International Meeting of Workers in Commerce
Paris, November 2019
On behalf of the class trade unions of Commerce in Greece, members of PAME, we welcome today’s very important initiative of Federation CGT Commerce and FSM-WFTU.
Today’s meeting is important because it can help workers in commerce take a step forward in coordinating, exchanging experience and information, developing joint actions against our common enemies, the big multinational monopolies of commerce such as LEROYMERLIN, LIDL, IKEA, CARREFOUR etc.
Multinationals have the advantage that they exploit the worst working condition -for example low wages, or a banning of trade union action- that exist in one country, as a mechanism to attack workers in other countries. In this respect they have the support of local governments, but in Europe in particular monopolies have the support of the European Union. In particular, there was no demand from European multinationals that the EU left unsatisfied. Instead, it has functioned and functions as a lever of pressure as it legislates and promotes the demands of the multinationals in the Member States. The famous ‘European acquis’ is, after all, the sum of the most extreme anti-workers measures in Europe, with the aim of enforcing them throughout the Member States. In this direction, after all, we have had the Bolkenstein Treaty, or more specifically in Greece, the attack on the right of workers of commerce to rest on Sundays.
Another important part of the planning of multinationals is the complete abolition of the Collective Agreements, as well as the banning of trade union organization and action of workers. Specifically, in Greece last year the SYRIZA government legislated measures to ban strikes, while the new ND government this year, based on SYRIZA’s law, requires unions to hand over their members’ lists to the government and thus to the employers.
In this attack, multinationals in Greece took full advantage of the crisis, imposing wage cuts, abolishing rights, liberalizing working hours, etc. and today, that Greece enters a period of capitalist growth, those measures are not being canceled, but the attack isgrowing and escalates against the workers under the argument that there is competition with other monopolies.
In the face of these developments, the trade unions of commerce in Greece, the forces of PAME, played a key role in preventing the barbaric antiworkers’ attack. During the years of the crisistook place more than 40 General National Strikes. Whereas in the Commerce sector the actions were even more and on a local level. And not only strikes, but unions have tried to have multiform intervention. Through mass actions, informational or cultural events, actions for young women and mothers, migrant workers and more. The basic line of our action was the slogan “The Workers Must Not Accept to Make Any Sacrifices for the Crisis-The Crisis to be Paid by the Capitalists Who Created It”.
Despite the force of the anti-workers attack, this diverse, consistent and class-oriented action achieved significant results in very difficult conditions. Specifically in a number of workplaceseg PRAKTIKER, we managed to maintain collective agreements, in even more places, we managed to stop layoffs. Especially for workers’ right to have Sunday as a day of rest, while the goal of multinationals had been for this right to be abolished for over 10 years, our action, together with self-employed shop owners and other unions from other sectors, we have succeeded to delay these plans to a significant degree. We have also tried to develop action at an international level, both with the International Trade Union Meeting of workers in Commercethat we organized in 2011, and with initiatives such as actions to support the mobilization of workers at LEROY MERLIN of Italy, METRO MARKET in Turkey, against the persecution of Comrade Laga from France, etc.
At the same time, however, a key result of our action is that in conditions of union retreat, in conditions dominated by disappointment, individualism, fatalism, or even the logic of “if the companyhas profits,I will keep my job,” Greece’s class trade unions were able to stay inside the workplaces, to renew their forces, to have the recognition of a significant part of young workers, who are now educated on the principles of class struggle. Our action has raised and continues to raise the question about the enormous wealth of these giant multinationals, which is not created by a dozen shareholders. But that wealth is created by the worker in logistics, or the cash desk girl. Wealth is produced by the workers, and they must be the ones who will harvest it.
It is worth noting, however, that the situation for European workers would not be so negative without the role of trade union forces in national, but also international level that promote the line of class cooperation, which is translated into “social dialogues”, or support for one or the other government that will promote humane capitalism. These forces are characterized by bureaucracy, inertia, undermining the militant mood of workers, as well as corruption. Here are some examples of the role of such forces and their role.
For example in Greece , the GSEE(General Confederation of Workers in Greece), a member of the ETUC, in line with the position for classcollaboration against the capital crisis, co-signed the abolition of the collective agreements and the 30% cut in the Minimum Wage. The GSEE Public Relations Secretary himself, President of the Federation of Greek Employees in Commerce-OIYE, was revealed to be himself an employer, and specifically to be a contractor who outsources workers. He is also a cadre in the UNI union. This is not surprising since, as we have seen from the leadership of the ETUC-CES, no member of its Secretariat is a worker!
And one last example. These forces, especially UNI and INDUSTRIALL, depending on their audience, present themselves as “militant”. With activities and action. With conquests such as the Global Collective Agreement with the H&M. However, we think that these ‘conquests’ are quite dangerous. In particular, with the Global Collective Agreement with the H&M, we can see a window to open to the more barbaric pursuits of the employers.
That is to say, although this “contract” initially states that it recognizes the right to trade union organization, or that it does not permit child labor, then it states…regarding child labor“No persons shall be employed at an age younger than 15 (or 14 where ILO Convention 138 makes an exception)”.That is, it basically allows and accepts child labor!
While for the trade union, it says quite hypocritically that “the employer will not prevent the development of mechanisms for independent and free association and negotiation … where the right to freedom of association and collective negotiation is prohibited under national law”. This is a terrible hypocrisy. Multinationals dismiss and prosecute trade unions across Europe that are legally regulated by trade unions, and INDUSTRIALL says that multinationals will go to a country that bans trade unionism to fight for union freedoms! It’s hypocrisy.
Colleagues, multinationals can plan, coordinate and act internationally against workers. For all the above we believe it is crucial for workers to obtain the ability, more effectively, to respond to the unified attack of the EU-Multinationals-local governments. For these reasons it is crucial to strengthen the common coordination and action of the European unions in Commerce.
First and foremost, by everyone developing action in their own country; With unions with daily action, intervention on every issue in the lives of the workers but also with ideological and political intervention so that this action reflects the real conflict in the workplace; The conflict between employers and workers. Action in all forms.Whether with an announcement, a poster, or a speech, a cultural event for employees, or a strike, occupation, or seminar, lesson etc. With day-to-day action, with a clear orientation, a real class unity will be built that can inspire and bring together workers, unsubordinated unions, concerned young unionists. In this regard, we support today’s initiative and welcome any proposal for better coordination and joint, militant action by workers.