Public sector workers line up to fight neoliberalism at WFTU international congress

At the end of November, the 14th International Congress of the Trade Union International – Public Service & Allied (TUI-PS&A) took place in Bogota, Colombia. The TUI-PS&A is a strategic sectoral arm of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), bringing together workers in the broader public sector on a class struggle basis.

The 14th Congress was attended by 159 delegates from 71 affiliates representing 18 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. The theme of the Congress was “Defend Collective Bargaining and Fight Privatization, to Reinforce International Working-Class Solidarity against Capitalism and Imperialism.”

Below we are reprinting the opening address from TUI President Artur Sequeira.

We are in Colombia, a country whose workers and people, with their heroic struggle, overcoming a bloodthirsty oligarchy, managed to elect a government of unity and change which represents an internationalist hope for all of us. A government of peace, agrarian reform, labour reform with social justice; a government that stands up to the interests of the Colombian oligarchy and its deeply reactionary nature; a government that defends the sovereignty of its people and friendship between peoples, in particular between the countries and peoples of Latin America; a government that confronts the interests of North American imperialism and demands the end of the blockades on Venezuela and Cuba. A government that was one of the, unfortunately few, that had a stand of solidarity with Palestine in view of Israel’s barbaric aggression.

I reiterate the internationalist solidarity of the TUI-PS&A of the WFTU with the cause of peace and social justice in Colombia and with its people.

This 14th Congress of the TUI-PS&A takes place at a time when exploitation and gamble on fascist and extreme right-wing projects are heightening on all continents, sworn enemies of public services and their workers. Neoliberal governments reconfigure national state apparatuses to put them at the service of multinationals and transnationals, sometimes privatizing, sometimes reconfiguring systems, companies and services to transfer public funds to pay private interests, sacrificing rights and their universality. A course that, in Europe, is achieved through the imposition on workers of European treaties that establish neoliberalism, federalism and militarism in the European Union, sacrificing sovereignty and opening the field to increasingly anti-democratic policies, social regression and war as witnessed in its involvement with the war in Ukraine.

Invoking various pretexts, such as the pandemic or war, what neoliberalism does is increase exploitation. Based on false inevitabilities, invoking values of collective morality, it imposes a social setback on workers to increase the profits of big capital. Completes the attack on labour and social rights of workers, hard won through their struggle, benefiting from the disappearance of the socialist bloc from Eastern Europe, and the resulting hegemony of the capitalist system.

The US, EU and their allies, particularly NATO, raise their militaristic and aggressive action to an increasingly dangerous level, as can be seen with the war in Ukraine or the barbaric aggression in Palestine. From our point of view, it is the policy of the ruling classes in the most advanced capitalist countries, it is the dispute for control and domination of natural resources and their main sources; it is the neocolonial domination exercised by economic pressures (with increasingly illegal sanctions and blockades), diplomatic pressures and interference; that are at the root of the deep instability of the international situation. The growing aggressiveness towards Russia and China and the development of lines of confrontation and military siege are a cause for concern.

In Latin America, where experiences of resistance against imperialism and progressive and revolutionary advances have developed, imperialism counterattacks and develops processes of interference and destabilization, with the aim of their defeat. The blockade on Cuba continues, a blockade that was once again rejected at the United Nations General Assembly, where North American imperialism achieved yet another defeat. Blockade also on Venezuela. Sanctions and blockades on African countries facing the power of neocolonial powers. Unilateral and illegal blockades and sanctions, based on the imposition of the law of the strongest, which we here want to condemn and demand their end, as well as demand respect for the sovereignty of these countries and peoples.

In the context of a great onslaught against workers, rights with a historical and civilizational dimension are being attacked. The right to work is attacked; wages are attacked; working hours increase; work rates also increase, unpaid work increases; the retirement age increases; the right to strike and protest is attacked; the right to rest and leisure; attack on the regulation of collective bargaining with the individualization of labour relations to the detriment of the former; unfair dismissal is expanded; lines of action are developed against the exercise of freedom of association in the workplace and on the streets; policies of pressure and attack on class-oriented trade unions and other representative structures of workers, their autonomy, independence and internal democracy.

The workers resist, they are not willing to give up on having a decent life, but we cannot fail to recognize that the struggle has fallen short of the needs. It is the class struggle that determines the historical evolution of humanity. The mass struggle continues to prove itself as the instrument par excellence of resistance and advances on the path to the emancipation of workers, there are advances in some countries and continents. But the working masses are led to believe false solutions promoted by the dominant social democratic sectors in a very significant part of the trade union movement. We are witnessing a strong mobilization by big employers and governments with colossal means in the ideological offensive, corruption, seeking to instill in them the inevitability of the withdrawal of their rights, the need to adapt the labour world to global competition, calling for their submission.

Our TUI and the WFTU remain firm in their class orientation and internationalist identity, highlighting that exploitation and domination by capital is not inevitable. What is inevitable is our struggle for concrete objectives in defence of the class interests of workers. What is inevitable is our solidarity and internationalist nature. What is inevitable, given the current historical circumstances, is our commitment to the unity of workers, to the unity of the trade union movement, to the expansion of their action and influence. It is necessary to take advantage of the existing means, create new means with all possible help; reinforce mutual knowledge, the sharing of experiences, respect for the positions of each organization, and the cooperation and solidarity on which the action of our TUI is based. Our TUI has a better future as long as we are able to take measures to expand its base, boost forms of work that go beyond our borders, as long as we are always there to defend the rights and interests of workers.

We also reaffirm the fight in defence of peace, against the growing influence of the extreme right, fascism and Nazi-fascism, racism and xenophobia.

The action plan being considered at this 14th Congress of our TUI results from a process of collective involvement of affiliated organizations, in the assessment of the political, economic and social situation in the world, in each continent and country, and its consequences on the rights of workers in public administrations, in the social functions of states and in the public services that ensure them, particularly in the areas of education, healthcare, social security and culture.

In this sense, we will take decisions to develop a strategy of solidarity action and internationalist support, always considering the political, economic, social and cultural diversity and specificity of each country and each organization, of the struggle carried out by public administration workers in each country. A strategy to defend their professional dignity and defend the social functions of the state, public services and the public and universal nature of these services. Public services and their valorization, as well as the rights they guarantee, are guarantors of democracy; which makes the struggle against their privatization and for their valorization a priority; against the handing of resources and funds to big capital to increase its profits.

In this Congress, we will reaffirm the class stand of our TUI-PS&A, which should promote and encourage unity work, the most effective way to combat those who – in unions or governments – aim to promote the interests of capital and weaken the struggle of public administration workers.

Without calling into question its statutory autonomy, the TUI-PS&A assumes itself as a sectoral organization of the WFTU and its action will always have as its objective its prestige and strengthening. It is in this sense that the resolution under discussion at this TUI-PS&A Congress points. It aims to adopt decisions that are a contribution to maintain and deepen contacts and relationships with class-oriented organizations in our sector, on all continents, all those who identify with our trade union project or who want to converge with it in action in defence of the rights and interests of workers.

It is therefore important that this 14th Congress of the TUI-PS&A of the World Federation of Trade Unions, adopt organizational measures to reinforce our solidarity and internationalist action with the workers and peoples who fight for freedom, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and against oppression and exploitation, a principle that has always been affirmed by the WFTU and for which we will continue to fight.

Support socialist media!

If you found this article useful, please consider donating to People’s Voice or purchasing a subscription so that you get every issue of Canada’s leading socialist publication delivered to your door or inbox!

For over 100 years, we have been 100% reader-supported, with no corporate or government funding.

Sign up for regular updates from People's Voice!

You will receive email notifications with our latest headlines.