DEDICATED trade unionists from nations of the global south advanced the SIGTUR agenda of enhancing working class networks to fight against unjust corporate power across the globe when they met in Australia December. Congress Declaration
The 10th SIGTUR Congress in the city of Perth built on the achievements of the previous conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2010 by agreeing on plans to build networks and closer, practical co-operation across Transnational corporation, education, transport and the government public service sector.
The common element was the challenge of resisting exploitation by multinational corporations across the global south, particularly where governments acted forcefully against organised labour in the name of open markets for foreign investment.
Delegates from 14 member nations told in particular how workers are struggling against the neo-liberal agendas of global giants Chevron, Wallmart, Monsanto, SsangYong, Samsung, Suzuki and Hyundai.
The one-week congress saw intensive workshopping to further develop network plans for co-ordination of workers organisations in nations in different stages of industrial and democratic development.
The Perth congress from December 2-6 was attended by union representatives from Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, Japan, India, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and the host nation Australia.
“In many countries, workers face draconian anti-labour laws and unionists can face great personal danger. Well-resourced, trade unions in established industrial nations need to assist and support industrial campaigns across the developing Global South.
“This is about building practical networks .”
The conference reconised the appointment of co-ordinators from member bodies the CTIU of India, being Mr Amamulla Khan, and from CUT in Brazil. Mr Diego Auzzi who have been appointed by their federation as SIGTUR coordinators.
Congress also re-committed to establishing regional co-ordinators for southern Africa and in Asia, specifically covering South East Asia and Australia.
The 10th SIGTUR Congress also prioritised using the modern means of Twitter, Facebook Skype and other powerful online tools to network between unionists within each nation and across international borders.
The potential of education networks was a particular focus, with intent to share information on education methods for trade union organisers which could then be adapted to the specific industrial and cultural needs of each particular nation.
Education in industrial consciousness among workers in affiliated unions was seen as the key in building the strength through raising worker consciousness in all nations.
An Educators Network to build knowledge of SIGTUR, its aims and values, is an ongoing project across member nations.
Common issues emerging include work intensification, insecure employment with “Zero hour contracts” offering no set hours or secure conditions and the allocation of community resources to the interests of corporations.
In the government sector, struggles against privatisation while community services are slashed are common across the global south.
Internationally co-ordinated days of action in numerous countries have enormous potential to highlight problems and embarrass corporate offenders. This is a prime area of potential to be organised through co-ordinators using networking.
Delegates shared their experiences in the ongoing struggle to overcome the ruthless, violent and exploitative labour practices of some of the largest South Korean-based multinationals.
Samsung, Hyundai and SsangYong are extending their tentacles across the developing world and can only be forced to change their repressive exploitation of their workforces in newer nations by union network campaigns.
The appalling record of Samsung in nations where it is relocating production was a particular focus, with congress noting its use of child labour in China, violent union busting in Indonesia and violation of Brazil’s domestic laws.
Congress noted that Samsung can never expect any respect as a corporate world citizen until it changes its illegal bullying tactics and a “no union” policy.
In South Korea, Samsung Electronics Service has directly targeted leaders of 10,000 workers who formed their own union which joined with the Korean Metal Workers Union to demand collective bargaining, particularly over long hours of unpaid overtime and lack of care for injuries.
The systematic persecution of union members through taking away wages do distressed one member, Jong-Beom Choi, that he took his own life in public protest in October 2013.
Indian-based Mahindra Group has taken a controlling stake in car giant SsangYong so is directly implicated in the deaths of 22 workers and the continuing imprisonment of the KCTU leader in South Korea.
Networking between CTIU in India and the KCTU will aim for re-instatement of its dismissed workforce and freedom for the KCTU leader.
Japan’s Suzuki is another Asian powerhouse company victimizing its Indian workers, with 1600 summarily dismissed and 137 imprisoned for taking what should be legitimate industrial action.
In the host nation Australia and beyond, the activities of resources giant Chevron are of concern, particularly its attempt to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia in a lawsuit.
Congress also discussed the looming Transpacific Trade Agreement of 12 Pacific rim nation as a potentially major threat to workers rights as it will give Multinational Corporation the new power to sue elected governments over their trade policies and ride roughshod into markets.
SIGTUR unions in South Korea, Australia and japan are committed in information sharing and spreading the implications of this agreement and plan for union participation in campaigns against it.