WFTU Calls for Struggle against Unemployment
A K Padmanabhan
THE presidential council of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) has called for a worldwide struggle against unemployment and for the strengthening of solidarity actions in the struggle against capitalist and imperialist exploitation. The meeting of the council, which is the highest policy making body of the only class oriented international trade union organisation, was held in Rome on February 14 and 15, 2014. The meeting was hosted by the USB of Italy and presided by WFTU president Muhammad, Shaaban Azouz, who is also the president of GFTU, Syria. Thirty two members of the presidential council, out of the 43 members, participated. There were some special invitees. From India, the CITU was represented by A K Padmanabhan and Swadesh Dev Roye, WFTU vice president and deputy general secretary respectively. Others included H Mahadevan of the AITUC (deputy general secretary), C H Venkatachalam of the AIBEA (convenor, Finance Commission), Debanjan Chakravorty (general secretary, TUI Construction) and S P Tiwari of the TUCC. The other participants included those from China, Vietnam, Cuba, DPRK (North Korea), Venezuela, Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Chile, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, UK, South Africa, Nigeria, Gabon, Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Malaysia Bangladesh and Sudan. The USB of Italy, i.e. the host Organisation, had made elaborate arrangements for the meeting and its general secretary, Pierpalo Leonardi, welcomed the participants. OPENING REMARKS In his opening remarks, WFTU president Muhammad Shaaban Azouz said that the meeting, whose main agenda was to review the activities in 2013 and approve the plan of action for 2014-15, was very important in view of the global situation. He said we have to strengthen the unity of workers of the world to fight the economic and social onslaughts of world capitalism and imperialism. He referred to the stepping up of brutality against legitimate aspirations of the working class and other people of the world who are struggling for freedom, independence and sovereignty. Explaining the present-day devastating developments in the capitalist world, Azouz referred to the multifarious oppression and exploitation through military, financial and industrial machinations and the way they are sowing the seeds of division among the people in every country. Referring to his own country, Syria, the president said that the achievements of his country since the dawn of liberation from French colonialism are getting threatened from the tools and agents of the brutal global exploitative system of imperialism. Azouz explained in detail the brutalities against the people of Syria by the agents of the USA, Britain, France and some regional powers led by Turkey. He also said that “the smell of petroleum has blinded the foresight and vision” of these forces, “who are lavishing the capabilities of Syrian people, especially those of oil, which is sold to brokers and dealers of those countries at unreasonable prices.” The WFTU president was confident that the people of Syria would be victorious in this battle which he said was “an integral part of the battle of mankind against exploitation and colonialism.” GEN SEC’S REPORT Presenting the report, which included a review of the activities in 2013 and action plan for 2014-15, WFTU general secretary, George Mavrikos, captured the present day situation at the global level. Quoting from the documents of the 16th congress of WFTU in 2011, he said that the happenings have confirmed the analysis of the WFTU. There is universal attack on jobs, wages and salaries. He said that capitalism is condemning millions of workers to unemployment, persistent poverty and absolute misery. He also referred to the imperialist interventions against the people of Syria, in Mali, Libya, Central Africa and also of late in Ukraine. Reviewing the activities in the year 2013, he said that the decisions taken by the presidential council in Peru were consistently implemented. A series of initiatives have been taken on campaigns, solidarity actions, official WFTU missions, etc. On the organisation front, there were improvements, including formation of a new sectoral international organisation (TUI) of pensioners and retirees. There were International Day of Action programme in 43 countries and 31 thematic international conferences. Solidarity campaigns for Cuba, Palestine, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Columbia and others were organised. There was active participation of the WFTU headquarters in the international organisations and also in the congresses and conferences in over 90 countries. The general secretary said, “the rich action of the WFTU at the central, regional and sectoral levels was aimed to unite the forces of the working class in class struggles, to unite the workers, no matter their ideology, religion, language, gender, unite the people in the struggle against capitalist exploitation and against imperialism.” While explaining the situation in various regions of the world, where working class is waging persistent struggles, he exhorted the presidential council members and affiliated unions to work for strengthening the WFTU and march ahead with unity and class orientation. Referring to the activities of the regional offices, sub-regional offices and the activities of various trade unions international (TUIs) which coordinate the sectoral activities, he underlined the difficulties as well as weaknesses in their functioning. THE ACTION PLAN 2014-15 The action plan for 2014-15 included increased activities on important issues. This year the International Day of Action – the foundation day of WFTU – on October 3 will be observed with unemployment as the central issue. The coming October 3 will also mark the beginning of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of WFTU. The programmes include a world congress of working women, to be preceded by Asian and also European conventions. TUI conferences of transport and public services will be held in 2014 in Chile and Nepal respectively. A detailed programme for strengthening the organisational activities has been finalised. The WFTU has decided to enhance its role in activities connected with the UN, UNESCO and ILO. WFTU representatives will attend the 58th session of the UN commission on the status of women. CITU secretary Dr K Hemalata will be in the WFTU delegation. The WFTU website is being renewed and a web radio will be operationalised as an effective tool for campaign and dissemination of information. DISCUSSION OF THE REPORT In all, 38 comrades participated in the discussion on the report, sharing the situation in different countries and also on sectoral issues. Intervening in the discussion, CITU president A K Padmanabhan expressed solidarity with the struggles in different parts of the world. He gave details of the united struggles in India, for which central trade union organisations and national federations affiliated with the WFTU and the ITUC had come together, as did the other, non-affiliated organisations. He also referred to the countrywide strike of bank employees on February 10 and 11 and to the central government employees’ strike on February 12 and 13 in which nearly two million employees had participated. Padmanabhan thanked the WFTU headquarters for participating in the national conference of CITU and also for the opportunities given to CITU leaders for representing the WFTU in various forums. He assured all support and cooperation for the programmes being finalised for 2014-15 and said all efforts would be made to implement these, with the cooperation of all the affiliated and friendly organisations in India. With all the participants generally in agreement with the proposals, the WFTU general secretary, while summing up the discussions, again stressed the need for furthering the activities of the WFTU. He also underlined the necessity of propaganda and campaign to expose the ILO’s continuous refusal to allow proportional representation to the WFTU, which is legitimately due to it. The struggle for such status will have to be carried out in ILO forums and outside, he said. The general secretary was happy to announce that the WFTU anthem with its lyrics in different languages was ready. The orchestration for the anthem by a famous Nepali composer was presented as a ‘draft.’ It is proposed to have singers and instruments from different regions during the finalisation of the anthem which will be in different languages, representing the global character of the WFTU. The meeting unanimously approved the report of the general secretary. The next meeting of presidential council will be held in Gabon (Africa) in 2015. The meeting also adopted resolutions on solidarity with certain struggles, including that of the bank employees lead by NUBE, Malaysia. The meeting concluded with the remarks of the president, profusely thanking the leadership and volunteers of the USB of Italy, and declaring to continue our fight for steady, stable and decent work for all, and for support and social benefits for the unemployed. The president once again reminded in this context that unemployment and capitalism go hand in hand.