The international situation is characterized, at world level, by a violent offensive of the capitalist forces and governments that serve them, against the rights and interests of men and women workers and peoples, destroying social, trade union, civic and democratic gains and rights, achieved during centuries of workers and peoples struggles the world over.
The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) considers it urgent and decisive to organize the resistance and struggle of the workers against this brutal offensive, which is spreading deep inequalities and injustices across the planet.
The capitalist crisis exploded with great force in the fall of 2008. The defenders of the system can no longer hide its enormous dimension and its consequences will last in time. Having had its epicenter in the United States of America, it is rocking the whole capitalist economy and it is bringing to light that this system is corroded by deep contradictions, provoking successive crises, with devastating effects the word over, particularly for many million men and women workers, aggravating social inequalities and asymmetries between peoples and countries. The present crisis shows and confirms that capitalism is no solution for the problems of mankind.
Capital has entered a phase of overproduction and restriction of consumption. Easy access to credit was enhanced, substituting decent salaries and left many workers hostages of its strategy. It promoted brutal “financerism”, having transferred enormous sums to speculative activities, to the detriment of the productive sphere. Some of the most shocking examples can be found, among other, in the development of hedge and risk funds activities, sub-prime and stock exchange speculation.
Although the system defenders are now proposing “regulatory” measures and trying to simply blame the greed of some speculators, the essence of the problem lies in the very nature of the system.
Some of the measures they now propose, like state intervention, “regulation” and “nationalization”, to support capital and try to wash the face of the system, will basically leave unpunished those truly responsible for the crisis, those who, on top of it all, are now being awarded bonuses that offend those who live exclusively of their work, while losses are being socialized, using the taxpayers money. Furthermore, the governments and political forces that are now launching and supporting these measures of added regulation and state intervention, which they always opposed, show their true face by continuing to propose, across the world, a wave of privatizations of public companies and services.
The times ahead will be particularly difficult for the workers, for the trade union movement and for the peoples.
They will be times of the necessary staunch resistance against the attempts of big capital to make the peoples pay for the crisis that capital generated. They will be times of increasingly stronger trade union demands and struggles in order to protect and reinforce workers rights and yearnings and to overcome the capitalist offensive.
They will also be times for men and women workers to use this opportunity of exposing neoliberalism and, through struggles in the work places, in each country and in all the continents, building paths of rupture and building a future freed from the exploitation of man by man.
The WFTU, its national, regional and sectoral structures, as well as many other class-oriented and mass trade union organizations, play an irreplaceable part in this combat, especially when certain sections of the international trade union movement adopt “accompanying” practices, and sometimes even collaborate with and accept policies and measures that are imposed by big capital and by governments paying lip service.
The WFTU and the class-oriented trade union movement consider that what is really decisive to changing the balance of forces in the struggle for the workers rights and interests is the strengthening of trade union organisation and the intensification of the struggle of the masses.
The regular presence of Unions in the work places, information passed to the workers, stimulation of workers participation and unity of action and a coherent and determined intervention when solving problems, leadership in the struggle to gain demands and meeting the workers expectations are all indispensable conditions to increase trade union recruitment and organization and to develop successful struggles.
Trade Union autonomy and freedom of collective bargaining are nuclear elements of worker participation at all levels. Its defense and enforcement are vital. Labour Law, which includes the International Standards and results from long and hard fought struggles of workers and trade unions, needs to be defended and strengthened, in order to effectively protect those who work.
In spite of the brutal capitalist offensive and the might of the capitalists, who will do their utmost to recover from this crisis and once again try to sow illusions that it is possible to regenerate an unfair system that produces exploitation, crises and sufferings for mankind, we are confident that the resistance and struggle of workers and peoples are increasingly setting on the agenda the need to break away from exploitation, misery and war and to build political, economic and social alternatives to a model which some want to impose on us as “unique”.
It is in this context that the WFTU and other organizations attending the International Seminar, on 15-16 December 2008, in Lisbon, adopt some priority action guidelines for their intervention, which will take into consideration the political, economic, social and cultural specificities of each country and each organization’s identity and trade union action priorities:
-Building, consolidating and defending political, economic and social alternatives to capitalism and its neoliberal model of globalization;
-Fighting against social injustice and inequalities, asymmetries between peoples and countries and for the eradication of hunger and poverty;
-Struggling for the fair distribution of wealth, for better wages, and for working hours that take into account the individual, family and social needs of those who work;
-Protecting the labour and social rights of men and women workers at all levels;
-Fighting for the right to quality jobs, freely chosen and properly paid;
-Fighting unemployment and precariousness, for jobs with rights;
-Fighting for shorter working hours, without loss of pay or rights, and for working time; that reconciles work with personal, family and social needs; fighting against the proposals to review the Directive on Working Time which the European Council wants to adopt;
-Ensuring the right to collective bargaining, with respect for national specificities;
-Defending and fighting for free trade union organization, autonomy and freedom;
-Strengthen the intervention of trade unions in the workplaces and other levels
-Fighting for the effective right of access to education, training and social protection;
-Ensuring better labour regulations, nationally and internationally, notably through a firmer and more coherent action of the International Labour Organization, which must reflect the diversity of workers representation – namely that of the WFTU- in this organization;
-Demand efficient and dissuasive regulations against the transnationals’ exploitation, anti-social practices and plunder;
-Eliminating all degrading and inhuman forms of labour, namely child labour, forced labour and human trafficking;
-Fighting against women’s discrimination and against all other types of discrimination and enforcing equal opportunities in access to jobs, at work and in society at large;
-Effectively increase the participation of youngsters and women in the trade unions;
-Strengthening trade union action to protect migrant workers;
-Fighting for the respect to national sovereignty.
-Defend the food and energy sovereignty of countries and fight the waste and plunder of resources by big powers and transnational capital;
-Acting for the end of repression, persecution and murder of trade union leaders and activists, demanding the trial and punishment of the culprits;
-Fighting against war and imperialist aggressions and interference, for peace, solidarity, equity, environmental sustainability and social justice.
Aware of the challenges and threats of capitalist globalization and of the consequences of the system’s current crisis for the trade union movement, workers and peoples, the World Federation of Trade Unions and other organizations attending this Seminar, consider it necessary to join efforts and organize common or converging actions en each country, at regional and sectoral level and also internationally, to defend and promote workers rights and struggles for a new international order that may overcome deep injustices and inequalities and build a world of peace and progress.
It is with these objectives that the WFTU announces that it will promote an “INTERNATIONAL DAY OF STRUGGLE FOR WORKERS RIGHTS AGAINST EXPLOITATION”, on 1 April 2009 calling on men and women workers and trade unions to organize struggles and actions in the work places, enterprises and at sectoral, regional or national level.
Lisbon, 16 December 2008