WFTU Transport union affiliates and friends met on 25th of April, 2014 in London hosted by RMT Britain, to discuss about the developments in the sector, the impact of privatisation and structural changes according to the aggrements in the European Union and to establish common ground and take resolutions on the plan of action.
Read here the speech of the George Mavrikos, General Secretary of the WFTU at the meeting:
On behalf of the WFTU allow me to convey my greetings to all our colleagues of the transport sector from all over Europe and other continents present here, attending this important conference.
Let me first say a few words in the memory of our dear comrade Bob Crow, who unexpectedly passed away last month. Comrade Bob was a militant activist of the trade union movement with over 30 years of experience, participating in big workers struggles and had gained the respect of all his colleagues and comrades. His demise was a great loss for the family of the WFTU and for the international class oriented trade union movement.
The topic of our Conference, “The European Union, Elections for the European Parliament, in the framework of transport sector workers, workers rights and the class oriented trade union movement WFTU” couldn’t be timelier. We live in a crucial period for the working class in Europe and all over the world. The working class has to fight against tough, unjust and barbarian anti-people policies. That the capitalist financial crisis, which unfolded in all developed capitalist countries has dramatically worsened the situation for the working class in all countries and continents.
Social democrat and neoliberal governments or coalition governments with the participation of both of them, in the various countries of the EU, implement the same policies that condemn the big masses of the population to unemployment and poverty, penalizing trade union struggles. And speaking about penalizing union struggles, it’s revealing how the employers group in the ILO, with the willing collaboration of the most reactionary governments, tries to eliminate the “right to strike”. At the same time, the bank and the industrial capital perform mergers, get stronger and from a better position, they invest in Asia and Africa, seeking increased profitability and anticipating the new and temporary capitalist growth.
Within this framework, the workers in Europe are called to vote on May 25 for the members of the European Parliament.
But what Europe are we talking about? Because, it’s one thing to talk about Europe, the European continent, where the peoples and the workers of Europe live and another thing when we talk about the European Union, an imperialist organization, a union of capitalists, formed by them in order to defend their class interests against the workers and the peoples. It turned out to be a myth, that EU membership means development for the benefit of the people, since neither have been, nor can there be equal relationships between the member states. The only point of agreement among European monopolies and European capitalist governments is the economic and social aggression against the people.
The so-called “policies for exit from the crisis”, implemented by the European capitalist governments (no matter what party governs) and jointly planned by them and the imperialist organizations (the EU, the European Bank, the IMF, etc.) have as their main points: privatizations, pay cuts and pension cuts, elimination of workers and social rights. This recipe was implemented in all the countries of the EU.
The unemployment in many countries of the EU is sky rocketing (let me mention the official unemployment rates in some countries: Greece: 27.4%, Spain 26.7%, Croatia 18.6%, Cyprus: 17.3%, Portugal 15.5%) and is even higher among women and the youth. The employers and the governments take advantage of the mass unemployment in order to impose state- and employer- terrorism, especially towards the youth, the children of the working class. At the same time, in Europe, xenophobia and racism are rising and become a mortal danger for the trade union movement and for the peoples’ and workers’ struggles. This is today’s reality.
On an international level, while international capitalism is facing its own contradictions, the competition of life and death between the monopolies is more intense. This means that the imperialist aggression, with its main objective the exploitation of the natural and economic resources and the energy routes, is more ruthless and causing new wars and interventions against the peoples.
The EU actively participates in this game of inter imperialist competition, generating hazards for the peoples in Europe and all over the globe. The EU’s role in the recent events in Ukraine is revealing. But also, we do not forget the stance of the EU and the European governments in Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic, earlier in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. A stance that created and keeps creating thousands of victims.
For many years the EU aggressively promotes privatizations in the transport sector, in all areas: road, maritime and air transport, in order to hand over transport services to the international monopolies and the transnational corporations.
The so called “liberalization” of transport has brought billions in profits for the monopolies, at the expense of the workers in the sector and the users of transport services. The experience of privatizations of transport and railways in the UK, Greece, France and other countries is characteristic.
The workers in maritime transport have to face casual labor relations, the policy of social dumping, etc. The Maritime Labour Convention, while it is supposed to set standards and “red lines”, in reality it set the world bar very low and helps compress down labor rights of seafarers of all countries.
In air transport, the “open skies” policies implemented by the EU generate further casualization of labor relations and undermine the safety for workers and passengers.
The result of these policies of “liberalization”, privatization, downsizing, etc. in all fields of transport, have had disastrous consequences for the sector. They led to a reduction of transport safety, high prices for passengers and loss of credibility of transport. What’s more, these policies lead to the formation of large transport cartels.
To this aggression the workers of Europe are suffering from, the answer –unfortunately- wasn’t adequate. The chronic effect of social democracy and the corruption of the compromised trade union leaderships has eroded the confidence of workers in general in unions and has weakened the trade union movement, so that even in conditions of strong anti-people and anti-workers aggression, the answer is weakened. In this context, there is clearly a need to strengthen the role of the class oriented pole in the trade union movement in Europe and internationally.
Under these difficult conditions, the WFTU tries to strengthen its presence in Europe, gaining new affiliates, aiming to reconstruct the militant trade union movement in Europe. We are very happy that militant unions, with a tradition of workers and peoples’ struggles, like the RMT, join us in this effort and give this struggle within the lines of the WFTU.
In front of the elections for the European Parliament and every day, the workers must me in the front line of the organization of their struggles, they should ignore the compromised political and trade union leaderships, who –after all- end up servicing the capital and they should trust the class oriented, militant trader unionism that the WFTU embraces on an international level.
For the transport sector, we believe that our transport networks are key element of national infrastructure and must be publicly operated for the benefit of workers and people in general. That’s why militant transport unions, affiliates of WFTU, struggle against privatization in the transport sector, for better working conditions, better health and safety regulations. In this context, on September 5-7, 2014, in Santiago – Chile, the WFTU Trade Union International for the Transport sector (TUI Transport) will hold its 13th Congress, in order to discuss and propose solutions and methods for coordinating the struggle of transport workers around the world.
Dear colleagues and friends,
For the WFTU and the 86 million organized workers in over 120 countries of the globe our organization represents, the answer is clear. Unite the working class for the defense of its own class interests; contribute in the reconstruction of the militant trade union movement in all levels: national, sectoral, regional and worldwide. All together, collectively and in solidarity we can achieve greater results, strengthening our national struggles and building internationalist solidarity in the European continent, but also all over the world.