The TUC is backing an international campaign to secure a dot.union internet address specifically for on-line trade union organisations.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which represents unions around the world, has applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for a .union top level domain so that trade unions can have their own unique addresses on the internet. This means the TUC and unions in the UK could soon be ending their email and web addresses with the word ".union".
(The ICFTU has 125 million members, in 215 affiliated organisations in 145 countries and territories.)
The joint request has come from a group that includes the American AFL-CIO, the South African COSATU, the Japanese RENGO and German DGB, as well as the TUC. UK-based POPTEL Ltd. is to prepare the technical and business brief for the application.
This new domain will allow unions to have a distinct presence and space on the internet. Unions argue that they are an important part of civil society and the new domain name for unions would demonstrate that ICANN wishes the net to serve citizens as well as commercial organizations. Trade unions also have the international infrastructure that allow a new domain to be administered effectively.
John Monks, TUC General Secretary, said: "Dot.coms should not have it all their own way. A new domain name for trade unions would give unions a much bigger web profile, show that trade unions are up there with the best when it comes to 21st Century communications. Not only would it enable trade union net users to feel part of the world family of unions, it would also make it easier for non-members to use the internet and find out more about trade union activities and issues."
"This initiative, if successful, would be a valuable step forward for trade unions," said Bill Jordan, the ICFTU's General-Secretary. "It would allow us to manage a section of the internet tailored to the needs of trade union organisations and their members around the world. This proposal is symbolic of an international trade union movement increasingly engaged in innovative use of new communications technologies."
The ICFTU is keen to make sure that as many trade unions as possible are able to connect to the web and take advantage of the tools of the internet. To encourage take-up in the least developed parts of the world there will be special registration rates for trade unions from these countries. Any profits from the operation of this "top level domain name" will be placed in a "digital divide" fund to support efforts to build union connectivity around the world.
This month the ICANN is asking all unions to register their support for this application and join in the discussion forum on its web site www.icann.org.