Speech by Michalis Papanikolaou, UITBB General Secretary, at FTCCP Peru’s 27th National Congress
Lima, Peru, 12-15 June 2019
Michalis Papanikolaou, UITBB General Secretary
On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Trades Union International of Workers in the Building, Wood, Building Materials and Allied Industries UITBB, and its millions of members, I convey our warm, comradely greetings to the FTCCP and the Peruvian people and I wish every success to your 27th National Congress.
I would like to extent UITBB’s gratitude to FTCCP for the warm hospitality they have provided us during our stay in their country, which goes on to express the deep relation that exists for many years now, between FTCCP and UITBB.
Representing UITBB at FTCCP’s 27th National Congress is an honour, and, given this opportunity, I would like to briefly mention a few things about our organization and its action. UITBB is one of the most historic, progressive trade union organisations in the world, representing millions of workers in the construction sector. It was founded in Milan, Italy in 1949 and in its 70-year history it has always followed a class-based approach to the problems the workers are facing.
UITBB’s latest Congress was organized in Uruguay in April 2015 and since then, it has embarked on a course of restructuring. Despite the difficulties we are facing, is operating in a satisfactory way, contributing responsibly, to achieving our common goals. Towards that end, UITBB organizes solidarity campaigns for various issues, seminars, shares its accumulated experience with other organisations, intervenes in various ways in global issues, and drafts resolutions on issues which have to do with the workers’ interests and so on, always keeping our class-based ideology in mind. Our presence here, today, in this faraway place, underlines our commitment to coordinate our issues on an international level, always for the benefit of the workers, as their problems and their enemies are common. UITBB’s collective bodies, the Secretariat and the Executive Committee, meet regularly and our international actions are coordinated. A lot more can and will be done, but we are satisfied with the progress so far, and we are certain that the basis that has been formed, will help the further strengthening of UITBB’s positions among the workers in the sectors we represent.
At the same time, in the communications sector, we maintain our own webpage in 3 languages (French, Spanish and English) which is updated almost daily with content both from UITBB’s action and its affiliated members around the world, while we also issue a newsletter 4 times a year which reaches all of UITBB’s members and friends, in the same languages.
UITBB is of course a long-standing member of WFTU and participates in all actions organized by it, while contributing at the same time with all our strength to the achieving of the progressive, class-based goals of the union. A basic element that characterizes our organization is the class-based unity that exists, both at the level of the members as well as at the level of the leadership, a trade that FTCCP shares, which is what unites us. We are proud to have FTCCP as one of our affiliated members, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship.
Inequalities around the world continue to exist and, unfortunately, on a daily basis, the chasm is deepened between the few that represent the capital and the many who are the workers. This will continue to exist in the world, so long as capitalism continues to be the dominant economical system in the world, because it is through the very nature of capitalism, that this great injustice is realised.
The area you live in 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. 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.
Decades of fascist coups d’état, which caused a heavy blood toll on the peoples of Latin America, were followed a set of neoliberal governments that pursued policies, which aggravated the inequality gap between rich and poor. In the recent period, some Latin American countries witnessed progress thanks to progressive governments. This created a new political scenario in the region. Among these countries are, just to name a few, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, to a lesser extent Chile and to some extent Uruguay and Paraguay. As far as Central America is concerned, we should mention progress in Nicaragua and the reaffirmation of the Socialist Revolution in heroic Cuba. These processes had to face the quick anti-revolutionary response by the imperialist right wing in the midst of an economic and structural crisis of capitalism. Such frontal attack against these processes generated difficulties in some countries.
As an example, we need to mention the continuous attacks against the Bolivarian revolution of Venezuela. The fall in oil prices and the food shortages generated by the offensive of the right wing forces resulted in chaos in the country, which the capitalists are taking advantage of. The imperialist interventions are in full swing in the country, where a coup d’ etat is being organized against the democratically elected President, Nicolas Maduro. The main goal of these interventions is the hegemony of the various imperialist centers in different areas of the planet and the re-division of the world. We express our solidarity and full support, and we convey our militant greetings to the comrades in Venezuela, with the message that peoples who are united, can never be defeated.
In Peru, you have had your share of political corruption, with important political leaders being impeached for briberies, all of them being representatives of the neoliberal Right, as the huge Brazilian Construction Company Odebrecht admitted of paying over 800 million dollars to Latin American political leaders. This is a situation FTCCP was warning against as early as 2016, by naming candidates like Keiko Fujimori, Alan Garcia, Pedro Pablo Kuczinski and Alfredo Barnechea, who sought to control the destiny of Peru and was calling to fight them. You were right comrades in your estimation. Today, the neoliberal Martín Vizcarra continues in the footsteps of his predecessors.
Moreover, this period of political turmoil, has unfortunately led to the assassination of Trade Unions leaders of the FTCCP and the CGTP, which brings to mind the case of Pedro Huilca Tecse. The relationship between UITBB and FTCCP is one which is bound in blood comrades. We must never forget Pedro Huilca Tecse, Vice President of UITBB and a leading figure of FTCCP and CGTP, who was cowardly assassinated in 1992 outside his house in the presence of his children by Fujimori’s gunmen. We are guided by his struggles and he will always be in our hearts.
Michalis Papanikolaou, UITBB General Secretary, and Pedro Milheiro, UITBB Secretariat Member
UITBB has stood side by side with you in your rallies in defense of the National Specification Claims by the industry; for life and peace and against violence and assassinations of Trade Unions leaders of the FTCCP and the CGTP, for Public Safety nationwide. All of the Peruvian governments in the last 25 years have only been concerned about the growth and economic privilege of the big multinational companies and faithfully obey the commands of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Little to nothing has been done concerning fundamental labor rights, especially those concerning the freedom of the Trade Union Movement, such as Collective Bargaining, the right of association, the right to a decent and stable job.
Apart from the General Secretary of UITBB, I am also the General Secretary of the Cyprus Building, Wood, Mine and General Workers Trade Union PEO. The situation in my country and Europe in general is no different than what the workers are facing here as the problems the workers are facing around the world are common. In order to maximize their profits, the employers and the capital pay no respect to health and safety in the workplace, they promote uninsured work, private contracts, they decrease salaries, and they do not pay social insurances, pensions and other benefits to the workers who pay this negligence in blood.
The insecurity of the labour market and the important adjustment of the salaries in the recent years, contributed to the rise of income inequalities. This inequality is rapidly advancing lately and is still a cause of worry. The worsening of the working conditions during the crisis, especially since the unwillingly temporary and part time employment rose and the salaries were decreased, seems to be the main reason for the increase in inequalities.
This image, which has to do with the situation in the labour market, complements the shrinking of the social state, the dramatic degradation of the living conditions of the pensioners with low income, the cuts in social programs and development budgets, and makes clear who has really paid and is still paying the bill for the crisis. The fear and insecurities of the workers facing unemployment and deprivation, the free movement of workers and the provocative, cheap labour exploitation from the employers and generally the neo-liberal, regulatory framework of the EU, have sped up the process of deregulating labour relations and have undermined the right to unionise and collectively bargain and implementing the results.
Michalis Papanikolaou, UITBB General Secretary, and Daniel Diveiro, UITBB Secretariat Member
The way we must act is first of all to really make the workers understand the importance of class-based struggles, which must be at the forefront of our daily actions. At the same time, in order to keep, and to further promote hope among the workers, we must, in our daily, organized struggles, keep talking to them even more intensely about a more humane society in the future. A society without exploitation of humans by humans, a society without wars, without hunger, one that affords equal opportunities to all, a society that respects the environment: a socialist society. On the ground, we must push for collective bargaining and Collective Agreements that will strengthen the bargaining power of the workers. What we must strive for is the implementation of the labour legislation, stop undeclared and illegal employment and control the equality in treatment among workers, especially of the vulnerable groups such as immigrants.
So it is amidst such difficult conditions, around the world, that we meet today, here. We should take advantage of such meetings, as we are given the chance to organise internationally, to exchange experiences, to come to useful conclusions and to practically apply them, always within our capabilities. In doing that, we should always keep into mind our common goals: The organized struggles that exercise pressure on local governments and the creation of alliances with political parties, in order to participate in the making of decisions that affect our lives, as well as the utilization of international organisations for the benefit of the workers. We must always keep in mind that we are united by our ideological and class-based approach, that the struggles are common for all workers and that our ultimate goal is the improvement of the living and working conditions for the workers and their families.
Our experience is that when workers are united, when we all strive for our common goals with pure ideology in our minds, then we always emerge victoriously. International solidarity, unity and cooperation among workers on a global and European level, are necessary, then, to effectively resist the imperialist plans and the anti-labour policies of the dominant economic and political class. For the workers movement, especially in today’s conditions, unity, solidarity and camaraderie are our most decisive weapons.
It is for these reasons that the FTCCP 27th National Congress is of great importance. The efforts of our class-based movement for workers around the world, should be coordinated and continue aiming at the unravelling of these inhumane politics, which are promoted by the dominant circles, exclusively for increasing their influence and capitals.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that we are all part of WFTU, whose importance, given today’s global conditions, is greatly enhanced due to the aggressiveness the world capital exhibits not only against the rights and the interests of the working class, but also against fundamental principles that have to do with the future of humanity in general. Through the daily action of all of us who make up the great family of WFTU, our aim must be to move steadily forward in building an organization which will have continuity in the future.
I would like, on behalf of UITBB, to underline our most recent decision, to pay attention to an even greater extent, to Latin America. We believe that this direction is very important, and will help in to a great extent, in order for us to be able to promote in an even more specialized way the problems the workers per sector are facing, it will strengthen our unity and solidarity and it will also underline even more the difference in approach of the various issues the workers are facing, between the class-based trade union movement and the reformist trade union movement. To that end, WFTU is organizing a series of actions in Latin America:
- The Latin American Regional Office Meeting in July
- The WFTU Internationalist meeting, on 8 July, in Ecuador
- An initiative in Buenos Aires, Argentina
which I call on all of you to support.
In my intervention on behalf of UITBB, I would also like to stress the following:
Capitalism is going through its final and highest stage – the Imperialist stage. It is expected that, also given the deep and prolonged systemic crisis, for the regional and local wars to be increased, without excluding the possibility of an Imperialist World War due to the climaxing of the antitheses among the most powerful countries on the planet and their allies.
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. Moreover, the strengthening of the daily struggles of the workers for their rights, should be accompanied by the reinforcement of the struggles to overthrow the unfair, capitalist, exploitation system which is the true cause of the wars, with all its negative consequences for the workers.
The only progressive war that can be waged in the future is the one that will be used by the working class, in order to build a new, global, socialist society. When this goal is achieved, then we will witness the true end of wars and the prevalence of World Peace.
Because the working class should keep a common, class-based line in all countries, UITBB pledges that it will continue its organized efforts towards this goal, dedicating all of its available power, aiming to fight nationalism, chauvinism, and to develop solidarity with refugees, immigrants and all the peoples of the world alike.
I would like to finish by underlining our optimism that at the end of the day, our struggles will be justified, as long as we continue with the same faith and unity, to follow the path of class-based struggle. With patience and persistence, we should keep trying, on a daily basis, to change the world, moving always forward, while remaining steady and without any kind of doubts, faithful to our ideology.
Long Live FTCCP’s 27th Congress!
Long Live CGTP!
Long Live International Solidarity!