Brothers and Sisters,
First of all I would like on behalf of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) to thank you especially for the honour in inviting us to your Congress and for granting us some of your very valuable time to address a brotherly trade union greeting and also to share with you some of our thoughts regarding the problems facing and troubling working people throughout the world.
We live in a particularly difficult and harsh period of time for the world in general, in an age when the attacks on working people are continuously becoming more fierce and daily.
The so-called new world order is all the more showing its autocratic and imperialist nature. Behind the nice-sounding slogans concerning human rights, the war on terrorism etc. in reality a policy, which does not hesitate to use war and destruction, is being promoted in order to impose concrete selfish geo-political interests.
For every progressive person it is evident that neither the invasion nor the occupation of Iraq, nor the invasion of Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia, neither the encouragement nor the atrocities committed in Palestine and recently in Lebanon, or the attacks launched against Syria and Iran have resulted in humanity seeing better days. Neither have they resulted in the consolidation of peace and security. On the contrary all of these developments have merely sustained and fuelled the vicious circle of violence and blood.
This policy of aggression and the implementation of the rule of the powerful are expressed in the socio-economic field by the process of capitalist and neo-liberal globalization.
The ones who are the first to feel the impact of neo-liberalism on their economic, social and trade union rights are the working people of course.
The driving force of the anti-labour schemes is the policy of deregulation, which is aiming to intensify the exploitation of labour, depreciate its value and to destroy collective agreements and collective labour relations.
The victims of this neo-liberal globalization and the so-called European Convergence are the social security system, the very idea of social solidarity as this is expressed through free public education, the health care systems and the welfare state.
Capital is striving to act as the replacement for the social role of the public sector and in this way to gain new arenas of exploitation and profit speculation through the privatization of the public and state-run organizations and services of general interest.
In these conditions, the need to rally all forces and the joint action of the workers movement, through the consolidation and strengthening of the Trade Union movement for the establishment of a common front against the lawlessness of the New World Order and capitalist globalization is more pressing than ever before. We believe that working people by protecting the unity and of the workers movement, through the strengthening and safeguarding of their trade unions and their resolute belief in their class-orientation, can effectively resist and create the preconditions for social progress and justice
Despite the fact that neo-liberal capitalism is today more arrogant and big-headed than ever before, it is certainly neither unbeatable nor all-powerful. There are many examples which substantiate this conviction of ours. The powerful ‘NO’ vote of the French people against the European Treaty was followed by the subsequent ‘NO’ vote of the Dutch people, the huge mobilizations of working people who managed to withdraw the directive concerning the liberalization of the ports, the reaction of working people which forced the European Commission to make a small if only retreat on the question of the Bolkenstein directive and many other European but also other specific victories all have proved that through unity and struggle many things can be achieved.
At this point we are obliged to note that even more crucial battles on a global and European level could have been won had the leadership of the so-called “free trade unions” and the newly formed ITUC, which represents their continuation, as well as the leadership of the ETUC, shown the necessary class consistency on the positions of the Trade Union movement.
In Europe maybe issues such as the infamous “flexicurity” model and the Green Paper, which is aiming to reduce the terms of labour to the lowest levels of the EU or the question of the abolition of overtime and steady working time on the pretext of the organisation of working time could not have been be openly put on the agenda today. Maybe we would not have had either the bringing back of the European Constitution through the back door, as the decision of the governments behind the backs of people, if the reaction of the leadership of the official Trade Union movement was as resolute and determined as the conditions called for.
We do not of course seek to monopolise class consistency, nor do we minimise whatever struggles are being waged. However, we are obliged to note that in essence these ruling forces today have accepted the theories regarding the termination of the class struggle. They have accepted the official interpretations surrounding the so-called social dialogue which is tending to sideline and undermine class-based collective bargaining and subordinate the social interests of the working class to a dubious and usually false European idea which may constitute an idea for the big multinational companies and the ruling economic circles but do not correspond in any way to the visions and aspirations of the people of labour.
We in the World Federation of Trade Unions are working hard for a Trade Union Movement which will have clear class-based orientations with a militant disposition. We are working hard for a Trade Union Movement which will be creative and authoritative with proposals and positions but which at the same time will be powerful and vigorous capable of defending gains and campaigning for workers rights.
Brothers and Sisters,
The World Federation of Trade Unions was born of historical necessity and the socio-historical conditions which developed at the end of the Second World War after Hitler fascism was crushed. It has struggled since its foundation for the safeguarding of peace and the protection of the interests of working people, as well as for the broadening of democratic and trade union freedoms. The events that took place during the 1990’s in Europe are known to all of you. The blow to WFTU was certainly quite severe. However despite the difficulties and hardships which we had to face, WFTU continues to be the true voice of class-orientated trade unionism and international solidarity. After the recent WFTU Congress in Havana roughly a year ago, we feel that WFTU has taken the road of reorganisation and rejuvenation in all aspects.
Today WFTU has a new leadership with leading cadres nurtured in active and militant trade union movements with a worthy presence and activity. It has freed itself from any bureaucratic malformations of the past. It sets as its priority the reorganisation of its regional offices and international sections. It is re-establishing its mechanisms in order to intervene in the various decision-making centres such as the ILO, EU, FAO, UNESCO and the UN. It is setting up mechanisms in order to intervene on issues affecting working women, working youth and economic migrants.
The European Regional Office of WFTU has consolidated and upgraded its functioning and intervention and whose central office is based today in Cyprus with the Pancyprian Federation of Labour PEO as the coordinator carrying out wide-ranging activity.
It is moving forward to reorganise the International Transport Workers Union and next month we will be holding its founding Congress in Brazil. It is also proceeding to establish a European Organisation in the field of Agriculture and Foods whose headquarters will be stationed in Paris. The International Union of Construction Workers, which is a member of WFTU, remains the most powerful force in the construction building sector with a rich activity and presence at an international level.
Last month the International Conference on Working Women took place in Brussels on the initiative of WFTU and was a great success. Decisions were taken for the establishment of permanent and regular mechanisms of intervention on women’s issues.
I would like to make a special reference to the recent Congress of the International Union of workers in the Energy sector which was held last month in Mexico and a delegation also from our Organisation participated. 208 delegates from 27 countries representing 57 Trade Union organisations attended this Congress, whilst precisely half the number took part in the previous respective Congress.
In concluding my address and intervention allow me on behalf of WFTU to salute your Congress once more. I wish every success in its proceedings. I issue a call for the rallying of forces and joint action:
- Against the imperialist New World Order, for the prevalence of peace, justice and the dignity of the peoples
- For the eradication of economic and social inequalities and for the prevalence of a just, sustainable and viable global development
- Against privatisations and the selling off of the social wealth to big capital
- For the defence and enhancement of the social role of the state
- For the defence of stable and permanent employment as a human and social right
- For the strengthening of trade unions and their unity in action
- For a better and more just future, free from social injustice and exploitation
It is I believe worth it for all of us together to make every effort in order to achieve such a future.