6th UITBB European Meeting 6-7 December, 2018 Lisbon (Portugal)

 

Document for the 6th European Meeting

UITBB’s 6th European Meeting was successfully held in Lisbon,Portugal, on 6-7 December 2018. The Meeting was organized amidst an extremely difficult time for the workers of the world as global capitalist crisis is rampant. UITBB, in its 69 years of history and class-oriented struggles, fights on a daily basis within such very difficult circumstances to defend the workers in the sectors it represents, guiding them based on the principle that nothing is given but everything is earned through hard and organised workers’struggles. Our fight is against the conservative powers that represent the interests of the capital and push workers into poverty on a daily basis. Our answer to this inhumane behaviour can be nothing else except guiding the workers towards an intensification of the struggles in unity, regardless of colour, language and religion. During these struggles, we should never forget our main goal which is a just society, where the workers can reap the benefits of the position they truly deserve.

The participants at UITBB 6th European Meeting

The 6th European Meeting in Lisbon reaffirmed the class-based orientation, set precedents for concrete actions, underlined the unwavering support for workers around the world, and highlighted the sense of international solidarity among the millions of workers in UITBB’s ranks. In a spirit of class-based unity we should apply the following decisions that were made after a fruitful discussion, and move forward to achieve our goals:

  1. Right to work,
    work with rights: Solidarity with unemployed workers and against precarious working
    conditions

Unemployment is the single biggest problem that workers in the construction industry are facing all over the world and of course in Europe. Indeed,millions of our colleagues remain unemployed for many years and confronted with harsh social consequences. The effects of unemployment in every society are grave. They threaten the cohesion of society, cause a rise in criminality,depression, drug use and social upheaval, notably in advanced societies such as Europe. The unemployed in the construction sector represent a big social wound,because they are not numbers, but human beings. Unemployment, which is a result but also a permanent phenomenon of capitalism, cannot be fought with wishful thinking and statements. The austerity policies implemented in most of the countries around the world constitute a class war and this is exactly how we should view it and plan to fight it accordingly.

Closely related to the above, is the issue of undeclared work, which creates many problems in the sector. Specifically, people who are undeclared are the victims of exploitation, they are forced to work in precarious working conditions, they live in unsuitable houses and their living conditions are horrible. So, to highlight to the greatest extent possible the problem of unemployment, we must express on a daily basis our practical solidarity with the unemployed and not let this big section of fellow workers distance themselves from our organizations. Through concrete organizational work we should involve them in the daily struggles to combat the attacks waged by various governments and employers. Even though all organizations agree that our main weapon is the organized struggles through the trade unions,however, within the conditions created by the capitalist system and by the anti-labour policies, we see a deregulation of the work. So, we call upon all organizations in the sector to intensify their efforts and demand from the various governments that they take extra measures to protect the workers from this deregulation coming from the employers and in the case where this does not happen, this should be considered a penal offence.

We propose:

To battle undeclared work, every employer, prior to the commencement of employment of any worker in the Industry, must be obliged to communicate the details of the worker to the relevant authorities. Moreover, we propose that all Organizations should demand in an organized way provisions on labour issues to be included in all contracts for public works, so that we can establish a web of protection for both the workers of the main contractor and the workers on subcontracts.

We also demand that the main Contractor should have the obligation and the primary responsibility for the implementation of the working conditions of Sectoral Collective Agreements, both for workers which he/she employs and for the workers employed by subcontractors in the project.

In order to combat unemployment, the main Contractor and subcontractors on each project of the public sector should be obliged to hire workers from the lists of the registered unemployed, in the cases where there will be a need to employ additional workforce to carry out the project.

To that end, we should prepare a draft document that will include basic terms of employment for workers in the construction industry in European countries and demand their implementation in all countries, such as working times, salaries and other important labour issues.

Finally, we demand the signing of a sectoral/national Collective Agreement that will regulate labour issues such as the prohibition of personal contracts and the “leasing” of workers to various worksites, which enhances the exploitation of workers.

  • UITBB stands firmly against the criminalization of the right to
    strike

Lately, as we have seen in Greece and other European countries, the capitalist system and the governments which support it, have move forward with anti-labour legislation that would criminalize the right to strike. It is made clear that the progressive movement around the world will stand against such appalling decision, and will not waive the right to strike, for which many people have died so that we can enjoy it today.

We propose:

The establishment of a day of action against the criminalization of strikes and mobilize throughout Europe, with protests, demonstrations, resolutions, strikes and other dynamic measures, so that the workers shall not lose this right, which was earned with blood.

The establishment on a permanent basis the exchange of legal documents and practices implemented by each organization in the cases where strikers are prosecuted individually, or the organizations themselves when holding strikes.

  • UITBB stands
    shoulder to shoulder with immigrants and women, as well as against racism and
    xenophobia

Many migrant workers are entering in mass numbers the construction sector. Because of the acute exploitation migrant workers are facing from their employers and their widespread use as a weapon against workers of various sectors in their countries of destination, we must intensify our efforts to integrate immigrant workers in our Trade Unions for instance through social and cultural initiatives.

From the very beginning of the migration’s flows, we clearly defined our class-based position on the matter. We have fought, and we are still fighting,in order for immigrants to join the trade union movement and participate in the struggles. It is necessary to repeat two things here:

  1. The
    working class is one, regardless of colour,
    religion, language or place of origin.
  2. Immigration,
    both internal and external, is not the choice of the immigrants. People
    immigrate because they are forced to do so, due to a lack of choices
    because of imperialistic wars and poverty. 

There are no legal or illegal immigrants. The conscious choice of governments not to provide financial immigrants and political refugees with the necessary legal documents as per the European treaties of SCHENGEN and DUBLIN2, is being used by employers to acquire cheaper labour force as leverage to reduce the salaries of local workers. So, the criminal actions of capital which deepen the contradictions of capital and labour, help increase the immigration flow.

It is obvious that we cannot talk about developments in our organizations’sectors, without including our immigrant colleagues in our struggles. The solution of the problems of immigrant workers, similar to the problems faced by nationals, pertains to the development of a class-based struggle and its ability to seek and impose solutions to working class problems. Immigrant workers are a part of the working class. They have the same problems with local workers and the same interest in getting rid of the criminal actions of monopolies and capitalism. Our duty is to mobilize immigrants aiming at their participation in all aspects of the class-based movement.

On the issue of women, we would like to note that they are a social group that is more affected by the capitalist system aggression,exploitation, and imperialist interventions. Such problems are the lack of necessary social support for maternity, lower wages, more flexible forms of employment, labor market discriminations and the lack of free time that often hinders women’s participation in trade union activities. Moreover, workingwomen often fall victims to employers’ violence and racist pressures. The situation and position of working women have been even more aggravated within the economic recession and crisis that workers experience in recent years almost all over the world. Most of the times, working women suffer more intensely by unemployment, wage cuts and violation of their fundamental rights.Moreover, special health and safety measures for women are inadequate. Lastly,we recognize the importance of collective struggle in achieving equality for women working in the construction industry. It is only by working through class-oriented unions that our aims can be achieved.

We should also take action against racism and xenophobia, as UITBB has constantly been doing. Many migrant workers are entering in mass numbers the construction sector, they are facing acute exploitation from their employers and they are used as a weapon against workers of various sectors in their countries of destination.

Alt-right parties are on the rise in Europe today, with presence in national parliaments, the European Parliament and in some cases, in the Government, like in Austria and Hungary. Immigrant workers around the world are suffering from the consequences of racism, as they are under a violent attack which is characterized reduced salaries and benefits, prohibition to enter unions, exploitation by the employers, horrible living conditions, no health care etc., while racists use them to push their political agenda, creating enemies whom the public hate,saying things like the immigrants are taking the locals’ jobs.

We propose:

We must intensify our efforts to integrate immigrant workers in our Trade Unions for instance through social and cultural initiatives. The translation of the terms of employment and/or Collective Agreements in the migrants’ different languages, the publication of informative material in the same languages ​​ and the organization of special fast-track courses to learn the official language of the State of destination will assist the above efforts.

We also propose to coordinate better our sectoral Construction worker’s Trade Unions in Europe in our actions within and against multinational companies.

On the issue of women,we propose the acknowledgment, support and participation in UITBB’s campaigns regarding the issue, such as International Women’s Day (8 March) and Stop Violence against Women Day (25 November).

We also propose the promotion of equality issues in the collective agreements and the organization of a training seminar for working women.

Lastly, the employers should be obliged to have special accommodations for women, to be able to work in construction sites.

On the issue of racism and xenophobia, we propose to push through our political affiliations in our respective countries, the passing of legislation that battles discrimination in the workplace based on gender, sexual orientation, origin, language, or colour of skin. If such laws exist, we must push harder for their implementation. We must communicate with immigrant workers on a daily basis in their own language to make them get to know the local, trade union movement. This way they will be made aware of their rights and we will be able to explain them in an ideological way the causes of their condition as well as the fact that it is the fascists who use and exploit them.

  • Health and Safety in the workplace

Particular attention should be paid to the safety and health of construction workers and the ideological basis of the whole issue should be projected by stressing that health and safety issues must stop being connected to the cost of production and the level of spending and that their application is determined by competitiveness. We must insist that people in the end should be put before profits. The evidence from a number of developed countries in Europe shows that the possibility of fatal accidents for workers in the building sector is 3 to 4 times bigger than in any other sector. What is more, people working in the building sector suffer from a number of health conditions, such as injuries due to lifting heavy loads, respiratory problems due to dust exposure, musculoskeletal conditions, skin diseases, hearing problems due to exposure to loud noises etc. There is also a serious risk of cancer due to exposure to asbestos. In Europe, the sector is considered to be the most dangerous one with over 1000 fatal labour accidents a year. According to Eurostat data, in the EUin 2009, more than 1 out of 4 fatal labour accidents (26.1%) were recorded in the building industry.

This data regarding the loss of lives of hundreds of colleagues at work due to labour accidents as well as due to occupational diseases because of the lack of health and safety measures reveals a merciless war waged by the capital against the lives of the workers, which they measure in profit. Every year, the construction sector pays in dozens of lives, in hundreds of disabled people,the profits of construction companies, the profits of the housing developers.

This bleeding in human lives will continue and actually worsen, as long as there are parties and politics serving the interests of plutocracy. As long as capitalist profit determines the lives of the workers, as long as profit defines the wages, the employment relations, workers’ environment, education and health, this loss of lives will continue.

On the issue of asbestos, we would like to point out that the protection of the health and life of workers and of the population in general against the dangers related to exposure to asbestos, including silicosis, must be one of the priorities of the trade unions, of the employers’organizations and of public authorities. It has been established both scientifically and practically that all forms of asbestos, are human carcinogens which represent a lethal danger and a major burden for public health and the environment. According to ILO an estimated over 100,000 people,-workers, relatives, civilians– die every year of diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. The number of victims is likely to rise because of the continuing use of asbestos and due to the dangers connected with the rehabilitation work on the buildings constructed during the 60s, 70s and 80s, when huge quantities of asbestos-based materials were used.

Because of the economic crisis, we also have many instances of silicosis in workers, especially in quarries but also in factories in Europe. It is a problem both in extracting stone and working with it given the powder that is being produced. Cutting the stone create a big problem as there is powder in the atmosphere and the workers inhale it and then during the transformation of the stone, they inhale it again and proper health and safety measures, such as masks, are not taken. So, we demand that the governments and employers take all necessary measures to protect the health and safety of workers.

We propose:

The active pursuit of establishing Collective Agreements in our sectors,which will specifically address health and safety issues in the workplace. These measures should aim at protecting workers’ health and safety and they are:Shorter working times, increased wages, longer annual leave, exclusively state-funded and compulsory social insurance scheme, retirement at an earlier age and abolishment of “flexible” forms of employment.

Moreover, we propose the creation of a state body of doctors and safety technicians, as part of an exclusively public and free health and welfare care system. As most accidents at work occur in the construction industry, we demand that in both in our collective agreements and labor legislation in each country, there should be a precondition that for anyone to be able to work in the industry, he/she through training should acquire basic knowledge on matters related to Health and Safety on construction sites and hold a relevant certificate that testifies the completion of the training.

All working people who work, or will work in the industry, must hold the relevant professional certificate to be eligible to work in the construction industry. A basic prerequisite for an employee to be able to hold the Professional Qualification Standard in the country of destination should be a very basic knowledge of the language of the country, for safety reasons and for their own protection, and not to be excluded from the workplace.

On the issue of asbestos, we demand governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations in Europe, take immediate measures aiming at prohibiting as quickly as possible the excavation, the production, the recycling and the use of all forms of asbestos as well as of products containing asbestos. We also demand that governments, multinationals and employers in general, make the protection of workers and of the population against exposure to asbestos a priority. They must all ratify and implement the provision of the ILO Convention 162 (1986),“Safety in the use of Asbestos”, to apply the provisions of the Recommendation 172 as a minimum level. Moreover, they need to guarantee victims and the relatives of victims of asbestos-related diseases adequate health care, early retirement and a compensation corresponding to the level of prejudice.Countries in Europe must draw up national action plans to manage, control and eliminate asbestos from the labour and social spheres. We call upon national and international trade union organizations to actively promote a global ban on asbestos in all its forms in the construction industry and to promote legally binding regulations on asbestos-related work in the fields of demolition, conversion,renovation and maintenance.

  • UITBB stands
    against all imperialist wars and favours peace

Monopoly capitalism is at its highest stage, imperialism and the deep and long capitalist crisis has led to a sharpening of endo-imperialist antitheses and antagonisms. The only solution for increasing their profits when Imperialist powers do not get along, is by waging a war. This fact is not defined by anyone, nor can it be controlled by us because it stems from the nature of the capitalist system itself. We need to expect the fact that from the moment one war ends, it will not be long since a new one starts. Europe is extremely interesting to capitalist monopolies and imperialist powers because on the one hand, it has a plethora of raw materials and hydrocarbons and on the other hand, it is a geopolitically and geostrategically important point on the world map.

For the Workers’ Movement, it should be clear that, regardless of pretenses and form, all wars being waged are imperialist ones, guided as they are by the bourgeois classes of the various countries, and they aim at securing and maximizing the profits of the imperialist powers which antagonize each other.We would like to underline once more, that the true causes of these wars are the endo-imperialist antagonisms created when the imperialists disagree on howto share their profits. The consequences on the people are of course horrible,as it is them who give their lives in the war’s other decide for them, it is them who lose their jobs, their livelihoods, they become even poorer and so on.The issue put forward pertaining to the workers’ movement in every country, is to work specifically and relentlessly, so that the tricks used by imperialists can be revealed to the workers. This is not an easy task by a long shot, but it is a very important one which we need to upgrade.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for the masses to understand all of these new forms of war and react accordingly. People see the militarization of their personal lives, with the presence of the army and the police everywhere,without reacting. On the contrary, at the present stage, they feel secure because of the enforcement measures taken by the bourgeois governments. Jihadism and the various terrorist networks, creations of the Imperialists, are used as pretenses for immediate interventions in various countries, as well as tools that will be used as a reason by the bourgeois governments now and in the future, to suppress any mobilizations by the workers against their interests.

Lastly, we underline that, in order for the peoples to truly have their independence and participate in the decision-making processes we, as trade unions, need to highlight our path for the future, so through our struggles for defending our lives, the true character of the mechanisms of the capital, the European Union and NATO can be revealed. These forces have a plan in place, which is to manipulate the workers so that the interests of the capital can be served. The workers can only have positive results in the struggle, fighting under the banner of their own interests. Thus, they should develop solidarity among themselves by joining forces so that they can be led to achieve the common goals.

We propose:

A more consistent participation in all the anti-war activities organized by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and more intensified actions against imperialist interventions in the European region (Ukraine etc.). We must also prepare the workers ideologically and politically, for the stance the Workers’ Movement should have before, during and after each imperialist war.Thus, the working class should be prepared both on a local and on an international level to deal with such issues. Our ideological and political background, our organizational state and our international solidarity, should be on the highest possible levels, so that, given the right circumstances, to be able to take matters into our own hands and guide the workers to salvation and the creation of a new society.

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