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Issue #1454      12 May 2010

Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR)

Declaration – 9th Congress, Sao Paulo, 18-23 April 2010

Global economic justice for workers in the Global South

We, who are trade union activists from 24 countries across four continents in the Global South, representing democratic unions from the following countries – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, Kenya, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Tunisia, Zambia, Angola, Eritrea, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Philippines, South Korea and Australia gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil on the April 19-23, 2010. In the Global South workers in many places are under attack as we meet today. We recognise their predicament and extend our solidarity.

One hundred and ten delegates debated and engaged the deepening global economic crisis manifested in failure of financial systems, the capitalist restructuring of the global economy and work and the catastrophic ecological crisis. Delegates considered the impacts of these crises on the global working class, particularly from developing and poor countries.

In our fight to secure global economic justice as we confront these multiple crises, we recognise that the forces pitted against us are formidable: free market global capitalism has consolidated the power of multi national corporations to an unprecedented degree. In every economic sector a mere ten corporations control the sector and of these the top three control 40 percent of the total. They have budgets bigger than many nation states. However, we also observe that these forces are themselves trapped in the deep crisis produced by financial hyper speculation which de-legitimises capitalism as a system and provides new opportunities for struggle.

Our collective, democratic debate is crystallised in the following declaration, which reflects a different priority to the logic of capitalist global markets – the priority of society; the wellbeing and security of workers and their families; and the care of planet earth now confronted by the destruction of its fragile, interlocked ecology.

Global economic and social justice is the fundamental aim of the democratic union movement of the Global South. This is reflected in the Strategic Trade Union Platform.

Strategic Trade Union Platform

We come out of this gathering united behind a global economic justice program which is the mainstay of our campaigns, networking and co-operation as workers and activists from the South.

The key pillars of our program are:

  • Just and fair trade for industrialisation and development in the global South.
  • The end of financial speculation and the subordination of financial markets to the needs of development and social equity.
  • Building working class solidarity to confront the power of multinational corporations and defend workers from exploitation and the abuse of their rights and to advance decent work for all.
  • Building popular consciousness about the ecological crisis and the devastating effects of climate change on workers and the future of our planet in general
  • Fighting for gender equality, health and safety and actively campaign against the scourge of HIV and AIDS in most of our countries.
  • Fighting for the effective transformation of global governance and democratising global power relations.
  • Intensifying the advancement and defence of trade union rights in all countries.
  • Creation of a world free from imperialist aggression, nuclear weapons, occupation and economic blockades and unjust sanctions.

These are the key elements of our integrated program for global economic justice which is the anchor and focus of our activities. We continue to note the emergence of undemocratic and exclusive clubs of the rich and powerful countries in their desperate efforts to retain the neoliberal global economy and retain full control in line with their own interests, to the detriment of the developmental needs of the poor.

In this regard, we continue to call for the democratisation of global power relations and the effective support of the process towards the transformation of the most representative global multilateral institutions, particularly the ILO and the UN. Therefore we reject the attempt to substitute their role by exclusive institutions that undermine and subvert broad representation and participation which serves to erode the multilateral system.

SIGTUR: the movement of workers in the Global South

SIGTUR is an active and living voice of workers in the Global South representing a diverse and broad spectrum of trade unions committed to global economic justice. It seeks to inspire ordinary workers to take up and intensify class struggles against the exploitative system of neoliberal globalisation and the increased suffering of workers and communities in all our countries. SIGTUR aims to ensure the voice of workers in the Global South and indeed across the whole globe is not censored or suppressed in any form whatsoever.

We emphasise that we represent and support democratic trade unions and their radical struggles for economic justice at national, regional and global levels.

Building the organizational capacity of SIGTUR

Delegates recognised that if we are to meet the challenges of our goal of global economic justice, we have to strengthen the capacity of national unions to globalise their local struggles against multinational corporations and political and economic policies which consolidate their power over society and politics.

The Congress therefore devoted time to the practical mechanics of global networking, adopting and articulating an implementation program through registering on the SIGTUR website and using Labour Start campaign tools, Unionbook, Skype and Twitter. These tools are to be embedded in organisation and struggle through internal networking within SIGTUR in the areas of global corporations, the public sector, gender, union education and transport and communications and through developing corporation specific, campaign oriented networks as the need for specific struggles materialises.

Congress asserted that SIGTUR is a mechanism for uniting and strengthening the voice of workers in the Global South in order to achieve a balanced, even and just economic development across the globe. In this regard SIGTUR is an important meeting forum, a privileged democratic space for worker movements in the global south, promoting debate and engagement in the struggle for an economic paradigm based on justice. The strategic conclusions of these debates will be activated through global networking which creates a new potential for resistance.

There was consensus that the coordinating functions of SIGTUR must be strengthened so that this goal of economic justice can be achieved.

Peace & Justice

The strong presence of Africa at this Congress brought to the forefront the connection between economic justice and the need to end the terrifying violence imposed on workers and society in so many areas. In particular, conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo exposes the role of multi-national companies in promoting armed bandits to secure mining interests. There is a need to end the various forms of violence, abuse and persecution of workers, women and children in many parts of the Global South as a campaign linked to the prosecution of individuals and companies involved. Such brutality must be opposed with the greatest sense of urgency by the entire global community.

G20 meeting in South Korea

Congress supports KCTU’s plans to organise protest action against the South Korean government’s repression of trade unionism in South Korea and against the failure of the G20 to address the GFC in the interests of societies across the globe. The South Korean government’s repression of trade union rights disqualifies them from any leadership role in international affairs. With regard to the G20 meeting in South Korea in November, SIGTUR makes a call on unions in the Global South to endeavour to participate in this action.

Let us prepare ourselves for new battles

We are well aware of the role of the global corporations we struggle against. Scratch beneath the surface and we discover that these same corporations are also arms manufacturers. For example a supposedly innocent white goods manufacturer like Westinghouse, the biggest producer of stoves, dishwashers and washing machines is also producing death-oriented weapons.

We are pitted against powerful states which fully support these logistics and which at the same time produce laws to limit the scope of trade union action.

However, we also acknowledge that the vast majority of unions in the Global South are best placed to lead the intense battle against the power of the corporation over societies world wide for these unions were born in the fire of struggle against authoritarian regimes in the Global South which were themselves highly militarised.

We discovered in these struggles the power of democratic organisation and the mobilisation of our weapons of action; we discovered our capacity to form alliances in civil society in creative mass action to force change; we saw how after a period of intense struggle the strongest of regimes were forced to concede – the racist apartheid regime in South Africa and the military regimes in South Korea, Indonesia, Timor and Brazil could not sustain their repressive rule.

Out of this history we should be well prepared for a united struggle against the globally coordinated forces of neo-liberalism in the multi-nationals, in the banks and stock markets of the world and in the IMF, the WB and the WTO and those ruling elites who benefit from exploitation and oppression of the majority.

Step by step we will build a globally integrated labour movement in the south, in the most fundamental battle of our era. In this we represent the hopes and aspirations of generations to come; hopes for a just global economy providing security for all in society; for a planet whose fine tuned ecology is protected before all else and for world society that relegates the weapons and methods of warfare to the dustbin of history, where they truly belong.

In each of these struggles we will never cease to advance, for while we have breath in our bodies we will remain committed to what is best and to what drives our movement: a solidarity which will last forever!

Sao Paulo, April 23, 2010 

Next article – Culture & Life – Horowitz off target

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