It is a great pleasure for us that we are here today at the 2nd Congress of USB. An organization with which the PAME, the class oriented trade union movement of Greece, has developed close ties of friendships both within the lines of WFTU and with other important actions and initiatives that were developed at European level.
USB, an organization in which, we want here in front of all of you to express our gratitude for your constant support and solidarity with the struggles of PAME, the workers of Greece. We especially want to thank especially Comrade Leonardi who many times was in Greece, in the rallies of PAME, where he transferred your internationalist Solidarity. He supported in many ways the united action and coordination of the class oriented forces of Europe. At the same time, his personal contribution to the revitalization of the Trade Union International of the Public Services of the WFTU, in which he is General Secretary, is internationally recognized and we confirm that we will continue to do everything we can to help you in this difficult duty. At the same time, the World Congress of Young Workers of the WFTU, which your organization will host in November, is very important for the new generation of workers in Europe and we will support it in every possible way.
Your Congress takes place in a period that the working class in Europe can draw important conclusions from the developments, from the capitalist crisis, the anti-worker policies imposed by the Governments of each country and the EU in order to support the profitability of the business groups. Conclusions that should help the organization of the working class of each country, of the class oriented unions of Europe for the organization of the workers’ counterattack.
A main issue that should concern all the workers is the role of the trade unions, members of ETUC, such as the GCIL in Italy, the CGT in France, the CCOO in Spain, the GSEE in Greece and raise the following question in the working class of each country. Would the situation for the workers of Europe be so difficult, if the attack of Governments and multinationals did not have the support of these trade unions? Would there be such slaughter of workers’ rights if there was a trade union movement that would organize the fight against the anti-worker policies?
What is the experience in the countries of Europe about the forces of ETUC?
In Greece the GSEE co-signed 30% wage cuts and surrendered a of workers’ rights.
In Spain the CCOO had a leading role to the cultivation of class collaboration. They gave a helping hand to the Governments of social democracy as they demolished workers’ rights.
In Great Britain the ETUC members, before the referendum issued a joint statement to support the EU as a paradise for the workers.
In France last year, while the Federation FNIC, member of the WFTU, had a leading role in the 4 weeks strike against the El Komri law, the CGT did not organize even a half-day strike.
In Italy the CGIL, as you know better, called for a referendum for the workers themselves to cosign losing of their rights, to accept dismissals, wage cuts etc.
All these forces, from the ETUC, have enormous responsibilities for the offensive against workers’ rights. They make the workers to demand more privileges for the capitalists and demand "development", which in order to be achieved, it requires the elimination of workers’ rights, and therefore it cannot be for the benefit of the working class.
Nor can it be for the benefit of the workers to support one or the other political force that supports the capitalist development, either with "national characteristics" or with the so-called "progressive governments". In Greece, there were many trade unions which were supporting SYRIZA and Tsipras. SYRIZA, like many other social-democratic parties in other countries, became a government with slogans about "Growth with Justice", "National Sovereignty," and others. However, experience has shown that no matter what is the colour of each government, no matter what slogans it uses, even for or against the EU, it cannot implement a pro-people policy within context of the imperialist system, the capitalist crisis, or the capitalist development. It will demand new sacrifices from the workers, it will impose new anti-workers measures, it will engage deeper into imperialist competitions, interventions, bringing closer the risk of a generalized imperialist conflict.
It is no coincidence that the CGT of France, out of the 2,000,000 members that had a few years ago, nowadays it has less than 500,000, the CGIL has been transformed into an organisation of pensioners and middle-aged, having no contact with the factories, the workers, no contact with the youth.
It is no coincidence that in these circumstances, with these trade unions and political forces dominating Europe, we see the majority of the trade unions losing power, being transformed into representatives of the governments and the multinationals rather than of the workers.
That's why it is no surprise that class-oriented trade unions, despite their difficulties and weaknesses, despite the negative correlation, are the only forces that bring revitalization. It is no surprise that the forces of the WFTU in Europe are those who take steps that inspire and unite the workers. These are the trade unions in conflict with the line of class cooperation, against the demands of employers, the EU, the unions who do not accept to sacrifice the workers for the profits of the multinationals.
They are trade unions that develop Solidarity, inform the workers about the developments, work collectively and take militant initiatives. Unions that oppose to the EU, NATO, the imperialist interventions. Unions that organize the workers against the lay-offs, wage cuts, but also for new demands. Unions that strengthen the front against the unionism led by government and employers. By revealing the illusions about the role of the EU. By opposing to the arguments to reduce the demands of the workers, against the support of the competitiveness and the development of the economy, against the front of the forces of class cooperation.
By reinforcing the everyday action to mobilize workers to defend their rights and wages. By highlighting the class character of the society. They demand based on the modern needs of the workers, who reveal the vanguard role of the working class, its historical mission as the producer of the wealth, to clash with the capitalist exploitation and to abolish it. According to this line, PAME in Greece has rallied thousands of young workers, educated new trade unionists, rallied new forces, new trade unions. In particular, this line of struggle, together with the open call to every honest trade unionist and worker, to every trade union, to factory workers, to workplaces, had measurable and concrete results.
In the initiative of PAME for the Collective Agreements in 2015, a total of 518 trade unions in Greece, Federations, Labour Centers, business and industrial unions were rallied. The 353 unions of these were rallied in PAME. The 165 were not. In 2016, however, in the Congress of PAME took part 538 trade unions. An increase of about 30%. Although we are not satisfied with what has been done so far, with the workers’ response which is not at the level of the attack of the employers, we have taken some important steps forward. These steps would not have been taken if there was not this line of struggle.
In these circumstances, we believe that your congress, your experience of your struggles, which revealed USB’s leading role in the struggles of the workers of Italy in recent years, is a valuable and useful experience for all the trade unions in Europe. It is important that PAME, USB, and the rest of the WFTU forces in Europe help and contribute in the creation of a distinct class trade union pole in Europe.
Long live the Solidarity
Long live the Working Class of Italy
Long live the USB
Long live the WFTU