Sharan Burrow

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Sharan Burrow speaking at the 2013 World Economic Forum meeting

Sharan Burrow (born 12 December 1954 in Warren, New South Wales) is the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)[1] and a former President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) (2000–2010). She is the first woman to become General Secretary of the ITUC since its foundation in 2006, and was the second woman to become President of the ACTU. She also serves as a member on the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate.

Early involvement in Australian labour movement[edit]

Burrow was born to a family with strong involvement in the labour movement. She graduated in teaching with the University of NSW in 1976 and became a teacher in the early 1980s, which allowed her to become involved in the New South Wales Teachers Federation. She later became President of the Bathurst Trades and Labor Council. Before becoming President of the ACTU she was also President of the Australian Education Union (AEU) in 1992.

Presidency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions[edit]

Burrow was elected President of the ACTU in May 2000. The most significant public event of her term of office was the ACTU's 'Your Rights at Work' campaign against the Howard Government's 'WorkChoices' industrial relations legislation in the lead up to the 2007 Australian federal election. At the election, the Howard government was defeated, and the incoming Rudd Government repealed the WorkChoices legislaton and replaced it with the Fair Work Act 2009, which was praised by the ACTU for its restoration and protection of many workers' rights (such as the right to organise and negotiate collectively) which has been removed or jeopardised by the earlier legislation.[2]

Burrow continued as President of the ACTU until the end of June 2010 when she demitted office and was elected General Secretary (i.e. leader) of the International Trade Union Confederation.[3]

Involvement in international labour movement[edit]

Burrow in a meeting with the president of Argentina and two unionists from that country, in Cannes in 2011

Before her election as General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation on 25 June 2010,[4] Burrow was President of the ITUC from its foundation in 2006 until her election as General Secretary in 2010 and had previously been the first female President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), a forerunner institution of the ITUC, between 2004 and its absorption into the ITUC in 2006.

Recognising the significance of her election as the first female leader of the world's largest international trade union organisation, in her acceptance speech after becoming General Secretary of the ITUC, Burrow underlined the necessity of female participation in organised labour:

"I am a warrior for woman and we still have work to ensure the inclusion of women in the work place and in our unions. The struggles for women are multiple – too often within their families for independence, then in the workplace for rights and equal opportunity, in their unions for access and representation and then as union leaders. But the investment in and participation of women is not only a moral mandate it is an investment in democracy and a bulwark against fundamentalism and oppression. Organising woman is and must continue to be a priority for the ITUC." − Sharan Burrow.[5]

Burrow is also the current President of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR).[6]

World Justice Project[edit]

Sharan Burrow serves as an Honorary Co-Chair for the World Justice Project.[7] The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.[8]


  1. ^ "About us". ITUC. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "ACTU Factsheet July 2009 – Fair Work Act 2009: better rights for working Australians and their families". ACTU Online. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "Member Profiles – Burrow, Sharan". ACTU Worksite. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "Sharan Burrow Acceptance Speech". ITUC Online. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  5. ^ "Sharan Burrow Acceptance Speech". ITUC Online. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "ICTUR Homepage". ICTUR Online. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  7. ^ "Honorary Chairs". World Justice Project. Retrieved 24 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "About the". World Justice Project. Retrieved 24 February 2010. 
Trade union offices
Preceded by
Jennie George
President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
Succeeded by
Ged Kearney