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Issue #1495      30 March 2011

ITF Arab World unions commit to building democracy

A two day conference designed to support democratic trade unions in the Middle East closed in Amman, Jordan last week with a commitment to build and sustain democracy and independent trade unionism across the region. The meeting was organised by the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and brought together union representatives from across the Arab World.

The meeting had been called by the ITF to:

  • obtain guidance in developing a comprehensive 2011 ITF plan for supporting the development of democratic unions in the Arab World;
  • gain an assessment of the current situation for union organisation among transport workers in the region;
  • make an assessment of immediate and medium term priorities for what is needed in each country to support the development of strong democratic trade unions; and
  • identify international and regional strategies to support the development of strong democratic trade unions in the region.

Speaking from the conference, ITF general secretary David Cockroft said: “Trade unions played and are playing a pivotal role in the wave of reform sweeping this region. From Tunisia to Egypt and beyond they have been a focus of the desire for progress, representation and change; not just nationally but also in the way workers are represented and represent themselves. We have all witnessed what that has achieved, and we now want to help build on the base that has been laid in these last months.”

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “We hope that this event will have played some small part in helping share the experiences of both nascent and established democratic unions, and teaching those of us working outside the Arab World how we can best help support them.”

Delegates agreed to the following statement:

Arab World transport leaders from 25 unions, from 10 Arab countries representing more than 100,000 transport workers in the region met in Amman on March 22-23 to evaluate and plan for future strategies during the very critical time these days, when workers jointly with the people are fighting for democracy and a decent life. The delegations recognise the great revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which resulted in changing regimes in both countries, and express their deep concerns about the situations in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and the rest of the Arab countries; delegations express full solidarity with all workers in the Arab countries, and:

  1. Call for an immediate ceasefire in Libya, and an immediate stop to the killing of innocent people in Libya. And for the Libyan regime to respect the UN resolution number 1973;
  2. Call for the Yemen regime to implement an immediate ceasefire to stop the attacks on civilians, and for the respect of the people’s right to demonstrate freely and peacefully. Call on investigation in the killings of civilians in Yemen, and for the government to respect the people’s call for the immediate transfer to real democracy;
  3. Call on the Bahrain government to respect the call of the workers and people in Bahrain to express their rights to hold demonstrations, and the immediate investigation on the killing in Bahrain during the demonstrations. Call for a real dialogue which will lead to a real democratic state;
  4. The delegations participating in the meeting express their deep concerns about the governments’ actions against demonstrators in Algeria, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Calling on all governments in the region to open dialogue aiming for a full and real democracy, believe that a free democratic and fully independent trade union movement is a necessary element in democratic society.

Delegates participating in this meeting express their deep appreciation to the ITF and its affiliates around the world who show great and real solidarity during the disputes in different Arab countries, recognising the solidarity shown by the international transport TU movement, and call for the ITF to continue support for democratic and free transport unions in the region, and:

  1. Recognise the great role that transport workers union played in Tunisia. Their major role was crucial to success in the revolution.
  2. Call upon the ITF to provide all technical and financial support to help transport unions in the region to face new challenges. Welcomes the new independent unions in the maritime sector in Egypt.
  3. The ITF and its affiliates in the region welcome the new developments in the region, and recognise the freedom of association laid down in ILO convention 87 which means that all workers have the rights to have and choose their unions.
  4. The ITF and its affiliates in the region welcome the rise of new independent unions in the region. Both ITF and its affiliates will support these unions, and do all necessary actions to make sure that these unions decide to affiliate to the ITF.
  5. The ITF and its affiliates, call on all transport unions in the region to be ready and open to support new democratic unions that are expected to be found in the Arab countries in general, and particularly, the Gulf states, Sudan, Syria, and Libya. The ITF should provide all necessary needs to these unions at the right time.
  6. Delegates call on the Iranian regime for immediate and unconditional release of Mansour Osanloo, the head of the bus drivers’ union in Tehran, and show full support and solidarity to Osanloo, his family, his union, and other Iranian trade union leaders.  

Next article – Is another “Cast Lead” in the offing?

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