The WFTU Conference in the framework of the 108th ILC titled “Youth and trade unions” started today on June 20th with great participation and interest.
Youth Trade unionists and trade union leaders from many countries of the world that are participating in the 108th ILC in Geneva are taking part and discussing about the participation of Youth in the class oriented trade union movement.
Below the keynote speech:
We are welcoming you to today’s WFTU event in the framework of the 108th Session of the International Labor Conference, under the topic: Youth and Trade Unions.
It is a topic of great importance, since the young workers, the new shift of the working class, through their active participation in the militant trade unions, can give them liveliness and militancy, and make the class struggles more massive and strong. They are the future, the hope and the freshness of trade unions and their struggles.
Nowadays, young workers globally face serious problems at work and in their daily life, which makes imperative the need for them to get organized and rallied together with their colleagues, to demand in an organized and collective way the covering of their contemporary needs.
They live in an environment where the rivalries among the powerful imperialist states for the control of the energy and the markets prevail; the same goes for exploitation of the peoples and of the natural wealth of the countries for the profit of big monopoly companies, the imperialist wars and interventions which create thousands of uprooted people, among whom there are many young workers and little children.
Specifically, based on ILO 2018 data and globally:
- 75 million of young persons are unemployed
The problem of youth unemployment is particularly acute in the Arab states (30,6%), in the EU of 28 (18,4%), in Latin America and in Caribbean (17%) and elsewhere. We cite as an example that in South Africa the percentage of unemployment among the youth reaches 50%.
- 158 million young workers live below the poverty line
The Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest percentage of poor young workers in the world, almost 70% (80 million), while the problem is particularly acute in South Asia. In a high developed EU country like Denmark the number of children living in a family whose income is below the poverty line increased dramatically in 2016. In 2016 there were 48,300 one-year-poor children. Which means they have been poor for at least a year. There is an increase of 10,500 children in just one year, and this corresponds to a relative increase of almost 28%.
- 25% of the young people aged 15-29 are not in employment, education, or training
This situation downgrades their knowledge and abilities, it traps them in unemployment, under-employment and disappointment.
What is more, young people are more exposed to informal working relationships, i.e. undeclared work, especially in emerging and developing countries, like South Africa, Brazil and Turkey, where 40% of young workers are “informal” workers, while in Mexico this percentage reaches 60%. In addition to low wages and undeclared work, young people are often forced to work with flexible working relationships, part-time or fixed-term contracts. Typical example are the EU countries like Portugal, Greece, Poland or Finland, with more than 50% of young people not having the possibility to find a permanent full-time job.
Facing this situation, many young people resort to migration, seeking better education and work opportunities outside their home country. According to data of the previous years, some 51 million migrants worldwide were between 15-29 years of age, most of whom came from developed economies. Many of them are young scientists who seek work in the sector of their studies, in richer countries where foreign skilled workforce is needed.
However, young people in poorer countries are the most willing to migrate. Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have the largest number of youngsters wanting to emigrate, 38%, followed by Eastern Europe with 37%.
The above problems are particularly acute at young working women, who stably face higher unemployment rates, part-time jobs and insufficient education in relation to young men, facts that highlights the particular issues of working women since their young age.
All the aforementioned compose the harsh reality in which young workers are invited to organize their struggles at their workplaces, in their countries as well as internationally, through the ranks of the World Federation of Trade Unions, to demand the life they deserve, in a society with peace, social justice, safety, access to education and to the right to stable job, with 8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest and 8 hours for the global development of their personality, with access to the arts, culture, sports.
Participation of the youth in the trade unions
Young workers present in general poor participation in their unions, and this fact is partly related to the flexible forms of employment they have, which do not allow them to have a stable workplace. However the main reason is the conscious effort to manipulate the consciousness of young workers so that they do not react, so that they think that nothing changes.
In almost all countries in the world, in no case is the trade union action in the ranks of young persons promoted, nor their militant position in their workplaces. On the contrary, through education, through the propaganda of the mass media, they promote individualism instead of collectivity, the defamation of struggles, terrorism and threats. They also use the re-writing of history so that young people never learn about the important rights achieved by workers when they organized small and bigger struggles to meet their contemporary needs.
In order to be sure that they will keep the workers away from the struggles, apart from defamation and terrorism, they also resort to the yellow trade unionism, reformism, i.e. the position of some trade union leaderships, who choose the logic of compromise, of dialogue with the state and the employers, so as to negotiate how much, each time, the workers will lose. They are corrupted bureaucrats who receive big salaries and funding from the governments of their countries, so as to organize events and seminars where they explain to workers how to remain subjugated.
Those forces, through social dialogue, accept the limitation of the workers’ rights, they call workers to make sacrifices in the name of competitiveness. At international level, these unions are expressed through the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, that serves the interests of the imperialists and of the monopolies through the trade union movement. The ITUC supports Israel against Palestinians, it supported the imperialistic wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, now in Syria and Yemen. Through Institutes like the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), and the African-American Labor Center (AALC), the line of compromise is being promoted, the line of the continuation of the workers’ exploitation in the interest of the monopolies.
The role of the youth in the class-oriented trade union movement
Despite the difficulties, the militant trade union movement must always pay great attention to the development of young trade unionists who can lead the working class to victorious struggles. What is more, the renewal of the cadres is necessary so that older and more experienced trade unionists can cooperate with young and enthusiastic militants.
For this reason the WFTU in the 17th World Congress held in Durban, South Africa, announced the following measures:
- The appeal to the unions to encourage the entry of new trade unionists, entrusting them tasks and responsibilities.
- The promotion of international training and analysis.
- The exposure and condemnation of yellow trade union leaderships.
- The digitization of WFTU publications.
Under these difficult circumstances, the WFTU has tried and developed specific initiatives in favor of young workers.
The WFTU also organized many activities, like three Working Youth World Congresses in Cuba, In Peru and in Italy. The new Working Youth Committee of WFTU was elected from the Congress in Rome, and it has already organized meetings, international campaigns, like the one for the liberation of the Palestinian militant Ahed Tamimi, and much more events. The WFTU carried out 3 series of trade union seminars for young workers, it has supported in practice the mobilizations of young people, school pupils and students around the world, It has organized regional conferences of young workers (Argentina, Mexico, Greece, Uruguay, Panama, South Africa, etc.), it has organized continental seminars for the education of young persons, protests against child labor, it has been at the forefront of the struggles against imperialist interventions and wars, it has revealed and fought against the new anti-worker labour relations of zero hour contracts, mini jobs, flexicurity, while struggling for full time, stable jobs, etc.
Over the last years, the WFTU has pointed out the issue of the behavior and characteristics a young trade unionist should have: he should have a good knowledge of the problems of his workplace, a good knowledge of the problems of his sector and the overall problems of workers in his homeland. If he doesn’t know their problems well it will be difficult for his colleagues to trust him. The working people are interested in their wages, their pensions, the health and education of their children and expect the trade unionist to know about all these matters and to be able to offer real solutions to them. Unlike us, the bureaucratic and reformist unions create trade unionists who have never worked in the sector in their lives. They don’t know how the worker and his family live, they don’t know their concerns and their problems.
He should have faith in the working class and its mission to be the leading class that can unite all the popular strata, workers, poor peasantry, the progressive intelligentsia, the youth and women in common goals for the overthrow of the system of exploitation. For this reason the young trade unionist should study, develop his ideological level, his knowledge about history and the role of the social classes.
A third requirement of the militant trade unionist is a knowledge of history and an understanding of the values, traditions and culture of the labor movement. Without the knowledge of yesterday, without the experience of past successes and mistakes, the course in the present and future is difficult. In each country the labor movement has its own history with struggles and sacrifices – efforts and results. The knowledge of that history teaches the principles of solidarity, collective action, responsibility, integrity, pride and dignity.
It is also essential for the young trade unionists to understand the importance of internationalist solidarity. To be informed for the international developments, to be able to feel the suffering of workers in all countries.
They should be taught by the great lessons of internationalism that the WFTU has given and continues to give: The struggles of WFTU on the side of the people of Korea against the imperialist intervention, the protests in support of the people of Vietnam against the North-Americans, on the side of the ordinary people against dictatorships in Chile, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Greece, etc., by the side of the armed movements in Cuba, Nicaragua, Sahara, El Salvador, Nepal, etc. Our position against wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen. Our firm position by the side of the Arab People in their struggle against Israel and for the justification of the Palestinian struggle. The stable position against racism and apartheid, in South Africa and other places of the world, is one of the greatest lessons for the younger generations. Also, the solidarity and coordination between sectors and trade unions of different countries that organize to resist the attacks of the anti-labor monopolies and multinationals. The principal characteristic of proletarian internationalism is an uncompromising position against imperialists, the struggle for peace and friendship among the peoples and the right of all peoples to decide freely for their present and future.
Finally, our fighters, the revolutionary trade unionists have the obligation to lead by their personal example, with their characteristics of honesty and fairness. Not to sell their ideology to capitalists and become instruments of their interests. The future belongs to the movement that will bring out uncompromised, steady and honest fighters.
Keeping all these in mind, we invite all members and friends of the WFTU to intensify the struggle for the rallying of more and more young workers in their ranks. To put into practice the decision of the Action Plan 2019 of the WFTU PC, about organizing seminars for young trade unionists, about award-giving, about the writing of biographies of great militants of WFTU and carrying out events on their honor.
Because the WFTU, as recently highlighted in Paris its General Secretary, comrade G. Mavrikos, is more than a union. It is the pride of all of us and the hope of the young generation.
WFTU Working Youth Committee Coordinator