(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 15 , 2008
International Congress Of SIGTUR Held
M K PANDHE
THE international congress against globalisation and for trade union rights held on the occasion of eighth congress of Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) held from April 19-23, 2008 was unique in unifying trade unions of different international affiliations on a common platform to oppose the policies of capitalist globalisation. Eighty-one delegates from 18 countries outside India attended the congress while Indian contingent was of 99 delegates.
The foreign participation in the congress was from Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Cyprus, Iraq, Brazil, Burma and East Timor. From India apart from the central trade unions, organisations of central and state government employees, unions and bank and insurance employees, defence, BSNL and pharmaceutical undertakings, transport, coal, steel and different industrial undertakings participated in the congress.
A national preparatory committee was formed by several trade union organisations who supported the proposal to host the congress in India. M K Pandhe, president CITU, S Dev Roye, secretary CITU were elected as chairman and secretary of the national preparatory committee.
Unions of all affiliations in Kerala made excellent arrangements for the congress and a reception committee was constituted with M M Lawrence as the president and Chandran Pillai MP as the secretary. Good response was given by unions in Kerala while making drive for collection of funds for the congress.
The congress was held in a picturesque surroundings of a health resort near the sea shore of Kochi where all arrangements were available in a common place.
A well documented exhibition was arranged on the occasion of the congress depicting anti-imperialist and revolutionary movements all over the world which was seen by several thousands of people in the city. It was highly educative and received appreciations from the viewers in the city.
The inaugural session of the congress was full of warm feelings of international solidarity of the workers. Bleki of COSATU, South Africa severally attacked the policies of globalisation and called upon the trade unions to powerfully resist the exploitative policies of capitalist globalisation.
M K Pandhe while inaugurating the Congress reviewed how the policies of globalisation have unleashed all round attacks on the livelihood and trade union rights of the working class. The structural adjustment programme advocated by World Bank, IMF and WTO have facilitated garbing of huge profits by the capitalists while the standard of living of the working class has been adversely affected in all the continents. The developing countries particularly are suffering most while the real standard of living has declined in several countries. The mad drive towards privatisation and deregulation have only added to the gravity of the situation.
Pandhe emphasised the need to unite the working class of all affiliations irrespective of ideology to come together to fight against the draconian policies of globalisation. He welcomed the formation of SIGTUR which has done a remarkable task achieving such a unity on common issues facing the working class.
Rob Lambert, coordinator of the SIGTUR explained the policy framework in which SIGTUR has been functioning. He welcomed the spread of the message of worldwide unity in all the continents and more and more trade union organisations from all the continents are coming together irrespective of political differences and international affiliation. He appreciated the role of Indian trade union movement in strengthening the role of SIGTUR, Lambert also explained the programme of the congress and appealed to all the delegates to fulfill its objective in a fitting manner.
An inspiring documentary of the historical outline of SIGTUR was shown to the delegates, which depicted the struggle going on in different countries against the policies of globalisation and for trade union rights. The video was dedicated to the memory of Chittabrata Majumdar who played an important role in developing the activities of SIGTUR.
The congress then divided into six commissions to have in-depth discussion on pressing problems arising out of the policies of globalisation.
The first commission was on the role of multinational corporations. The participants in the discussion pointed out how the MNCs were strengthening their grip over the global economy. They have been making systematic efforts to curtail trade union rights. They have been able to influence various governments to give undue concessions to add to their profitability and to attack labour rights under the garb of labour market flexibility. The commission felt the need for international co-operation of trade union movement to fight against the depredations of the global MNCs.
The second commission was on the question of social security, which noted that overwhelming majority of the working class in developing countries was not covered by the social security schemes prevailing in the country. It further observed that the governments of several countries have been attempting to curtain the existing benefits. The pensionary benefits have become a special target of attacks. Social protection to women is absent in various countries. The commission stressed the need for a worldwide struggle for improvement of social security schemes and making them universal.
The third commission was on the problems faced by the workers in the unorganised sector. This sector constituted overwhelming majority of the working class in the developing countries but are deprived of all benefits available under the labour laws of the country. The wages and living conditions are extremely poor and most of them are below the poverty line. The trade union movement should pay more attention to organise them so that their working and living conditions are improved. During globalisation regular jobs in the organised sector are being outsourced and passed on to the unorganised sector. Trade Union movement should stress the need to oppose the outsourcing casualisation and contractorisation of jobs in the organised sector.
The fourth commission was on the problems of women workers in industrial undertakings. The women workers face severe discrimination at the workplace and most of them stagnate at the lower rungs of the ladder of undertakings. Sexual harassment at the workplace continues unabated while their participation in the trade union movement has been much below the mark. Even in the SIGTUR congress only 26 women participated though it was decided earlier that a minimum of 25 percent of women should participate in the congress. The commission concluded that trade unions should pay more attention to the problems of women workers so that they enhance their participation in the trade union activities.
The fifth commission was on the question of migrant workers. Millions of workers are forced to migrate in search of jobs in the period of globalisation. However, the host country's national laws do not cover the migrant workers who are forced to work of lower wages and worse working conditions. They do not have job security and trade union rights while despite working for several years they do not get citizenship rights. Several recruiting agents give false promises of jobs to migrant workers but on reaching the host country they find that they have been cheated. The commission recommended development of suitable international standard for full protection to the migrant workers while attempt should be made to implement the existing ILO convention regarding the rights of the migrant workers.
The sixth commission discussed the question of strengthening the activities of the SIGTUR. Over the period of years it has strengthened its activities. It is no more a regional organisation since trade unions from all the continents have participated in the congress. Even the trade unions in advanced capitalist countries are now coming forward to support the objective of the SIGTUR. This situation demands improvement in the activities of SIGTUR and better co-ordination among the constituent organisations. There is urgent need for a debate among the constituents of SIGTUR to develop common understanding on how they expand the activities of the SIGTUR. In the next meeting of the coordination committee this question should be discussed at length.
The congress adopted a resolution demanding withdrawal of US blockade against Cuba. By another resolution it demanded withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and supported the proposal to allow the people of Iraq to decide their own destiny without any foreign interference. The congress further adopted a resolution on Zimbabwe demanding respect to the electoral verdict of the people.
Chief minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan addressed the delegate session and called for a powerful international struggle to defeat the policies of globalisation. The congress was also greeted by P K Gurudasan, minister of Labour, E Kareem, minister of Industries, S Sharma, minister of fisheries, government of Kerala.
On behalf of WFTU, the congress was greeted by a representative of Vietnam who conveyed message on behalf of the general secretary of the WFTU George Mavrikos.
A colourful procession was oganised on April 22 in which all the Indian and foreign delegates took part. A large number of workers from Kochi gave slogans against capitalist globalisation.
A well-attended rally was held in the centre of Kochi city which was presided over by M M Lawrence and addressed by V S Achuthanandan, M K Pandhe, Rob Lambert, Bleki and Chandra Shekhar, general secretary, INTUC from Kerala.
During the congress, prominent artists from Kerala gave impressive cultural performances underlining the rich cultural traditions of Kerala.
The conclusions of the six commissions were presented before the plenary session of the Congress, which were adopted unanimously after discussions by the delegates.
The delegation from Brazil proposed that the next congress should be held at Sao Paulo in Brazil. The congress accepted the proposal with great enthusiasm.
M K Pandhe, while concluding the congress appreciated the unanimity achieved by the congress on various aspects of capitalist globalisation which clearly indicated that despite different international affiliations trade union movement can come together to resist the policies of globalisation. He emphasised the need for giving new orientation to the trade union movement that in addition to fighting for improvement in working and living conditions, the trade union movement should play a crucial role in social transformation. “Another world is possible” and the trade union movement should see that the another world would be a socialist world, free from any exploitation of man by man. He congratulated all the delegates for giving excellent co-operation in arriving at positive conclusions in the congress.
All the delegates expressed great appreciation of the reception committee and volunteers for making untiring efforts to make the congress a grand success. The congress concluded with the singing of Internationale.