In the Opening Speech the WFTU genereal secretary, George Mavrikos said:
“Dear friends and comrades,
I am happy to greet the International Conference organized by FNIC in coordination with WFTU. This is the first large initiative hosted by FNIC since the day it joined as an affiliate to the large trade union family of the World Federation of Trade Unions and it is obvious that it is a successful Conference. The interest for participation was very extensive and we feel the need to apologize for the limitation we had to put in the acceptance of participations.
The FNIC is a large Organization with important action for the defense of the workers’ rights in the chemical industry in a country with crucial role in the imperialist pyramid.
Comrades of FNIC, we are proud, also with this occasion, to welcome you in the family of the WFTU. Your entrance in the ranks of the WFTU gives more power and strengthens the role of the class-oriented trade union movement in Europe. In Europe where WFTU makes stable steps forward, WFTU organizes new members with militant characteristics, WFTU becomes more visible and has a louder voice for all the issues that concern the workers. At the same time, your affiliation to the WFTU offers empowerment, hope and perspective to the working class of France and strengthens its role in the international trade union movement. It offers new possibilities for the strengthening of the militant trade union movement in Europe. It offers new possibilities in the struggle against the trade union reformism in France, in Europe and internationally.
There is no better location than here in Paris, where the WFTU was founded in 3 October 1945, and no better time, this year when the WFTU celebrates is 70th Anniversary, to remember the strong bond between the WFTU and the working people in France who have organized important struggles the previous decades with international contribution for accomplishment of the workers rights we know today.
Even if reformism and Euro-communism in the leading circles tried to put barriers between the WFTU and the French Trade Unions it is obvious that they failed. The need for joint and united struggle with class-oriented militant and internationalist characteristics against the monopolies and imperialism had to bring us together again.
The issue we are discussing today has great significance. The Industry of Petrochemicals is a fairly new industry developed mainly during the II World War and beyond. The developments in this industry impact the totality of the lives of the population. Starting with crude oil and natural gas, petrochemicals produced end up becoming necessary for an extensive variety of products from electric supplies to pharmaceuticals, to technology, to construction, clothing, rubber etc.
In the complex issue of the economy of petroleum and natural gas and petrochemicals, three are the basic topics which we want to focus on today as World Federation of Trade Unions and we expect to hear with great interest the speeches, your concerns, your experience of all delegations.
Here is where we want to focus:
First, to the issue of the competitiveness between the imperialist centers around the control of the natural resources on behalf of the monopoly groups of their countries. These competitions are ruthless, brutal and do not stop even if the domination of one over the other requires the bloodbath of people, the incitement of civil wars under the pretext of ethnical, religious, racial or other differences, the incitement, funding and training of terrorist groups and the downgrading and dependence of countries economies. This is how the roads of energy are being opened in Ukraine, in Libya, in Mali, in Syria and this is what happens with the competition around the energy streams and the discovery of new deposits. The civil wars, the local and regional wars are intensified and constitute a great danger for the people.
The class-oriented trade union movement and the WFTU continue their internationalist solidarity and have the duty to expose the real causes behind the wars and the conflicts, to have clear anti-imperialist positions and to practically express their internationalist solidarity for the end of such phenomena.
At the same time the WFTU’s positions is that the natural resources must be owned by the people and not the multinationals.
Secondly, we are witnesses of a complex game based on the prices. This chessboard concerns in great extent the quality of life of the workers internationally. The fixing of prices is not defined off course by the needs of the population and definitely not only by the supply and demand but from a series of other factors such as the competition games, the embargoes and blockades imposed by the imperialist mechanism such as the one against Iran, with the controlled reduction of the production.
The position of the WFTU as we expressed it recently in the International Conference of the WFTU inside the Central Offices of the European Union and in the United Nations during the 104th International Labour Conference is that the embargoes, the sanctions and the blockades such as the ones against Cuba, Russia, Iran, Syria etc first and foremost harm the lives of the working people and the popular strata and must be eliminated. We struggle against embargoes, sanctions and blockades.
Third, the WFTU is particularly interested in how these developments affect the sectors of energy and petrochemicals. With this conference which is hosted by FNIC-CGT we will be able to discuss analytically trade union representatives from various countries and from all continents, to exchange experience and to improve our coordination and joint action in the sector.
From the discussion we cannot omit the developments as they are affected by the international capitalist crisis, the increase of poverty and the downgrading of the living conditions of the workers because of the reactionary measures of the governments, the European Union and the IMF. For example, this reality imposed the reduction of the demand for products and energy because of the drastic cuts in the family budgets which along with the competition from USA and the priorities of the capital investment ended up in the closing of refineries in France which sent thousands of workers in unemployment.
A report of the American journal FirstWordPharma mentions that in the period 2008-2013, 11 leading pharmateutical companies made 143,000 lay-offs. Amongst them Astra with 27,733 layoffs, Merck with 46,140, Pfizer with 16,517 and Glaxo with 9,000.
Another crucial topic in the sector which we need to discuss is that thousands of workers suffer from work related incidents -many times fatal- every year at the oil drilling and refining industries which is one of the most dangerous workplaces in the world. Recently, in my country – Greece, workers at Ellinika Petrelea (HELPE) experienced one of the most tragic industrial incidents occurred due to the lack of safety measures and 4 workers lost their lives. At about the same time, in Mexico in southern Bay of Campeche an oil rig incident left two workers died. The policies of oil companies, the lack of health and safety measures hurt oil workers everywhere in the world.
At the same time, chemical industries are notorious for occupational diseases, where workers -even short term workers in the industry- may suffer from asthma, various types of cancer and other diseases caused by the working conditions in these industries. Most of these diseases and health problems could have been prevented, had the necessary health and safety measures been taken.
At the rubber industries, besides the obvious occupational safety concerns, we must underline and make public the cruel and inhumane policies of rubber transnational corporations. As we all know, rubber comes from plantations in Africa, Asia, Latin America. Rubber transnational corporations have a long history of slavery, exploitation, funding of civil wars and other crimes against the peoples of those regions. Up to this day, rubber transnational corporations manage to control governments of whole countries they operate in, being a “state – within a state”, to the extent that even child labor is permitted for them!
This means that in the 21st century the profits are huge but the workers are unemployed. In the 21st century the raw materials are plenty but the workers are cold and hungry. In the 21st century the people have nothing to divide them but the fire of war flares in new locations.
This absurdity completely logical under the capitalistic mode of production , the WFTU and the class-oriented trade union movement make an open and wide appeal to all trade union Organizations for joint anti-imperialist internationalist struggle irrespective of ideological, racial, religious or other differences for the protection and the demand of workers rights.
WHAT TRADE UNIONS AND WHAT TRADE UNION LEADERS DOES THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT NEED TODAY?
In this context, in this complex conditions the question is what trade unions and what trade union leaderships does the working class need today, is contemporary and basic.
We see trade unions leaderships in national, sectoral and international level being compromised, bureaucratic, collaborators of the governments, collaborators of the multinationals, of the IMF and the imperialists.
We see for example, the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) supporting imperialist wars in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, in Lebanon. Supporting the policies of the Governments of Israel against the heroic Palestinian people, supporting the imperialist centers against Venezuela. What kind of trade union is this that partners with NATO and supports the imperialist interventions?
We see trade unions leaderships in sectoral level to be away of the base, far away of the ordinary workers, to not respect the collective principle, the democratic procedures.
We see trade union bureaucrats, careerists and corrupted persons who live like capitalists in burden of the workers.
All these negative phenomena push away the simple, the honest working people from the trade unions. All these negative phenomena do not help the unions to approach the new generation of unemployed, of political refugees, of economic migrants.
Contrary to these phenomena we have the duty to resist. To fight against corruption, against class collaboration, against reformist and against the disarmament of the trade unions.
As WFTU we appeal to you to open a war together against reformism, to unite all workers based on their class-interests, to reconstruct the militant trade union movement. To unite all workers, the youth, the working women, the economic migrants, the refugees in the common struggle for the improvement of the labour rights, the salaries, the social security. To unite the simple people against capitalist barbarity.
As WFTU we struggle against the privatization of strategic sectors of the economy of each country, for public production and distribution of energy, for affordable social services for all population, for restrictions in the use of dangerous and carcinogenic chemical substances. At the same time, we struggle for the respect of the collective bargaining process, for labour and social rights for the workers in the sector, against the flexibility of working relations (contractualization, increase in retirement ages, intensification of workload etc.), for modern and sufficient measures of health and safety in the workplaces.
We intensify our internationalist solidarity, our coordination, our pressure to the monopolies of the international class-oriented trade union movement for all the contemporary needs of the working people, we enhance the social alliance with the other popular strata, the poor farmers, the self-employed and we open a way forward accumulating forces for a world without capitalist exploitation and imperialist barbarity, for a society which can bring substantial and long-lasting solutions for all the complex and crucial problems.
We continue today from better positions, with accumulated experience from our 70 years of struggle. With more internationalism, more militancy, with more determination.
Comrades, we honor the struggles of the past by organizing the stronger struggles of the future. To deliver to the new generations a trade union movement which will be modern, democratic, internationalists, class-oriented.