ITUC OnLine – April 29, 2013

ITUC OnLine is produced by the International Trade Union Confederation

Building Workers’ Power: ITUC May Day statement 2013

Brussels, 29 April 2013 (ITUC OnLine):  Working people are facing sustained and often brutal attacks on their rights in every region of the world. Inequality and unemployment are hitting record levels, as governments continue to follow the failed and destructive policy of austerity-at-any-cost, and the onslaught against collective bargaining continues.  The future of an entire generation of young people is at serious risk.

Corporate greed runs unchecked, costing the lives of thousands of workers, most recently in Bangladesh and Pakistan as factories burn and collapse.  Trade unionists in Colombia, Guatemala and elsewhere are paying the ultimate price for their commitment to social justice, while Turkish workers face the heavy hand of judicial repression for standing up for their rights. 

The promise of transformation in the Arab world is being betrayed by the replacement of one form of autocracy by another.  Decades of social progress in European countries are being wiped out by the untrammelled power of global finance, while people across Africa continue to suffer under neocolonial plunder and corruption.

Discrimination against women at work is still pervasive, while migrant workers are exploited, abused and treated as slaves, even in some of the richest countries of the world. 

The spirit of solidarity that inspired the first May Day marches, and has sustained trade unionism ever since,  remains strong.  It is more needed than at any time in decades.  Our movement must grow, to foster and harness that spirit to counter the false promise of neoliberalism.  We must build workers’ power.

Workers everywhere are showing their resilience in the face of model of globalisation designed to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor.  Through their unions they are winning new gains for working people.  Hundreds thousands of informal workers in India are building their unions, domestic workers across the globe are gaining labour rights for the first time in history, and unions are leading political and community action for development, sustainability and social justice in every part of the world.

Where governments turn their backs on working people, unions must organise.  Where company bosses pit worker against worker, unions must organise.  We must grow in number and in strength, taking inspiration from those who stand today, and have stood in years gone by, steadfast against repression and the avarice of the few at the expense of the many.

This May Day 2013, we must rededicate ourselves to the enduring vision of the foremothers and forefathers of the greatest democratic power on the planet – the power of working people, united and determined to make the world a better place.


Bangladesh: Clothing Brands Attacked for Callous Indifference

Brussels, 26 April 2013 (ITUC OnLine):  The ITUC has reacted angrily to the continued refusal of global clothing brands to join a union-supported workplace safety plan in Bangladesh.  The proposal was developed by unions and workers’ rights NGOs and presented to companies including Wal-Mart, GAP and H&M in 2011. A renewed push after the Tazreen factory fire killed 122 workers last November still produced no agreement from companies, which complained that it would cost too much and would be legally binding.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “These huge global companies continue to show callous indifference to the lives of the thousands of workers who toil for their Bangladesh contractors and subcontractors.  There have been dozens more factory fires in the months since the Tazreen tragedy, and now hundreds killed in this week’s Rana Plaza building collapse.  How many people will have to sacrifice their lives for the corporate bottom line before the big players in the industry finally show that they care?”

Clothing multinationals have long preferred to rely on discredited company-financed factory “audits”, which are often little more than public relations exercises.  A “Responsibility Outsourced” report released by the US trade union centre AFL-CIO on 23 April revealed the abject failure of key social audit programmes to protect workers lives and ensure basic standards such as health and safety protection and the right to join unions.  In one of the worst examples, the Ali Enterprises factory in Pakistan was certified by one of the major corporate social responsibility groups, Social Accountability International, just weeks before a fire there killed some 300 workers in 2012.

“The Bangladesh government must face up to its responsibilities to protect people from exploitation, ensure safe workplaces and support workers who want to join unions.  But the commercial pressures from multinationals who continually seek to drive down costs, cut corners and speed up production times are also responsible.  Workers did not want to enter the Rana Plaza building this week, but without a union, the company bosses were able to force them to enter a death-trap,” said Burrow.

Amirul Haque Amin, President of the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh, said “This negligence must stop. The deaths of these workers could have been avoided if multinational corporations, governments and factory owners took workers’ protection seriously.”

The latest figures on the Rana Plaza disaster available to the ITUC on 26 April show:

304 confirmed deaths 2044 people rescued, more than 1000 of them injured 1000 people unaccounted for or still trapped inside the concrete wreckage.

See also:

“Responsibility Outsourced”: http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/csreport_final_en.pdf

Articles by IndustriAll: http://www.industriall-union.org/hundreds-of-bangladeshi-garment-workers-die

http://www.industriall-union.org/european-brands-agree-to-compensate-tazreen-victims

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