Concern No. 5: Promotion of trade union and other democratic rights of the working class
Working people everywhere are sentenced to a life of insecurity and, for the great majority, deprivation, even as they create the wealth for today’s globalised, volatile and increasingly crisis-ridden capitalism. Under imperialist globalisation, workers worldwide have been facing determined attacks on their rights and living standards over the last three decades. Now, a global economic recession is unfolding from the heart of capitalism in the USA. Working people everywhere face the reality of all out efforts to restrict and cut real wages, social welfare benefits, and democratic rights, as the capitalists desperately fight for maximum profits amid the ever-deepening crisis of overproduction.
Hard-won wages, benefits and social services have already been eroded through policies of ‘labor flexibilisation’ in the name of ‘free trade’ and ‘international competitiveness’ – this is the neo-liberal agenda of the multi-national corporations. Even workers’ solidarity is being criminalised and the right of workers to unionise and to fight collectively for their legitimate rights is under attack. In some cases, attacks on workers’ rights to organise are being justified by ‘anti-terrorism’ hysteria.
In the imperialist countries, many workers suffer from low wages, high unemployment and job insecurity, and millions of migrant and guest-workers with few rights are also now part of these economies. The worker’s democratic rights to form unions and to strike are being restricted. Pension schemes now directly connected to the share markets mean that retired workers no longer have company paid guaranteed pensions and are highly vulnerable to the developing global recession.
All this could get much worse in the next few years, in both poor countries and imperialist countries, because of the unfolding global recession.
The workers and other toiling people of the world, especially those in the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America are subjected not only to the overt violence of the neocolonial state, they suffer even more from the daily violence of the exploitative and oppressive system of imperialism.
Through neo-liberal policies of trade and investment liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation imposed by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, the economies of oppressed and poor nations are further impoverished and maintained as perpetually backward, export-oriented and import-dependent. WTO agreements and hundreds of bilateral free trade agreements today function as instruments of monopoly capital in their economic attacks on the working class.
Governments and multinational corporations prevent workers from exercising their fundamental rights to organise at the workplace, bargain collectively and to strike. More and more forms of labor flexibilisation, along with labor sub-contracting schemes like outsourcing, are pushed to go along with the implementation of neoliberal economic policies of liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation against working people. Unions are undermined when contractual employees – who are stripped of their rights to form and join unions and to participate in strikes – comprise a large part of the total workforce.
With the erosion of job security, there are fewer jobs and work opportunities available due to the implementation of these imperialist globalisation policies which pull down the wages of workers overall. Workers have suffered a reversal of union rights in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Korea, the Philippines, and other countries that attune their Labor Codes to the wishes of their big capitalist bosses for a more favorable investment climate.
Even more vulnerable and under attack are immigrant, migrant, guest-workers and undocumented workers whose numbers are only increasing and whose exploitation is intensifying. Cheaper, more mobile and flexible guest workers, migrant and immigrant labor are used to fill the relentless demand for cheap labour, especially under the deepening crisis of imperialism and its never-ending pursuit of private profit.
The rise of repression of workers’ rights is also seen in outright violence against picket lines and even the murder of labor leaders and unionists, in attempts to dampen the assertion of labor rights. Union activity is considered to be a ‘subversive activity’ because it challenges corporate profits. Harassment, abductions and killings of union leaders and trade union members coincide not only with ongoing labor negotiations, but also during campaigns exposing human rights violations and political repression.
There is an urgent need to sharpen our understanding of the global attacks against working people. In this period of imperialist globalization, the overarching challenge is how can the international working class strengthen its resistance, promote trade union and other democratic rights of the working people, improve wage and living standards in the face of intensifying exploitation of labor and prevent the destruction of working class organizations.
The workers workshop highlighted the sustained attack on working class communities in all countries by capitalists who try to crush union organization and ignore workers’ basic right to collective bargaining. Governments attack working class communities, in particular their own employees, through privatization and application of new forms of anti-worker labor laws. Privatization of social services has a big impact on women because caring and reproductive work that was once socialized is thrown back on individual families and domestic workers.
Capitalists are using a barrage of flexibilization techniques to increase exploitation and crush unions.
Added to these assaults, capitalists demand access to temporary migrant labor and these women and men are meant to have even fewer rights than workers in the host country.
New labor laws today give employers greater power then ever over the lives of workers. These laws are backed up by harsh legal penalties against militant action, strikes, rallies, pickets, and even basic organizing. If these laws still fail to repress the workers, then abduction and murder is often the next resort of the capitalists. The bottom line objective is higher profits.
This drive against workers and their families is integrated with the objectives of the hundreds of free trade agreements and the trade and investment negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The capitalists also use ideology to crush trade unions and working class struggles. They constantly claim the ‘death of ideology’ and the ‘death of class struggle’. By this means, revisionists and reformists try to assert their hegemony over class organizations and argue for them to destroy themselves. It is important to struggle against all forms of this ‘liquidationism’.
Just as the peasant movement in poor countries has paralyzed the WTO, the workers everywhere have been organizing, resisting, and fighting back against the capitalist offensive. These struggles need greater coordination, deeper organizing and more clarity, if we are to win our rights in a world of justice and peace.
All of these threats arising from flexibilization, extended use of migrant labor, privatization, repressive labor laws, and violent repression will now be amplified as the global recession continues to develop under the U.S. economic crisis. Rising unemployment and erosion of wages will hit hard on the job security of workers especially women, migrant workers, and those in casual and contract jobs.
New challenges arising from the impact of global warming and the economic crisis are sharply increasing costs of food and fuel. Workers everywhere need higher wages to cope with these impacts and employers and governments will vigorously resist these demands.
We will consolidate study commission no. 5 and its steering committee, and propose that it meet four times a year by skype conference.
Publish the papers of workshop 5 at the TIA to promote the ILPS more broadly in the global trade union movement and recruit more unions to the ILPS.
Create a website and communications for ILPS workers study commission to alert our members to incidents of repression, promote our publications and events, and provide educational material for workers and to promote the ILPS.
Participate in the alternative activities against the U.N. Global Forum on Migration and Development to be held in Manila in October 2008.
Day of action against trade union repression on November 16, the anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. Organize participation from beyond the trade union sector.
Organize strategy meetings and annual international conferences between now and the fourth international ILPS assembly on the following topics: wages, privatization, repression on workers, and job security.