Arab trade unions have gathered in Athens, Greece in a two-days conference starting on May 11th, 2014 to discuss: “The developments in the Arab World and their consequences on workers and trade union movement. The role of the class trade union movement”.
George Mavrikos, General Secretary of the WFTU made the following introductory speech and opened the floor for every trade union delegate to express their positions and proposals to be included in the final Action Plan of the WFTU for the Arab world.
On behalf of the WFTU Secretariat we welcome you to the meeting of affiliates and friends of the WFTU from the Arab World. We thank you all for your participation.
There was great interest and many colleagues signed up. But, because of difficulties, we had to limit the number of participants.
We especially thank the trade unions that are not WFTU affiliates, but have friendly relations and appreciate the action of WFTU.
So, today you are here 39 unionists from 13 countries.
Of the WFTU affiliates in the Arab World only 2 are absent: the GFTU of Syria and FENASOL from Lebanon. The colleagues from Syria are excused, because of the situation in the country. The colleagues from FENASOL have not send us any updates.
Our meeting takes place in a crucial period for the working class on international, regional and sectoral levels. The deep and prolonged crisis of the capitalism system generates poverty, unemployment, privatizations, plunder of wealth producing resources of the countries. The governments make use of the crisis as an excuse to take away rights from the workers. Wages, pensions and social security are under attack. The social benefits are reduced. Only the cartels’ profits, the Capital’s profits are constantly rising. This is the general picture all over the world. In a rotten exploitation system.
At the same time, the imperialist aggressiveness is intensified in all continents. Ukraine is the most recent example. Ukraine, a rich country is the object of tough competition between the USA, EU and Russia. The reactionary government of Kiev, along with the USA and the EU are killing, burning, threatening with generalized warfare. The neo-fascists of the “Right Sector”, supporters of Hitler, in cooperation with FBI and CIA agents burnt at the Odessa Trade Union Building dozens of people.
Also, if we take in mind the imperialist interventions in Libya, Mali, earlier in Iraq, Afghanistan and today against the Syrian people, we see that the competition within the imperialist system is constantly generating great hazards for the Working Class. The strengthening of neo-fascist groups and racist political parties in most European Countries should concern the working class in total.
In the southeastern Mediterranean, Israel’s aggressiveness is a hazard for our region and a lethal threat for the Palestinian struggle. The settlements that Israel is illegally constructing in the Palestinian territories, its refusal to accept the establishment of n Independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, the illegal occupation of Syrian territory, of Golan and other Arab territories, the attacks against the people of Lebanon, against Iran are confirming the fact that the policy of all Israeli governments is barbarian and imperialist.
At the same time, paid mercenaries from all over the world are gathered in Syria and are supported by the imperialists. Those who claim that the intervention from abroad in Syria is taking place for “Democracy” and “Freedom’ are hypocrites. The aim of the imperialists is the “New Middle East” with dozens of small states, puppets of the USA and the EU.
All over the Arab World, the so called “Arab Spring” became “anti-people Winter” and the hopes invested by the simple people in that “spring” were very quickly proven false.
On trade union level, the WFTU in the recent years, after the moving its seat in Athens, has developed important action in order to strengthen the militant, the class oriented line, the internationalist orientation of the trade unions and the workers in the Arab World.
A special publication you can find in your folders contains a list of activities we did for each country. This report proves the action.
But, the needs are bigger. We must make more and faster. Always aiming at the strengthening of the WFTU in the region, make the strategy and tactics more visible and more comprehensible and militant and -at the same time- stand by the ICATU, by all the Arab trade unions, no matter where they belong to. Only criterion for us is the class oriented perception, the internationalist solidarity, the antiimperialist action and the support for the Palestinian struggle. To all the unions that respect these basic issues, we offer our hug and we invite them to the big family of the WFTU.
This period is a priority for the Arab trade union movement to resist the dirty and slanderous and dividing tactics of the ITUC against the Arab workers, the militant trade unions, against ICATU. Through slanders, dividing tactics and anti-union practices, the ITUC leadership tries to take apart the trade union movement and build independent puppet – unions, small unions, yellow and sellout unions. This strategy of the ITUC is identical to the imperialists’ strategy for the “new Middle East” with dozens of small puppet-states. The tactics of the ITUC will fail. The workers, the Arab working class, have their pride, their dignity, has culture, civilization and rich experience of struggles and the representatives of the international capital will not be able to buy it off.
aim of out trade union meeting is to make an account for the years that have passed and, make criticism and self criticism and -mainly- decide all together on an ACTION PLAN for the 2014-2015 period. The ACTION PLAN is a result of talks, proposals and ideas sent by many of you to the Central Offices. Based in all that, we propose to talk about and approve the following plan:
1. Our goal is to run WFTU offices in every Arab country. The role of these offices can be important. To promote the positions and line of the WFTU, to support the struggles of the workers, to help the process of democratization of the trade union movement in all Arab countries. The trade union organizations -affiliated to the WFTU- that have the capability to cover the financial expenses, providing a small office, an employee and basic technological equipment should submit their proposals and ideas in written to the WFTU leadership.
2. A delegation of all the WFTU affiliated and friendly trade unions in the Arab World, should travel to New York and collectively submit a Memo – Resolution to the UN with the positions of the WFTU for the rights and the demands of the Arab workers. The delegation will be coordinated by the WFTU central offices along with the WFTU representative at the UN.
3. In Bahrain: Pan-Arab congress in the topic: “The role of working women in the Arab World”
4. In Egypt:
Football game in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
June 20 – 23rd : Trade Union Seminar on the topic: “Collective Bargaining”
Trade Union Conference on the topic: “The Mediterranean – Sea of peace”
5.in Algeria: Panarab debate on the topid: “The role of Railways in the Arab countries”
6. in Sudan : November 2014 – Panafrican Trade Union Meeting.
7. in Tunisia: International meeting on the rights of the workers in the tourism sector.
8. in Morocco Panarab trade union congress of working youth.
9. Trade union seminars in Iraq, Lebanon, Djibouti, Egypt on the topics:
The role of the ILO and international organizations.
Health and Safety of the workers
Wealth producing resources and the position of the trade unions
Trade union freedoms – trade union rights.
10. We propose that the next Panarab Trade Union Meeting take place in Lebanon in 2015.
This Action Plan is a draft, a proposal. Through the debate and your proposals we’ll form in the end the final resolution.
We are optimist that our meeting, our talks and our resolutions will strengthen the presence of the WFTU in the trade unions of your countries and in the broader region. The relations of the WFTU with your Peoples and the working class in the Arab World are deep, stable and honest. Today, based on the historical experience, guided by the resolutions of the 16th World Trade Union Congress that took place in Athens in 2011 and on the axes of the big problems of the workers, we can move forward. We can solve the problems for the benefit of the simple people, to defend their living standards, their social security and labor rights, to fight for a better life for all and first and foremost for the younger generation. Continue until the final victory, a socially just world, without capitalist barbarism, without capitalist exploitation, without social injustice.
We call all of you to act, take initiatives, materialize this Action Plan and at the same time actively participate in the WFTU International Action Day, on October 3rd, that has as its main objective our fight against Unemployment.