ITUC OnLine – November 12, 2010

Burma – After sham elections – imminent Release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

The ITUC welcomes the reports of the imminent release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Her house arrest term expires tomorrow, and it would appear that the military regime has now signed papers authorising her release. 

The Nobel Peace prize winner has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years and her release has been long overdue. Originally due to be released last year, her detention was prolonged for 18 months when an American swam across Inya Lake to her home.

The ITUC believes that an unconditional release that will allow for her to recreate and lead the dissolved National League for Democracy (NLD) is in the best interest of the Burmese people.

One of her first tasks must be to fight for new and fair elections, where her own party will be allowed to participate fully. 

“Aung San Suu Kyi is an icon for democracy fighters everywhere, and we would welcome her release”, said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “We will continue to support her in the struggle for democracy and respect for fundamental rights in Burma directly as well as through our Burmese affiliate, the FTUB ” she added.

The sham elections on 7 November or her potential release cannot cover up the fact that Burma remains a military-run country without democracy and respect for fundamental human rights.    

Widespread use of forced labour, and other egregious human rights abuses continue, and the ITUC  supports the demand for a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity as well as an ILO Commission of Inquiry into abuses of fundamental workers’ rights.

Seoul G20: Jobs Commitment Welcome but Fiscal Austerity Risks Undermining Recovery, Warn Trade Unions

Seoul, 12 November 2010 (ITUC OnLine):  Trade unions have welcomed the recognition by the G20 that decent jobs are at the heart of the recovery and their commitment to provide social protection for the most vulnerable, while expressing deep concern about the global consequences of premature austerity measures.

“Unions now want to see real action to fix the bitter and unprecedented social crisis of global unemployment between now and the G20 meetings in France in 2011, and remain opposed to slashing fiscal deficits in the short-term before employment is back on track,” stated ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.  “We are worried that without coordinated investment in jobs and social protection, the G20 stands to become a transmission belt for communicating recession from one G20 country to another, ultimately damaging the entire global economy.”

“The global economy is far weaker than the G20 admit and far from reassuring the financial markets, a headlong rush to austerity and cutting deficits prematurely will further depress investment, and hit sovereign debt ratings as current growth forecasts are downgraded,” explained TUAC General Secretary John Evans. “Governments are trying to talk up growth by calling for structural reform, but the Seoul Action Plan looks too much like the old agenda of reducing benefits and weakening job protection and will sap the confidence of households. We need a G20 action plan for jobs that promotes fairer income distribution and a demand-led recovery.”

In Seoul, the 50-strong global trade union delegation discussed trade union demands with the summit host President Lee Myung-bak and many other heads of government as well as the chiefs of major international institutions and the European Commission.  

“G20 Labour Ministers must now meet as soon as possible to discuss best-practice measures for decent work and the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact, and how to stop a recurrence of the labour market inequalities that were a major causative factor in bringing about the crisis,” Burrow added.  

Trade unions welcome the G20 commitment to engage with unions in the G20 process, while at the same time warning that the G20 remains unduly tilted towards the narrow self-interest of the financial community.

“From being the locus for decisive measures to rescue the global economy as at London and Pittsburgh and to restore sane regulation in place of mad financial market greed, financial reform has stalled, and the G20 appears unwilling to stand up to the business leaders and bankers who continue to resist even watered-down regulation whilst paying themselves massive and undeserved bonuses,” stated Evans.

Unions warn that without genuine financial reform, the introduction of a financial transactions tax and an end to tax havens, the resources needed for investment in jobs, development and tackling climate change will be lacking. “Implementing these measures is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity,” said Evans.    

“While the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth is important, it does not compensate for the absence of concrete commitment of resources for the Millennium Development Goals or for the establishment of a global social protection floor,” concluded Burrow. “The world’s citizens expect more. They are looking to the G20 Leaders to show true global leadership and deliver employment and recovery instead of inaction and short-termism.  It is urgent that as France assumes the G20 Presidency for 2011, the G20 rediscover its collective sense of purpose, before stagnant growth and a return to rising unemployment delivers them with that wake-up call.”


International Labour Movement mourns loss of a tough fighter for justice, Alina Rantsolase

Brussels, 12 November 2010 (ITUC OnLine):  ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow has written 
to COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, to convey condolences on her own behalf as well as those of the whole organisation to Alina Rantsolase’s family, comrades, and friends in South Africa. In her letter, she says that “It is with great sorrow, indeed shock that we have heard the sad news of the passing of our dear Comrade and friend, Alina Rantsolase. The international labour movement has lost a vanguard fighter and strong voice on behalf of struggling workers and the millions of disempowered and disenfranchised the world over.”

As an exceptional friend, colleague, and comrade to so many of us in the movement, she exuded her convictions for justice and fairness, but also for militancy and activism, whether in her personal relations as well as within international trade union meetings, as well as at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The daughter of a servant on a farm in the Free State, she became involved in the anti-apartheid movement while at school.

She started her working life at Checkers (a store chain) where she quickly became shop steward. She distinguished herself as a tough negotiator, a function she became responsible for at the SA Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union.

She became the national treasurer of COSATU in 1999 where she was known as a hard but compassionate, no-nonsense straight-shooter when it came to rules and procedures. She then joined the Governing Body of the ILO where she was never afraid to take on employers and governments, including her own.

A disciplined comrade, she accepted her responsibilities and went to parliament as an MP following the elections in 2009. She brought with her to Cape Town the same dedication and convictions which she was known for in COSATU and which we all appreciated her for. Once there, she was quickly appointed Chairperson of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus and served on the Home Affairs and Labour Portfolio Committees. 

To say that she always remembered where she came from and those she was fighting tirelessly for is to state the obvious for all those who knew her.

Sharan Burrow concludes her letter by recalling that “Her passing is a terrible loss to the world’s working class and to all of us who cherished her. On behalf of all of us at the ITUC, we mourn with you and her daughter Puleng our loss. Her memory however, will continue to inspire us and move us forward in the struggle.”


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