People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 38

September 23, 2012


Beijing Hosts International TU Meet


Swadesh Dev Roye


HOSTED by the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and jointly sponsored with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU), the “International Trade Union Forum 2012” was held at Beijing from September 28 to 30. While the Forum’s permanent subject is “Economic Globalisation and Trade Unions,” every year a specific issue facing the international working class is taken up for deliberation and adoption of a declaration thereon. This year the issue identified for deliberation was “Respecting Labour; Protecting Workers’ Rights.” Incidentally, this time it was the eighth consecutive session of the Forum.


This year’s programme was structured into four parts: (a) Inaugural Session (b) Two Sessions of Panel Discussion (c) Closing Ceremony, and (d) Field Visits. While in the previous years the panelists were drawn from trade unions of different countries, this time they belonged mostly to ACFTU, other Chinese institutions and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).


ACFTU chairman a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of China, Wang Zhaoguo, delivered the inaugural address. Obviously, his speech captured the ACFTU’s perception and understanding of the current politico-economic situation of the world and the task before the working class movement. He also dealt with some aspects of labour policy of the Chinese government.


Zhaoguo’s address also presented the status of working class in socialist China: “China’s Constitution and laws provide for the status of the working people as maters of the country. Through the development of socialist democracy and expanded political participation by the citizens including the working people in an orderly manner, we have made improvements to the system of workers’ congress, thus ensuring the working people’s right to know, right to participation, right to freedom of expression and right of supervision.”  


Another important theme of the address was the labour policy of the government of People’s Republic of China. It said the PRC government has set a shining example and that too at a time when the hard-earned labour statutes are being desperately destroyed through various retrograde measures by the bourgeois governments all over the world. Zhaoguo’s address noted, “We have promulgated a series of laws, including the labour law, labour contract law, employment promotion law, labour dispute mediation and arbitration law which have formed a distinctive and comprehensive legal framework for the protection of workers. With the country strengthening law enforcement inspections, these laws have provided a solid legal guarantee for workers’ rights.”


ACFTU general secretary (in their terminology, first secretary) delivered the keynote address of the forum.


The main interventions in the session were made by the WFTU general secretary, OATUU president and secretary general and by ICATU secretary general. Many of the delegates Apart presented country papers.


A total of 101 delegates attended the forum, representing 57 countries and international organisations. From India, the CITU was the only trade union that participated in the programme; it was represented by the CITU’s Delhi state unit president M L Malkotia. However, Swadesh Dev Roye and H Mahadevan also attended the Beijing forum in their capacity of WFTU deputy general secretary. Incidentally, the delegates of the WFTU (18 in number) were selected from different countries of the world.


Though the Beijing International Trade Union Forum was small in size in the beginning, it has grown in size and stature with the passage of time. It has turned out to be the largest international trade union forum organised at the exclusive initiative of trade unions and with delegates from all the continents. Free and frank exchange of thought and experience is a unique feature of this forum.  


The first day of plenary session witnessed a marathon of speeches, providing opportunities to the forum’s participants to share their varied experiences of the trade union movement in the world. The day closed with an official banquet hosted by the ACFTU chairman who is also vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China.


The second day was devoted to field visits when the participants were taken to what is called the Workers’ Help Centre, Tianjin, where the Tianjin Municipal Federation of Trade Unions played host to the delegates and organised an interactive session with local trade union functionaries.


The third and last day witnessed two sessions of panel discussion on two different topics: (a) Youth Employment and the World of Work, and (b) Gender Equity and Workers’ Rights. The presentations by the panelists were followed by interventions from the floor. The forum concluded with an official closing ceremony when ACFTU vice chairman Chen Hao delivered the concluding speech.