People's Democracy

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


No. 03

January 19, 2014





For Strengthening Global

Campaign against Neo-Liberalism


Amanulla Khan


FROM December 2 to 6, 2013, the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR) held its tenth congress at Perth, Australia, with more than 120 delegates from 14 countries from Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America representing the south participating in the meeting.  A 13 member delegation of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) took part in this congress which was hosted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).


One may note that the SIGTUR is an active and living forum of workers in the global south, representing a diverse and broad spectrum of trade unions committed to global economic justice.  It is also notable that the late CITU president, Comrade M K Pandhe, had played a very important role in bringing these unions together, which led to the formation of the SIGTUR. The SIGTUR is engaged in assisting the local and national struggles and in inspiring the working class to intensify their struggle against the exploitative neo-liberal globalisation.




The tenth congress of the SIGTUR met in the background of the continuing global crisis of capitalism. The crisis, which erupted with the financial meltdown in 2008, shows no signs of abating as yet. In all the industrialised economies, the crisis has further deepened and in all countries across the globe the burden of this crisis is being passed on to the working class in the name of austerity and other measures. While the governments have bailed out the banks and other financial institutions that were responsible for the crisis, the hard-won rights and privileges of the working class are being ruthlessly attacked. Inequalities have further widened within the nations and between the nations.  Unemployment rates have risen alarmingly high. The public sector and public services are being dismantled systematically. But the working class is resisting these attacks heroically across the globe.  This was the grim situation in which the tenth congress of the SIGTUR met at Perth.


The congress was inaugurated on December 2 by Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. She spoke on the global crisis that has led to work insecurity. She emphasised the need to connect the local struggles to the global ones. She also informed the congress that, with the Conservatives winning the elections in Australia, attacks on the working class and the public services have hugely increased. The Australian working class at present is engaged in a grim struggle to defend its rights and ward off the attacks on public services. She expressed confidence that the deliberations and decisions of the tenth SIGTUR congress would help the Australian workers launch struggles with more confidence.


Representatives from Latin America, Asia and Africa were asked to speak in the inaugural session. Amanulla Khan spoke on behalf of Asia. He briefly spoke on the global crisis and informed the congress about the prevailing situation in India. He elaborately dealt with the neo-liberal aggression that is devastating the lives of the working class and other poor people and the fight-back by the Indian working class that has succeeded in slowing down the implementation of the agenda of neo-liberalism. He informed the delegates that the CITU has succeeded in bringing about unity of all central trade unions and a large number of independent federations to meet the challenges of neo-liberalism. His mention of 14 all-India strikes, including the historic two-day strike in February 2013, and the planned march to parliament on December 12 was received with thunderous applause. He made it clear that capitalism could not be reformed and therefore the workers should not confine to just resistance but must turn their struggle into a struggle for change.




The congress was divided into various sessions. The first session was devoted to sharing concrete experiences of struggles. In this session the experiences of fighting four multinational corporations, viz, Rio Tinto (a mining giant), Chevron, Ssangyong and Hyundai, were shared. A Sounderarajan gave details of the struggle against the violation of labour laws and the Hyundai’s refusal to accept the democratic right of Chennai workers to form a union. He made a PowerPoint presentation of the struggles of workers in the automobile hub in Chennai and the cruelty and barbarity of Suzuki Motors in the Manesar plant in Gurgaon near Delhi. The solidarity extended by the CITU to the workers of Ssangyong, which has been taken over by Mahindra group in India, was appreciated.

In the session on public sector restructuring, representatives from Australia, Korea and India presented their views. Amanulla Khan gave details of the attack on the public sector and public services in India and the struggles of the working class to defend the public sector. The experiences in all countries were similar. The state has become partial in favour of the multinational corporations and the indigenous big business houses, and is transferring public assets to the private capital through privatisation. At the same time the state is abdicating its responsibility to make available public services to the people at affordable costs on the hollow plea of resource constraints.


The issue of the relationship between the trade unions, civil society groups and political parties were discussed in another session. Most of the trade unions expressed their views that they would by no means ignore the social and civil society groups and that they are comfortable working with them. Some of them, especially affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said that trade unions should remain apolitical. Intervening in the debate on behalf of the CITU, Amanulla Khan pointed out that the experience in India was different and that a large number of civil society groups in our country were working to sustain neo-liberalism; they are trying to occupy the space of trade unions and are preventing the dispossessed from joining the common struggles in the name of identity politics etc. He made it clear that since there is no unanimity on this issue, the congress should leave it to the individual unions to decide their relationship with these groups.  He also pointed out that trade unions alone cannot bring about a social change and therefore workers cannot shy away from politics.  The congress then decided to leave the issue of relationship with the civil society groups to the individual constituents of the SIGTUR.




The congress was divided into four workshops on issues of public sector, transport and communication, union education and global corporations. Muthusundaram, V Ramesh and K N Gopinath placed the views of the CITU in the workshop on public sector. P V Nanda Kumar, M Krishnan and Balakrishna Shetty participated in the workshop on transport and communication. Pradip Biswas, Gargi Chatterjee and Ratan Bagchi were in the union education workshop. A Sunderarajan, M Sai Babu and Ajit Lal participated in the workshop on global corporations. Amanulla Khan worked as coordinator of the public sector workshop. The conclusions drawn in these workshops were brought to before the plenary where further discussions took place.


The session on the SIGTUR Futures Commission was chaired by Pradip Biswas. Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and president of the International Transport Federation, was slated to present a paper on the challenge of confronting global mega corporations in the private and public spheres of the economy. But he could not come to the congress due to some family problem. He sent a recorded message which was played in the congress.


The congress unanimously adopted a declaration emphasising that progressive unions must intensify the effort to fight local and go global if neo-liberal capitalist restructuring is to be blocked. It also decided to continue to build and strengthen global solidarity networks and actions in the areas of global corporations, public sector, transport and communications and union education. Apart from noting the intense anti-privatisation and other public sector struggles being fought on all continents within the SIGTUR network and decided to coordinate these struggles, the congress demanded that the ILO convention 151 and other conventions that recognise the right to organise and the right to collective bargaining should be ratified and implemented by all countries.  The congress also extended support to the struggles of Samsung workers in different countries and the workers of Suzuki in India, Korean Rail, Chevron in Australia and Ssangyong in Korea.




The congress identified some multinational corporations like Hyundai, WalMart, Monsanto and Brookfield-John Holland etc that have been violating the labour laws and denying the workers their legitimate trade union rights. To fight these multinational corporations, it was decided to develop union to union and country to country cooperation and solidarity. It was also decided that the regional coordinators should work to popularise and deepen the ideas of the SIGTUR. The congress recorded its opposition to the Free Trade and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that seeks to provide multinational corporations new powers and rights over and above the elected parliaments across 12 countries. 


The congress adopted resolutions in support of the struggle of the people of Palestine and Swaziland. It said that the struggle for a homeland for the Palestine people is a just struggle and needs to be supported by the international community. It called upon the international community to exert pressure on Israel to accept the demand for a free and democratic Palestine. The congress noted the struggle of the people of Swaziland against the despotic monarchy and called upon the international community to help the people there.


In fine, the SIGTUR congress provided a platform to understand the issues confronting the working class in the global south and the necessity to develop global cooperation and solidarity in meeting the challenges of neo-liberalism. The contribution of the CITU to the debate and also to the struggle of the Indian working class evoked all-round appreciation.