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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Central Exec  |  Affiliates Speeches

Address of Solidarity to the 5th Central Committee of COSATU

Sharan Burrow -ITUC General Secretary

Comrades and friends, I am delighted to be amongst you again and know the importance of your deliberations here this week

You know and I know that globalization is not working for working people

The obsenity of the `Washington Concensus` or the `trickle down theory` has delivered us a world where the gap between the wealthiest 2 billion people on the planet and the poorest 2 billion has increased by 60% in the last 7 years

But it is not wealth alone that denotes the failure of the current economic model.

Unemployment is the highest on record with some 205 million people officially without jobs. This is unacceptable but sadly it is the tip of the iceberg. There are millions more women, not on the official statistics desperate for work and the informal economy is growing in every nation.

Then there is the tragedy of our children and grandchildren with some 45 million young people entering the labour market every year looking for jobs, decent jobs, that economies cannot offer. This scourge of the global economy that will exclude a whole generation from opportunity and income security cannot be tolerated.

Inequity is now recognised as a major cause of the financial crisis, even by the OECD and the IMF, yet that very crisis has added an additional 1.2 billion to those living on less that 2 dollars a day.

And while we have our fights with capital the ugly truth is that the speculative greed of the banks was seen at the point of collapse to be divorced from the real economy - from the jobs of working people by some 40%

And nothing has changed. in 2010 derivative earnings were 605 $billion - 10 times global GDB!

Comrades we need an alternate growth strategy and your leadership on this question is welcome

But first - you elected in Vancouver last here and I figure you need to know what that means for the ITUC.

So Let me tell you my priorities - jobs jobs and jobs, decent work

Organizing organizing organizing, or in short power for workers.

We must build a new internationalism where everything we do nationally must be also driven internationally. Union power is essential for democracy, rights, peace and prosperity for workers everywhere.

The State of the world is bleak and while the Washington Consensus is, as we have argued for more than two decades, now broadly accepted as a failed model, comrades we have to bury it.

The GFC is over for the bankers and they are back in business, but with more than a 30% increase in speculative activity as governments have failed to implement financial regulation to reign them in while the crisis now a bitter crisis of unemployment and inequity for working people.

Fiscal austerity is counterproductive. Fiscal consolidation can only be realized from growth that`s founded in jobs.

Attacks on labour rights are everywhere it seems but here thanks to the constitution you fought for. In the so called `land of the free` in the US the collective bargaining rights of teachers nurses, firefighters and other public servants are under attack, indeed being legislated away. However likewise these attacks are now spreading across Europe to Romania, Portugal, Greece, Spain, the Ukraine to name a few combined with bitter cuts to wages, pension, services and jobs

Indeed the Washington Concensus has migrated from Washington to Brussels and the European Commission, once the proud home of social dialogue is now leading the charge against it`s own workers.

And when our people do have jobs, increasingly, right around the world, it is precarious employment - casual or short term fixed contracts.

This year the World Day for Decent Work on October 7 will be a day we all stand up against precarious employment.

Migrant workers are once again becoming the scapegoats of our economies and they deserve better. They are our brothers and sisters, they work alongside us, pay taxes and raise their children alongside those of the rest of us. We must resist xenophobia and again stand and defend the rights of all migrants in our midst.

Then there is Climate Change. This is union business. There are no jobs on a dead planet.

But climate change is also an opportunity. If the Governments of the world had the courage to act on a global agreement we could see vital investment in new green jobs that can increase employment between 5 and 15% in every country. We are anxious that we will see low ambition in Durban and we can`t afford another Copenhagen so we are doing the country studies that demonstrate what the green jobs we can have for just 2% of GDP invested in the green economy. We will make a green jobs target a feature at out October GC.

Can I say to our workers in traditional industries like steel, aluminum and cement and to our miners you have only to fear for your jobs if your nation misses out on the green revolution. We cannot stand back and watch the countries of the south miss on on the technology and the jobs of this next industrial revolution.

I will come back to sustainability and the central role you will play with Durban this year but first let`s reflect on real union courage.

We have all been astonished to watch live revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and are actively supporting their quest for the dignity of democracy and the rights to free and independent trade unions. But we are also watching the direct attacks on our union activists standing up in Bahrain, Yemen Jordan, Algeria, Syria, Iran and Morocco; and now in other areas of Africa - Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland and Mautitania.

Your support for Swaziland and Zimbabwe in particular is legendary and essential. So I both congratulate you and urge you to evoke even more potent acts of solidarity.

Concerning Zimbabwe we have recognized tbe importance of struggle for rights and democracy and have appointed a leader of that struggle, Wellington Chibabe to be a deputy secretary. I am proud and I know you are proud of this.

But let me stay with the Arab world for a minute. May 1 in the Arab region was a special occasion. All our affiliates signed a charter of commitment to democracy rights and strong independent trade unionism.

I was privileged on this great day to be with the PGFTU in Palestine, strong determined and focussed on a minimum wage, social protection, an end to discrimination against women and OHS even while struggling for their sovereign state and an end to occupation.

We have also been proud to launch the Arab Women`s network and to support the marriage of old union techniques for organising with the power of social networking tools.

BUT we cannot stand by and watch those who would profess to be unions support dictators and thus we have invested in an office in Eqypt to support the independent trade union grow; we have said NO to cooperation with ETUF unless they reform and will support a new Arab Forum for trade unionists who sharenour values.

Indeed there has to be a time for opposing those who would profess to be part of the global union movement who would support anti-worker regimes and for me that time is now; now when the courage of our workers building revolutions with other civil society groups is on show.

From revolution to inaction and the G20. The story of the G20 is disappointing. From London and Pittsburg where leaders pledged the same dedication to overcoming unemployment, to creating quality jobs in recovery we went to Toronto last year and found no mention of the plight of working people, no commitment to the recommendations of the labour Ministers and had to fight to get employment back on the agenda and again in Seoul.

We could even argue that we were conned by the governments when we supported stimulus which used taxpayers money to largely bail out the banks, not in every nation, but in too many. And now, while the banks are back in business, to our horror many governments are heading the greed of the bond markets and implementing mindless austerity and the attack on wages, rights and public sector services and jobs which again made workers and their families victims of financial sector greed.

This is the year when we will see action from the G20 to change economics or we will see them fail. The French have made serious commitments including the call for global coherence and commitments to jobs, social protection and core labour standards. They are playing a leading role in demanding support for a financial transaction tax to make the financail sector pay even a fraction of their profits to contribute to jobs, social protection and climate action.

But we need to see this mandate from all the governments and will evaluate our support seriously for 2012 depending on what the governments commit to. Your Government can play a significant role

Employment, social protection and rights, decent work are the core tests for the G20

Social protection is a fundamental agenda for us. Some 75% of workers having no social protection this cannot go on. Our wealthy nations built social protection systems, not when they were rich but in the wake of the depression of the 30`s and world war two. This laid down both social and economic foundations for our economies and now the world must look to kickstart the funding for the poorest of nations.

But we need more that this. We need an alternate growth strategy. Jobs must sit at the heart of macroeconomic policy. All governments must have growth strategies that include jobs targets - decent and sustainable work.

the Global Jobs Pact gives us the framework

On the demand side the guarantee of social protection, a minimum wage, collective bargaining rights, investment in jobs in valued added industries and the green economy. On the supply side skills for workers and strong labour market institutions

Brothers and sisters we will mobilize to the Social summit of RIO plus twenty in Brazil next year. We see the social sustainability summit with Durban as a destination for climate as fundamental to social justice.

We will mobilize around 3 themes;

Social protection with global funding for the poorest countries

A financial transaction tax and green jobs.

Your GS Zweli Vavi with ARTUR De Silva from CUT Brazil have a already worked with us, addressing the UN global sustainability panel in Madrid just two months ago and joining together with the ITUC to ensure the journey from Durban to Rio is a one we can support.

But at the core of pur work must be organizing. Organising in our workplaces, in our communities, amongst women, migrants and young people.

But we must also mobilise to hold MNE`s to account. Where our government`s fail to tame the greed of the corporates we must not. We have initiated the first global coporate organizing campaign. Our target is Deutche Telecom`s T-Mobile, a German Company behaving in Germany but deny the right to organise and bargain collectively in the US and other parts of the world.

We care now looking at DHL with it`s global transport footprint and Ikea with the construction and retail edge. With the GUF`s and all of you we will take on these corporations one by one. I know you are fighting Wallmart, a truly evil anti-worker corporation and you have our support.

Organising and empowering women as you would expect is a priority for me. I referred to the Arab Women`s network but let me also tell you of our young Women`s Organising project - Decisions for life. Already in 12 countries of the south, including South Africa, having touched 100,000 young women with some 50,000 new union women in 18 months. We will expand this and many other Organising initiatives.

Workers power is critical if wevare to hold governments and corporations to account but also critical if we are to hand over strong viable unions to our children.

It goes without saying that we will organise around precarious work and the informal sectors

But then we must also look to political Organising. I know you are the glue in the Alliance here but frankly too many of our progressive political voices have been captured by the corporate boardrooms, they have lost a narrative that connects with our people, working people and their families.

But we have not and when we focus on core business for workers then we build our democracies, we fight injustice and politicians will either be with us or against us. They will find courage to stand up for these values or they will not sustain their seats. This is a national imperative but also a global agenda.

All of this and more to achieve real social justice requires that new internationalism - national and global activism and Organising Organising Organising!! Thats our challenge and our responsibility.

A world where the south and the workers of the south have a recognized and powerful role and share equitably the fruits of our economies is our ambition

Only we collectively can build the power of workers and the future we all aspire to.

let`s do it

Viva COSATU Viva