On the World Refugee Day, June 20th, we take the opportunity to recall on the WFTU position on immigrants, refugees and homeless people stated at the “Athens Pact”, the main Document of the 16th World Trade Union Congress:
Immigration is a phenomenon that concerns the geographical movement of part of the population. In most cases, especially those that concern us, the reasons for movement are economic and social ones and concern primarily economic immigrants. Otherwise they are political and economic ones which means they concern political refugees. In any case approximately 200 million people are expatriates either permanently or periodically looking for work. The current crisis will create new waves of immigrants. Immigrants are the most harshly exploited part of the working class, they most easily manipulated and the most vulnerable to terrorism, to pressure, the less organized in trade unions, the most frightened towards expressing demands. Usually immigrants entering a country take the jobs rejected by the indigenous population. The appalling working conditions are daily phenomenon. The blackmails under the threat of deportationa are predominantly used by employers. Immigrants are victims of adventurers and dangerous elements who play around with their legalizing papers based on the isuue that every state delays, denys or asks for exorbitant amounts to legalize immigrants who work in their country. Racism and xenophobia, attacks and threats are part of life in all capitalist societies that exploit the phenomenon of migration as a cause and scapegoat for the consequences of unpopular policies and the need of capital for profits.
In fact, the migrant workforce is even used in international legislation, like in Europe with Bolkestein, etc, as a toy in the hands of employers. Whenever there is some economic growth, and the local workforce, either quantitatively or qualitatively does not meet the requirements of the international or multinational monopolies, there is a growth in the inflow of immigrants, either legally or illegally, often with interstate agreements or even without them.
In most cases wage agreements are violated and immigrants are paid lower wages, sometimes even below the minimum wage; they have no labor rights, insurance or healthcare. Immigrants are often victims of threats and intimidation and are not even aware of their rights in each host country, or how to come into contact with the trade union movement.
The example of Japan, whose development coupled with the low birth rate required the entry of skilled workers is characteristic.
Also in Australia due to lack of skilled manpower in the previous decade there was a large influx of migrant workers or workers who were temporarily in that country to meet some of the needs of the capitalist development of the transnational monopolies.
In some Gulf countries, for example, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar etc. the economic immigrants are people with no rights. In USA, the big struggles of immigrants show the size of the problem.
Otherwise, in conditions of recession and intensity of the unpopular attack on workers’ rights and the concomitant effort to reduce labor costs, immigrants are redundant and chased out.
In Europe, the example of France is the most blatant. France has been an imperialist colonial power with predatory conquests in almost half the African continent for decades. The rich deposits of Africa have fueled the growth of France, the country which had been called in the past the “engine of capitalism.” The waves of immigration from the African colonies to the “cathedral” were long anticipated. The last decade, that shaped political reality of the French government for this ghetto population is getting worse day by day. Europe has become a “walled fortress”, with a “police-like” and “securitizing” attitude towards immigrants, instead of adopting much needed inclusion and solidarity policies.
Overall, the absolute domination of imperialism, European governments, the World Bank and the IMF have, for thirty years, caused major waves of immigration from Africa. Another major problem is that of internal migration which in some countries, especially the huge ones, is important and similar to the global migration flows. For example, in India, “intra-state migrants” as they are called, enjoy the same treatment from their employers as well as all other immigrants and fall victims of racism and xenophobia.
Along with the acute problems of immigrants we also have to deal with the problem of homelessness. In the U.S., Europe and Asia, the economic crisis is the cause for many workers to lose their homes. They are homeless, sleeping on the streets and under bridges.
The World Federation of Trade Unions with the authority of its internationalist position can only answer workers are workers, whether they live in the country where they were born and come from or not, they should have the same labour and social rights as all other workers in the country. Collective agreements should be respected for each worker. With this demand immigrants will not be used as a battering ram to employment gains of the labor movement, nor will they become victims of employers.
The WFTU fights with internationalist solidarity for the unity of workers regardless of color, race, sex, nationality, origin. We give priority to the fight against xenophobia, racism and discrimination, exclusion, against all fascist theories. We strive to ensure that immigrants participate actively in the labor and trade union movement, with equal rights as applicable to the national workers and to be elected to positions. Each class trade union federation should have a committee of immigrants to attend to the migrant workers specific needs in terms of work, legal status and other social or cultural necessities.
The WFTU has been addressing all these issues not only by organizing its own activities, but also by actively intervening conducting lectures, speeches and activities in all international organizations (UNESCO, ILO and United Nations). Our intervention in these organizations can and must become more intensive.
The WFTU demands the abolition of all anti-immigrant law and regulations; to abolish the “workers rental” that recalls Middle age and slavery.