.
After World War Two the United States of America and the Western European powers opposed the developments in the Soviet-Union. This resulted in the Cold War. As an effect of that the IFCTU and the WFCW lost their members in the states occupied by the Soviet forces. The IFCTU was banned from all countries behind the so-called Iron Curtain dividing Western and Eastern Europe.
While the IFCTU and WFCW lost members in the Soviet controlled countries, they at the same time gained new members in the newly independent countries in Africa and Asia, created as a result of the decolonisation of these countries, as well as Latin-America, where most countries already gained independence at the beginning of the 19th century.
Because of these new members in the so-called Third World countries the Christian trade unions decided at the IFCTU World Congress of 1968 to change its name into the World Confederation of Labour (WCL) as to show the world that the organisation will be open to all people of all kinds of believe that share the same fundamental trade union values and goals.
The WFCW remained a member of the WCL until 31 October 2006 when the WCL dissolved. For years the WCL had been discussing a possible merger with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and on the 1st of November 2006 this was made official. The WCL and the ICFTU ceased to exist and were to continue under the name of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
The WCL had national trade union confederations as member, but also provided room for sectoral federations and unions to become a member. These federations would become a direct member of the particular sectors they were active in. This was a formalized provision within the WCL.
In the ICFTU such a provision did not exist. But sectoral federations and unions could become a member of the Global Union Federations (GUF’s). Although there was no formal relationship between the ICFTU and the GUF’s (formerly International Trade Secretariat (ITS)) there was a cooperative relationship.
With the merger into the ITUC this relationship is continuing to exist. The ITUC only has trade union confederations as member. The GUF’s represent the sectoral federations. Mergers between the trade federations of the former WCL and the ICFTU started to emerge before the foundation of the ITUC and has continued afterwards.
The WFCW could not become a member of the ITUC and wanted to start afresh. Already in 2004 the Congress of the former-WFCW decided to continue as an autonomous independent international federation under a new “working name” (World Organisation of Workers) until itsnext Congress in 2008. Furthermore it would open a new office with new staff in the city of Brussels, Belgium. Lastly the WOW decided to look for more cooperation with other international trade union federations active in the same sector, such as Union Network International (UNI). Talks did not result in the desired outcome, and whereas most sectoral federations and unions decided to merge, the board of the WOW decided to continue independently. A decision that was taken by the WOW and EUROFEDOP/INFEDOP only.
Today the WOW is a well-established and growing international trade federation representing people in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America