Open World Conference of Workers
In Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights
A dossier of weekly information published by the
Geneva: You will find in this issue a report on the 16th Geneva Conference In Defense of ILO Conventions and Trade Union Independence, which took place last June 6. We are printing the second part of the report by Alan Benjamin, member of the Executive Committee of the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO).
Honduras: We are publishing a statement by the Independent Workers
Party (POI) of France for the broadest unity against the military coup
and in defense of the sovereignty of the country.
Belgium: You will find below a call by the Committee for Unity: " We appeal to all heads of organizations of the workers, to all activists, to all workers: The hour is serious. We cannot accept the destruction of our jobs and our rights."
Guadeloupe: We are publishing an open letter from lawyers to Nicolas Sarkozy denouncing the actions of the colonial justice system and violation of rights of those whose mission is to defend human rights.
Table of Contents
p. 1: Introduction.
Geneva, June 6: Sixteenth Conference of the ILC "In Defense of ILO Conventions and Trade Union Independence"
Sixty-one workers activists and leaders from eighteen countries attended the conference to defend the independence of trade unions, held in Geneva on Saturday June 6 by the ILC.
They even met a real "coup" in the preparation of the annual conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to join the global movement to a "Pact for Employment", in accordance with the decisions of the G20.
Five speakers presented reports to this introductory meeting:
The GM-UAW Agreement and the G20 "Global Jobs Pact"
(4) Labor journalist David Bacon, explains how the bosses get away
with this travesty:
"In the weeks before these tainted elections, 51% of employers threaten to close if the union wins; and, 91% force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors. Companies use outside 'union-busters,' who've created a billion-dollar industry managing these anti-union campaigns. This conduct is effectively unpunishable. On top of anti-union firings, it makes free elections a mockery. " (Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act)
INDEPENDENT WORKERS PARTY (POI) - FRANCE
"No to the military coup! Support the workers and people of Honduras"
While the President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was preparing to organize a referendum to convene a Constituent Assembly, the General Staff of the army organized a coup d'état and expelled him from the country.
Down with the coup! Support for the Honduran people who are mobilizing to defend sovereignty and democracy.
Tens of thousands of workers and youth, immediately demonstrated against the military coup, demanding the return of the elected President. More than 100,000 were gathered on Sunday to welcome the return of Mr. Zelaya, whose plane was prevented from landing by the deployment of tanks occupying the runways of the airport in Tegucigalpa. The army fired on the crowd. There are several dead and dozens injured.
The People's Bloc, which brings together key leaders of the country, called for a general strike to defend democracy.
All Latin American governments have also condemned the coup.
President Obama said through the voice of Mrs. Clinton, his Secretary of State, that he "did not recognize any government other than Mr. Zelaya. However, the press revealed that the U.S. ambassador met with representatives of the Honduran military three days before the coup.
For the Independent Workers Party, the struggle of the people of Honduras in defense of democracy and national sovereignty, is part of the struggle of the peoples throughout the Americas who are fighting for their own sovereignty, to defend or re-nationalize the energy, mining and strategic resources, for genuine agrarian reform, and for social and democratic gains.
The POI calls for the broadest unity against the military coup to restore democracy and the right of the Honduran people to control their own destiny.
Paris, July 8 2009
FOR A PLAN TO SAVE THE COUNTRY
To the Movement for the Defense of National Sovereignty, the Oil, and the Popular Economy, led by Lopez Obrador
To the leaders of the UNT, FSM, CNTE, CNC,
Serious threats face the nation and working people.
The swine flu epidemic was a product of the dismantling of health institutions and "free trade."
As one journalist wrote: "The modern industrial pig farms in Mexico, Poland and other countries is the ground zero of these facilities that have been created in accordance with the rules of free trade and business strategies of 'globalization.'"
Health conditions have been terribly endangered by fifteen years of NAFTA, by 25 years of privatization policies and a budget whose priority is the payment of debt (external and internal), a debt that the people have not benefited from and are not responsible for.
The global economic crisis of the system of private property, and the
government policy of the illegitimate Calderon government to rescue
the bankers and speculators, has accelerated the decomposing of the
nation caused by NAFTA.
Another instrument against the nation
Once the Calderon government was obliged to recognize the explosion of the epidemic, the U.S. government and the WHO, and after this the media and various governments initiated a campaign against Mexico. Mrs. Hillary Clinton and other leaders from the U.S. government were the first to say not to visit Mexico. The tourism industry, the third largest source of foreign exchange for the country, is in free fall.
As part of that policy, the U.S. government and the illegitimate government of Calderon is seeking to expedite the militarization of the country, which is the goal of the Agreement for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America and Plan Mérida.
Thus, in addition to the "war on drugs" that has put the army in the streets, Calderon has added the decree on the epidemic, which violates the Constitution by giving the police and military the right to enter homes on the simple pretext that someone is a carrier of the flu, in addition to banning public protests.
The nation is in a state of emergency
The defense of the nation requires the broadest unity against the illegitimate government, which sells out the country.
The defense of the nation and the rights and conquests of the Mexican people raises the urgent need for the unified mobilization of all organizations and political and social forces that raise the banner of national sovereignty and the rights of the Mexican people against the usurper government that sells the nation to the multinationals.
We support the actions to defend the oil and the popular economy by the Lopez Obrador movement. At the same time we ask: Isn't it necessary for this movement to build the broadest possibility unity with trade unions to confront the government that destroys the nation?
We support the mobilization of trade unions, workers and peasants to defend their rights and we ask: Shouldn't there be unity with the social and political movement against the government that destroys of rights?
Regarding the PRD, PT, Convergence, parties we ask: Shouldn't there be the widest unity of these forces with trade unions and the resistance movement of Lopez Obrador, against a government that is in the process of dismantling the nation? In this sense we ask: isn't it necessary for these parties to break with the policy of support for counter-reforms of Calderon (oil, Article three of the Constitution, acceptance of drug use, etc.)
For a plan to save the country
The emergency situation that saw the country calls for a plan to safeguard the nation. The resistance movement has played an extremely important role in the defense of oil. Lopez Obrador proposes to reduce the huge salaries of senior civil servants (with the measure the country would save 200 billion pesos).
The resources and financial reserves of the nation are for the working people, not for the large monopolistic companies (that are mostly foreign).
The government gave $ 25 billion in reserves to the largest banks on the pretext of "saving the peso." It now uses the health crisis to speculate again with the currencies of Mexico and offers 10 billion pesos for six financial firms. A new Fobaproa is being prepared to "rescue" large companies. The government against wants the people to pay for the "rescue" of speculators.
Taking into account the proposals as formulated by the trade unions
and by Lopez Obrador and the movement he heads, the points that we raise
for further discussion the following points as a basis for a plan to
save to nation:
The signers call upon the leaders of organizations to which the workers look in their struggles to develop a united mobilization against the government and a plan for saving the nation and a mobilization plan that includes a national strike as proposed by the trade union leaders.
With all our respect
(A list of initial signers).
Information and contact: Hortensia 108, Santa María la Ribera Del. Cuauhtémoc, Distrito Federal Tel. (01 55) 5547 0161 or firstname.lastname@example.org www.eltrabajo.org.mx
"The strongest demand is the absolute prohibition of layoffs! "
Interview with Rolando Lepori, union delegate to the International Labor Conference, a member of the Committee on Norms.
ILC : Rolando, you were not able to participate in the XVI Conference of trade unionists for the Defense of ILO Conventions and Trade Union Independence because of your participation in the Committee on Norms. In the eyes of the conference, the holding of a summit "for a global pact for employment," bringing together not only the usual 3 parts of the ILO (workers, employers and states) but also "multinationals, policy makers and civil society "(sic), in the middle 98th session of the Conference, and changing its agenda, was seen as an obvious attempt to integrate the trade unions into the destructive plans of global governance. What do you think?
RL: I would say at the outset that this was not the first time they have tried to make social pacts between unions, employers and the state, especially in times of economic crisis. A few years ago, in Switzerland, we were told it had to contain wages to avoid price increases. The result: wages have fallen (in real terms), but not prices. So the only ones to have suffered casualties were workers.
Now there is a global crisis, which started as a crisis of financial speculation and extended to all other sectors of the economy and society. As a union, we found that not only were the guilty were not punished, but the banking system has largely been subsidized. For example, 70 billion the government paid to the UBS, which has acted illegally abroad. And in return for those billions, what did we receive? Its toxic assets!
I also think that the package provided to Switzerland for the crisis, namely 500 million is too little, especially in light of 70 billion for the UBS. The other form of state support to the economy, was partial unemployment, the period was extended from 12 to 18 months out of 24. This is a clear signal not to lay off workers.
At the international level, the temptation to use trade unions as a barrier to the protection of workers because of the crisis is not new. But as the ILO has defined norms, they must be respected and we must guarantee maintenance jobs. Yet we must still say that over the past years, we have seen the crystallization of the employers-state axis. Employers are sometimes deaf, but we try to ensure that states adhere to and implement agreements.
ILC: In this regard, what is the situation in Switzerland in terms of the signing and observance of ILO Conventions?
RL: For 90 years, Switzerland has been the seat of the ILO and it should lead by example, but this is not the case. Many conventions have not been ratified by Switzerland - including some fundamental ones. In 2006, we filed a complaint against Switzerland for a breach of trade union rights, and it was condemned by the Committee of Experts, as it has no protection against dismissal of union officers. Above all, it does not recognize re-integration, even when the layoff was deemed unfair by a court; there is at best 6 months of compensation but not reinstatement, and hence no recognition of dignity of the worker.
RL: You said before that they demand more and more sacrifices from workers, especially in times of crisis. What should you think the trade union response should be?
RL: Let me say first that workers have been making sacrifices for many
years, apart from the few years of recovery at the end of the 90s; they
have lost jobs, purchasing power, job quality and protections at work.
ILC: On September 19 the USS has called for a national demonstration against the crisis. Do not you think that instead of raising dozens of demands, we raise as the central demand, as broad sectors have called for, the Prohibition of Layoffs?
RL: This is indeed the strongest response we can give to those who
demand more sacrifices for workers. We should respond with the demand
of maintaining jobs, which is the only way to preserve the dignity of
work. So the strongest claim is the complete prohibition of layoffs,
and even more so for companies that receive government bailouts!
As unions, we should not suffer for the crisis; we should propose legislative changes, such as improving the SIA; now the situation is conducive. Furthermore, in the longer term, we must also reflect on the ecological transformation of industry, as in the past when they converted some defense industries to civilian use. But these are long term projects, which cannot be improvised.
ILC: One last question: during the last 5-10 years we have seen there develop in the ILO a tendency to abandon the defense of all norms to focus only on the 8 conventions that are called "fundamental". What do you think of this?
RL: I am against this trend because it leads us hide the problems. The 8 fundamental norms are perhaps the most important, but the others are the result of decades of work and struggle. However, they are not obsolete and are justified because the offenses against them remain.
To devalue the other norms to whitewash the past and the future, and it is in nobody's interest because, especially in times of crisis, the rigorous adherence to standards is important not only for workers but for employers as they provide a bulwark against unbridled competition from other companies.
For example, there is a working group this year in charge of discrimination towards AIDS or HIV positive patients. So it is necessary to increase and not diminish the protections; positive workers can still work, but often when the boss comes to know about this the employee is dismissed.
In my opinion, there is no real trend to abandon the norms, but I believe that the insistence to focus on the fundamental 8 is a trial balloon to see if it can take off.
Interview by M. Fiastra
194,000 jobs are set to be lost by 2011.
We cannot accept this !
We call now to prepare for a major national rally for a ban on layoffs
Between January 1, 2008 and May 8, 2009, 24,494 layoffs were announced (Source: FGTB). The unemployment service of the FGTB notes (based on records returned by its affiliates) that temporary unemployment increased by 97.38% between April 2008 and April 2009. The number of days of temporary unemployment has, for the same period, increased by 150.79%.
According to the Social Secretariat SD Worx, in late April 2009, 23% of workers were unemployed at least one day a month.
The FEB said that economic unemployment can only be a temporary solution. In other words, at some point, it will give way to layoffs. The Office of Planning (Belga, May 20)notes: "Between 2009 and 2011, unemployment is expected to increase by 194,000 units in three years from to 11.8% to 15.2%, a rate constituting a post-war record."
Dozens of companies have already been destroyed. Hundreds restructured. No sector is spared. All regions of the country are affected.
Thousands of workers who became unemployed have suddenly and dramatically seen their standard of living hit. Those who still work have also underground cuts in their standard of living because they fear for their future.
In Liège, the warm sector of the steel industry is now at a standstill. Thousands of jobs, not only in steel but also among the subcontractors disappear. The river port of Liège (one of the largest river ports in Europe) has lost its core business.
In Antwerp, Opel and thousands of jobs are threatened. Now, the port of Antwerp (one of the largest seaports in Europe) is at its lowest level of activity since the Second World War.
A few months ago, in a subcontractor company that work for the steel industry, the boss gathered the workers to tell them: in three days, I have no more work for you. Three days later they were unemployed. Since then they were all laid off. One of the workers concerned said: "They found billions for banks and for us there is nothing, nothing." We have seen such cases everywhere.
At this rate, the whole country is going into social and economic collapse.
A union delegate explained: "I do not understand. Workers and delegations from each company are left to themselves. If we continue like this, we will all fall one after the other. We need a united action to prohibit layoffs. "
Is it possible to allow the capitalists to continue their work of destruction?
The violence of the direction of the FIAT garages in Brussels, which wants to forcibly impose redundancies and threaten of trade union rights proves that we need unity, we must be mobilized together to prohibit layoffs.
The desire to fight for our job is there. It has been demonstrated in many companies where actions took place against restructuring or closures. It was asserted on May 15 when 50,000 workers responded to the call of their unions (FGTB and CSC) and demonstrated in Brussels.
Today it is the responsibility of all who claim to defend the interests of workers to take a clear position.
We see that all the predictions of the various experts change from week to week and are always worse than the previous ones.
Nobody knows when or if we will come out of the crisis, as capitalism continue to impose its law at the cost of massive job destruction in particular.
Who can believe that Arcelor-Mittal will start up again the hot steel of Liege? Who can believe that if Opel Antwerp is closed, General Motors or another will restart later? Who can believe that employers will reopen the companies they come close? Who can believe that they will restore the jobs they are cutting at the moment?
Consequently, now there is an immediate need to build mobilization to prohibit layoffs.
The FGTB, in its declaration of principle, offers a position that shows a solution to prevent layoffs and shows a way out of the crisis, noting that the trade union movement "believes that the socialization of the major banking and industrial trusts is needed." But the Treaty of the European Union (Maastricht Treaty) prohibits the implementation of this position of the FGTB since the treaty imposes an economic policy conducted "in accordance with the principle of a market economy where competition is free.
Should we remove the declaration of the principle of union FGTB books when it is particularly relevant? No. What needs to disappear is the European treaty, since it blocks any solution to the crisis. Moreover, it is the policy of the European Union to abolish all the laws that protect us. The result is that the crisis is now stronger in Europe than in the USA where it is began(source: Eurostat).
The private sector, capitalism, shows that it can only lead us to ruin. Accordingly, we need to restore all services and to challenge the privatizations imposed by European directives. Who could understand if after having proved their disastrous effects, these guidelines continue to be continued in defiance of the most basic norms of democracy? It is intolerable that these guidelines continue to be applied. They must disappear.
We appeal to all heads of organizations of the workers, to all activists, to all workers:
The hour is serious. We cannot accept the destruction of our jobs and our rights.
WE CALL FOR THE WIDEST UNITY THE TO PREPARE A LARGE NATIONAL PROTEST FOR THE PROHIBITION OF LAYOFFS
We call for building a movement (in accordance with the political views of each) around these objectives.
Appeal launched at the initiative of the Unity Committee-Eenheidscomite at a conference organized on May 30 at the Association House of Brussels
Antoine Bertrand, Militant CGSP;
Willems Martin, Deputy Secretary, SETCa BHV, industry sector;
CONTACT: Y. Eeckman, rue G. Raeymaekers 13, 1030 Bru ssels - 04 97 / 990. 254
Mail: yves.eeckman @ skynet.be
Your arrival in Guadeloupe and Martinique is an opportunity for us
lawyers to inform you on the situation that affects all of us who have
dared and still dare to stand up against the shortcomings of the judicial
It is this battle that we, Guadeloupean Lawyers and Martiniquan activists, believe inn with all our strength, often at great risk to our freedom to think, even our freedom at all.
Do you remember that today after the events of May 1967, which decimated the working population in Guadeloupe, President Félix Rodes appeared in 1968 before the Court of State Security (French of course) and was let off ?
Do you recall that in 1983, President Roland Ezelin was to be subject to disciplinary proceedings at the request of the Procurer General for acts of contempt, for which the European Court of Human Rights condemned France (Strasbourg Case 26 April 1991 - Ezelin against France)?
Do you remember a few years later, Mr. Rodes Brigitte, saw the wrath
of the prosecution for acts of contempt, before being released by the
Do you remember that Sarah Masters and Patrice Aristide registered a suit for damages in 2007 and 2008 for illegal wiretapping and that the prosecutor did everything possible to stifle these two cases?
Maybe you should recall that both lawyers were pursued by an investigator judge and prosecutor of the Republic at POINTE-A-PITRE, for daring to publicly denounce the treatment of their complaints for acts of public defamation against a magistrate and violation of professional secrecy?
Do you recall that the proceedings initiated against them was entrusted to an examining magistrate in Paris for the sole purpose of cutting down these activist lawyers from genuine justice, their popular support, and their Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guayana Councils?
Do you remember that our brothers activists fighting for the same values in Martinique are not better off and that it is once again the same fate for the lawyers MANVILLE, DUHAMEL, GERMANY, CONSTANT and others who suffer the agony of the colonial justice system?
Do you remember that other lawyers in addition to the above mentioned suffer daily from the ferocity of the social and fiscal tax?
Is it normal that the wrath of the legal system be hit in a systematic and relentless way on those who dare to denounce and combat injustice?
If we had not chosen to be Lawyers Activists engaged alongside the
poor, foreigners and trade unionists, it is certain that we would do
not still face the fate of those whom the legal system would like to
We cannot remain silent at a time when you are about to trample our
Péyi Gwadloup and we do not lose hope of a response from you
to our legitimate questions.
Sarah Masters ARISTIDE - CHEVRY Evita - Brigitte RODES - René
FALLA - Harry DURIMEL - Patrice TACIT