BUILDING THE FUTURE
16th Conference of the UITBB
Montevideo, Uruguay, 15 – 17 April 2015
UITBB’s 16th Conference convenes amidst an extremely difficult time for the workers of the world as global capitalist crisis is rampant.
UITBB, in its 66 years of history and action, struggles within these 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.
We face 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.
It is with these thoughts that we move towards our 16th Conference. In a spirit of class-based unity we should apply the decisions to be made following a fruitful discussion, in order to move forward with the firm belief that we can achieve our goals.
- The socio-economic conditions
The global economic crisis, which is a structural crisis of the capitalist system, is tormenting the planet. The effects of this crisis are dramatic for the peoples of the world. They sharpen the socio-economic contradiction between territories and states, but more importantly among people.
Capitalism pushes production to the extreme and at the same time it concentrates the wealth produced by society in the hands of a few multinational companies. This has always been the deeper cause of the economic crises and the basic contradiction of capitalism.
Capital is responsible for the crisis within the unjust economic system, which it has created. Yet, it does not assume any responsibility; on the contrary, it attacks vested rights of the workers, attempting even within such conditions, to increase its profits.
The main ally of capital in this effort are the bourgeois governments which, with their austerity policies, put an increasingly heavier burden on the shoulders of the workers, pushing them deeper and deeper into unemployment and poverty.
The proponents of capitalism, who keep talking about the end of history and the end of class-based struggle, are spectacularly contradicted by the reality: workers realise even more that hope for the future exists only in class-based struggle.
These forms of capitalist development are applied in the European Union in their most violent expression, especially in the countries, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the “Troika”.
The capitalist crisis leads to an acute competition between imperialist centres and new peripheral powers, aiming at dominating the global market, with a special preference for the energy sector. At the same time, it leads to a realignment of the structure of imperialism, forges new alliances and causes local wars.
The continued militarisation of the planet, the flagrant violation of human rights, the manipulation and in certain cases the substitution of the UN by UK, USA and NATO are also consequences of the aforementioned developments, caused by the inhumane nature of the capitalist system.
In Latin America, US imperialist interventions meet today with vigorous resistance from most of the countries in the region.
However, the danger of a setback either because of a coup d’état or a war of attrition against progressive governments, remains.
The results of the elections in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Nicaragua, created hope that American hegemony in the region can be avoided, provided that the left, anti-imperialist governments, which are supported by communist and workers parties, keep working for the benefit of the peoples of the region.
Cuba is a great example inspiring the people of the region: despite great adversities, such as the aggressiveness of imperialism, it defends Socialist restructuring.
At the same time the USA, in a show of aggressive spirit, expands its network of military bases around the world and continues creating the anti-missile shield. In Eastern Europe, NATO’s military exercises have grown exponentially and are centred in the Baltic region, aiming at a permanent NATO presence in the region. The pro-western coup d’état in Ukraine, which was backed by the USA and the EU and in which neo-Nazi forces participated, is also part of these plans.
NATO’s expansion to the East, the American-bred plan for a New Middle East and the move of the USA towards Southeast Asia and the Pacific region reveal, according to President Obama, the intentions of the imperialist centres.
Religious extremism, nationalism, chauvinism, fascism and the provocation by ideologies, which propagate a clash between cultures, are all tools to manipulate the masses with aim of making them participate in or consent to imperialist schemes, as well as to repress any political response from the people.
Fascism is on the rise, as extremely racist organisations hide the true causes of exploitation and of the crisis under a so-called opposition of the capitalist system. But they cannot hide the fact that they are always supported by the established order which, as much as it might seem to oppose fascism, will use it to serve its own interests, as it does in Ukraine.
The centres of supranational power attempt to equalise fascism with communism, in an effort to divert the people – especially youth – from the socialist perspective, which is the force that can organise and direct the struggles.
The global capitalist crisis brings to the forefront the ideals of socialism and the need for building a society without exploitation, a society of prosperity and justice.
It is against this background that we hold our Conference and we are sure that, with the decisions that will be made and the experience which we have acquired over time, we will be able to forge our class-based unity and move forward, towards a future of hope for the workers.
- Overview of the situation in the Construction Industry
The construction industry is one of the most important sectors of the world economy. It plays a vital role in the socioeconomic development of every country, through the construction of infrastructure and other important development works.
However, because of the global capitalist crisis, the construction sector is unprecedentedly shrinking. In some countries the building industry has lost up to 50 % of its volumes. So who is paying the price for this regression?
Thousands of builders and other workers in allied trades are condemned to long-term unemployment, often without even an elementary level of protection. What is more worrying is that this situation will continue in the future, with even more severe consequences for the workers.
This is exactly why we should keep underlining that what is needed is organised resistance to this attack of the capital against workers’ rights, as well as a clear definition of the necessary steps to eradicate the causes of this attack.
If this blunt attack against the workers in our industries and the attempt to place all of the burden of the crisis on the workers remains unanswered by the class-oriented organised workers’ movement, it will lead to even more tragic consequences.
As our Conference convenes, the situation for workers in the building industry and allied trades has deteriorated to a great extent. Specifically, these are the biggest problems of the sector:
Unemployment is the single biggest problem that workers in the construction industry are facing all over the world. Indeed, this problem has turned into a kind of globalised threat, as millions of our colleagues remain unemployed for many years and confronted to harsh social consequences.
According to the latest data of the ILO (International Labour Organisation), global unemployment is at its highest level. 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, the European Union, the Arab World and, to a lesser extent, Asia.
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.
B. Workers’ Health and Safety
The evidence from a number of developed countries shows that the possibility of fatal accidents for workers in the building sector is 3 to 4 times bigger than in any other sector. The fatal accidents majority is attributed to either falling or being struck by a vehicle. 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 developing countries, the risks and hazards in the building sector are 3 to 6 times higher as compared to developed countries. It is, however, difficult to get reliable data due to the under-registration of workers (uninsured workers etc.) as well as due to an incomplete record of work-related accidents.
According to estimations by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there were approximately 60000 fatal accidents (17% of the total number of fatal accidents) since 2001, even though the sector only employs 5-10% of the total number of workers. Moreover, it is reported that there were more than 45000 non-fatal labour accidents. In other words, there is 1 fatal labour accident every 10 minutes and more than 1 non-fatal labour accident every second.
In the European Union, the sector is considered to be the most dangerous one with over 1000 fatal labour accidents a year. According to Eurostat data, in the EU in 2009, more than 1 out of 4 fatal labour accidents (26.1%) were recorded in the building industry.
In the USA, in 2013, out of 3929 fatal labour accidents, 796 (20.3%) happened in construction.
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. Every year, the construction sector pays in dozens of lives, in hundreds of crippled people, the profits of construction companies, the profits of the housing developers. This is price which workers in this industry paiy in this period of capitalist crisis.
It is clear that, the more capital gains are multiplied, the less people return safely home, if they do so at all. 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. These factors determine the politics of governments which alternate in power, the politics which are solely responsible for the crimes committed in the workplace and which encourage the unpunished employers to bleed out day after day the sector and the workers, in the name of more profit.
We need to reveal the true scope of the health and safety problems for workers. We must explain the root causes of the “premature wear of the labour force”, the basic factors which produce these problems, so as to corroborate the realism and necessity of our proposals.
When we talk about a labour accident, the first thing that comes to mind is that an accident due to inefficient protective measures might be fatal or near-fatal. But the conditions and the terms of employment can also lead to work-related diseases as well as to a premature detriment of health. This is a huge issue; it embraces all those elements dealing with the conditions at work, occupational hazards, working hours, living conditions, leisure time, resting time, nutrition etc.
A worker in the construction industry, regardless of whether he or she was involved in an accident or not, has not escaped the greed of the capital. For example, workers in tunnels might never suffer a serious accident, but they risk respiratory diseases due to humidity, low quality air and low levels of oxygen. The same applies to material-related diseases, such as pneumoconiosis, asbestosis and mesothelioma due to the exposure to asbestos, allergic reactions, tar cancer, asbestos cement, oil, thinners, colours and dust. Deafness from the high decibel of machines and explosions, often with forbidden explosives is also a hazard, as are arthritis and vasomotor problems from the use of vibrating power tools. Other illnesses might include musculoskeletal disorders due to lifting of heavy loads, tuberculosis, tetanus and other diseases related to mice and insects. High temperatures in the summer and low ones in winter, humidity, lack of hygiene etc. can also lead to serious health issues such as skin cancer. Lastly, the intensification of labour and overtime can lead to stress, which also burdens health.
Despite all that, in many countries none of the aforementioned conditions are recognised and registered as occupational or labour-related hazards. This is partly due to the lack of inspections by state mechanisms as far as the implementation of Occupational Health and Safety regulations is concerned, to the extremely low fines for employers and the attempt in the majority of the cases (i.e. following a labour accident) to shift responsibility to the workers, the safety technicians, the engineers, etc.
In this way, the majority of the employers get away with small fines or even without any sort of punishment, even when there a fatal accident happens. Employers do not have to pay for these diseases since they are not recognised and not registered as occupational but as “common diseases”.
Employers do not suffer any consequences from the fact that they do not take any measures to prevent these diseases, even though there are many techniques and measures that can be applied. On the contrary, when workers fall ill, they have to pay their own hospital fees through insurance funds within the commoditised system of health care. If we add to all that the precarious living conditions of workers due to poverty and unemployment, we can conclude that the labour force is in a constant state of harm, being continuously exploited by the capital.
Our scientifically-based proposal, which is also the proposal of the class-based trade union movement, includes a combination of measures aiming to protect workers’ health and safety: 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 improvement of living and working conditions, the creation of a state body of doctors and safety technicians, which are part of an exclusively public and free health and welfare care system.
Generally speaking, the protection of workers’ health and safety in the building sector, requires the struggle for the election and responsible functioning of health and safety committees at every work site, the certainty that the professional hazards’ insurance has to be paid by the employers, and that is should be proportional to the working conditions and to the required efficiency of health and safety measures, within the framework of an exclusively public social insurance system.
As much as it might sound macabre, the life of the working class is a cost for capital, which does not care if the worker’s life worsens or shortens because of his or her living and working conditions. For capital, the army of unemployed is a cheap labour reservoir, which will be used in the same way.
Therefore, the comprehensive approach that addresses the problem in its entirety is this: « wear of the work force ». These few words include an entire class-based arsenal, which needs to be used in the sector. Through such actions the builder and his or her family, as well as other workers in the sector, can really comprehend the need for an alternative way of economic development, one that respects human values and satisfies modern popular needs. Workers will then fight to achieve this goal and create the conditions within the daily struggle to overthrow capitalist barbarity and to improve their lives.
- For a global ban on asbestos
For the last 2 decades the UITBB has been actively involved in national, regional and international activities to promote a global ban on the production, use and distribution of asbestos. It has organized various seminars, campaigns and other activities to inform and educate about the lethal danger of the “silent killer” asbestos, to denounce the countries and companies, in particular in the Western countries, which continue to produce and sell this material to poorer countries.
It this connection it is important to mention the participation of the UITBB in and contribution to the major International Conference on Asbestos jointly organized by the WFTU and the UITBB on 30 October 2013 in Athens.
Asbestos continues to affect the health and safety of workers not only in the construction industry (where this material has been used extensively), but in the society as a whole, since it is still largely present in many buildings and infrastructures and continues to be actively used in new constructions in many countries.
In a number of developing countries asbestos continues to be extracted and used because of its low cost and lack of affordable alternatives. Big capitalist corporations and wealthy capitalist countries continue to produce and export to poorer countries this lethal material making millions of profit from this deadly trade.
It has been known and proven for decades that asbestos causes a number of malignancies and diseases leading to death, such as bronchial cancer, asbestosis, pleural mesothelioma and other health problems. The diseases caused by asbestos often do not appear immediately after exposure to asbestos, but many years later, often when workers who have been in contact with asbestos are approaching pension age.
Some asbestos using countries still hold the opinion that controlled use of asbestos is possible, or that some forms of asbestos are less harmful, despite the fact that there is evident proof, that there is no harmless use of asbestos and that measures to limit its impact have proven inadequate.
According to the World Health Organization, about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace and more than 100 000 deaths each year are attributable to asbestos related diseases (mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, etc.).
The UITBB and its parent organization the WFTU are of the firm view that all forms of asbestos, including so-called white asbestos (chrysotile) represent a deadly danger for workers and populations and therefore they act for a total ban on asbestos.
The production and use of asbestos and other hazardous materials must be seen in the context of the deepening global crisis of capitalism, when the exploitation of workers increases at the expense of health and safety of workers and the entire population. Public preventive health care, occupational health care and health services in general see their funds shrinking and public health systems in all capitalist countries of the world are being privatized or degraded significantly. Capitalist governments implement a series of measures that transform health from a public good into an expensive commodity from which the capital and multinationals gain multimillion profits. This deprives large masses of workers and poor people from the right to health and social services.
In view of the gravity of the situation and of the level of threat posed by the continued use of asbestos, considering the existing difficulties in poorer countries and the exploitative and imperialist position of big corporations and of governments which support them, the UITBB continues to put forward the following demands:
- Give priority to safer alternatives and implement an orderly transition to these alternatives. Workers and the community must be protected from exposure to fibres during the transitional period.
- Establish a diagnostic regime so that victims can be correctly diagnosed and receive timely medical treatment and rehabilitation.
- Make financial restitution to victims of asbestos related illnesses by paying equitable compensation.
- Hold companies involved in the transfer of asbestos production to newly industrialising countries criminally liable in the country of origin and country of operation.
- Ratify the ILO convention 162 and work towards developing National Programmes for Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases (NPEAD) in a timely manner.
- Act at all levels, at national, regional and international fora, in particular at the ILO and WHO for the implementation of a global ban on asbestos.
The UITBB stands for a public, high quality, freely accessible health-care system, for public and free social security. Protecting workers’ health against occupational hazards and risks of materials such as asbestos, acting for workers well-being is a demand, which is an integral part of the class struggle of workers and their unions against the capitalist exploitation.
- On Immigration and Immigrants
From the very beginning of the migrations flows, we clearly defined our class-based position on the matter. We clashed with racist beliefs and we fought for immigrant rights, in order to stop their exploitation by the employers. We have fought and we are still fighting, in order for immigrants to join the trade union movement and participate in the struggles.
However, what was done yesterday is not enough in today’s environment, as the capital has launched a full-scale assault on the life of the working class. Today, it is more imperative than ever to work consistently, with a plan in mind.
It is necessary to repeat two things here:
- The working class is one, regardless of colour, religion, language or place of origin.
- 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. Documents cannot stop the exploitation of workers, both locals and immigrants, by capital.
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 DUBLIN 2, is being used by employers to acquire cheaper labour force as leverage to reduce the salaries of local workers.
So the cause of the exploitation is the criminal actions of capital, expressed in wars and even in stealing the wealth of entire countries, which deepen the contradictions of capital and labour and helps increasing the immigration flow.
It is obvious that we cannot talk about developments in our organisations’ 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. Within such solutions, all relevant immigrant problems such as legal status, teaching of their language, culture and history in schools etc., can also be solved.
Our duty is to mobilise immigrants aiming at their participation in all aspects of the class-based movement. We will face a serious problem if we do not change the ideas many immigrants have, of working for a short period of time and then leaving, which makes them only worry about getting paid their day labour, without discussing the level of their payment, the number of hours they have to work, or issues such as insurance, pension etc.
We have the ability to pay special attention to second generation immigrants. Thousands of young people, born and raised in the host countries, work in our sectors or study in primary, secondary or tertiary education. All these people, along with our own, will be the working class’ shift of tomorrow and they will be the unemployed of tomorrow; they are the ones who will have to endure the flexible forms of employment and face the insecurity of not receiving a pension. It is precisely for them that we must establish a plan and move forward step by step.
It would not be a hyperbole to state that such work can be the oxygen for our organisations, as it will decide many things in the future. We should not forget that there are other forces – trade union or political – which interfere in order to serve the interests of the employers. These are forces which openly cultivate racism and nationalism, especially when unemployment is rampant, which makes their audience significantly larger.
All these factors function towards the framing of the immigrants for the acute problems of the working class, so as to cover up the true cause, which is capitalism. They all want a divided working class, without unity, which is an easy prey in the hands of capital.
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.
Closing this chapter, we feel the need to repeat Marx’s ever-relevant saying about African-American slaves:
“White workers will never achieve freedom, as long as there are black slaves”.
- FOR EQUALITY
To move towards a new society is essential to struggle energetically and intransigently against all forms of discrimination and prejudice. In particular, the class based trade union movement has the task to put greater emphasis on the struggle for equality in the labour market, which is deeply marked by the double discrimination against women, people of colour, young and sexual minorities. Equal pay for equal work should be our flag. Discrimination is used by employers to raise the rate of exploitation of the working class. Yet it has to be said that the problem is much wider, it has its peculiarities and it does not limit itself to relations between capital and labour. Discrimination is related to the history of the formation of human society (patriarchal and slavery), it still is present even in the trade union movement and therefore it needs to be fought tackled inside the movement.
Women, people of colour and young people make up the contingent of the working population, which is most subject to unemployment, low wages, insecurity, violence. Female labour is given a subordinate place in the social division of labour: double shifts, precarious and poorly remunerated jobs, as is the case for women workers in construction. Persons of colour, men and women alike, suffer even more. In addition to the prejudices and hateful cultural discrimination of which they are victims, they earn far less than white men and women performing the same functions. According to ILO, the average unemployment rate among young people is 44.7%, and more than 50% of young employees receive up to two minimum wages in their countries.
Clearly, the capital draws huge profits from discrimination and uses discrimination as a divisive factor among the exploited. In Europe, the capitalists and right wing forces seek to blame immigrants for the crisis, spreading intolerance and xenophobia, the ingredients of neo-fascism. The emancipation of the working class in the world will not be complete without the emancipation of women and people of colour, without the rescue of the young and the end of intolerance, discrimination and prejudice. The unions should spare no effort to involve and represent this large contingent of the working class in the struggle, creating secretariats and specific departments and carrying out recurring campaigns against discrimination, for equality and the enhancement of women, of people of colour, of the young and sexual minorities.
In this sense, we want to reaffirm the resolution on the gender issues adopted at the 15th Conference of the UITBB and urge women to join the leading bodies of the UITBB.
- Our actions since the last Conference
In this review period from our last Conference, we have developed a satisfactory level of actions, considering the difficulties we faced. Some of the actions include the organisation of regional meetings for coordination on labour issues, the establishment of Action Days, the organisation of educational seminars, the participation in WFTU’s Action Day and in the meetings of WFTU’s presidential council as well as other events, the participation in FLEMACON’s meetings (regional UITBB organisation in Latin America), the participation in ILO’s meetings, the sending of support messages to various organisations in our industry during labour struggles, the issuing of resolutions supporting independence struggles in various regions of the world as well as resolutions condemning interventional wars and the use of nuclear power, and the participation in the events for the 1st of May in Havana, Cuba.
Our actions as per sector were as follows:
- Regional Meetings
- Douala, Cameroon: 12-13 July 2011
A regional meeting in Douala, Cameroon was organised jointly with ILO’s educational seminar, with the participation of African organisations. UITBB was represented by its General Secretary and the Administrative Secretary Rino Gelmi. Comrade Valentin Pacho, Deputy General Secretary, represented WFTU.
- Damascus, Syria, 20-22 January 2012
UITBB, in cooperation with the Builders Federation of Syria, organised a seminar on the developments in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and their effects on the building sector.
- Toga, 15-17 May 2012
UITBB Administrative Secretary Rino Gelmi represented the organisation in this educational seminar for women, where 20 women trade unionists from Africa and 5 from other regions of the world participated.
- Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15-19 September 2012
- Hanoi, Vietnam, 7-9 October 2014
In UITBB’s 8th and 9th regional meetings for Asia Pacific in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Hanoi, Vietnam, the General Secretary participated and the issues discussed included:
- a) Immigrant workers,
- b) Health and Safety,
- c) Gender equality,
The Dhaka declaration was sent to ILO.
- Copenhagen, Denmark, 20-21 September 2014
The 4th European regional meeting of UITBB saw the participation of comrade Michalis Papanikolaou, Pedro Milheiro and Yiannis Tasioulas, members of the Secretariat, as well the attendance by various European organisations in the sector. In the meeting, a specific document was agreed upon which contained the major problems faced by workers in Europe and suggestions were made on how the organisations could act towards solving them.
- Establishment of and participation in labour-related Actions Days
- Action Day from Latin America UITBB members, for solidarity to the building Federation of Peru in their struggle for collective bargaining.
- Participation in WFTU’s Action Day on 3 October in 2011, 2012, 2013.
- UITBB’s Action Day on 27 June 2011 and 2012.
- Educational Seminars
– Sri-Lanka, 6-7 October 2012: Asia Pacific Seminar
– Belgium, Brussels, 12-14 May 2013: International seminar for economic migrants.
– Havana, 28-29 April 2011: Educational seminar organised by FLEMACON for Latin American trade unionists.
– Togo, 15-17 May 2012: Educational seminar for African women trade unionists.
– Athens, 30 October 2013: Asbestos seminar organised by WFTU in Athens.
– Vietnam, 23-27 July 2014: Seminar for working women in Vietnam.
- Representation in National Organisations’ Conventions
– Peru, 23 June 2011: Convention of Building Federation of Peru.
– Australia, 13-15 September 2011: CFMEU Convention.
– Sao Paolo 2013: Carpenters Syndicate Convention.
- Participation in WFTU’s Presidential Council and other actions
– Johannesburg, South Africa 8-10 February 2012: WFTU’s Presidential Council.
– Larnaca, Cyprus, 1-2 November 2012: WFTU’s Presidential Council.
– Lima, Peru, 7-8 March 2012: WFTU’s Presidential Council.
– Rome, Italy: WFTU’s Presidential Council.
- Participation in FLEMACON’s meetings
– Havana, 3 May 2011: FLEMACON’s meeting on restructuring its Secretariat.
– Bahia, Brazil, September 2011: FLEMACON’s Secretariat Meeting.
- ILO Sessions
– Geneva 2011: ILO’s 100th Session
– Geneva 2012: ILO’s 101st Session
- Issuing Resolutions – Support Messages
Issuing resolutions and support messages to many organisations in various countries and regions around the world such as Greece, Portugal, Galicia, Basque Country, Peru, Australia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Cameroon, Congo, Italy, Palestine, Syria, Cuba and Cyprus, etc.
- UITBB’s Bodies and Organisational Structure
Our organisational structure is the cornerstone for achieving our goals, as it significantly contributes towards the development of our global actions.
When we say organisational structure, it is important to keep in mind the way in which the bodies function as they are responsible for guiding the organisation in the period between Conferences, old and new members and their relationships with UITBB.
The various bodies include:
Α) Executive Committee
Based on our organisation’s Constitution, the Executive Committee is the 20-member body elected by our Conference. In the election of these 20 members, great care is taken to ensure that all regions of the planet and all building sectors are represented to the extent that this is possible. The Executive Committee has the responsibility, during its first meeting, to elect the President, the Vice Presidents, the General Secretary and the Secretaries of UITBB, again taking into consideration the various regions that are represented. The Vice Presidents represent and promote UITBB’s actions in various continents.
The Executive Committee must convene at least once a year to examine whether the decisions made in the Conference have been put into, as well as to evaluate and analyse the working conditions in the building Industry and the relevant sectors and, with that knowledge in hand, to promote specific actions.
The Committee approves the UITBB working plan for the next year and examines the budget. It studies the report of the financial committee and decides which new members’ affiliation applications will be placed before the next Conference for approval. The Committee is also briefed on the activities of the Secretariat.
The Executive Committee has convened two times in the review period:
- 14-17 March 2012 in Larnaca, Cyprus
- 15-16 March 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus
It is clear that there is a serious shortfall pertaining to the Constitution’s mandate for the Executive Committee to convene at least once a year.
This is a matter that UITBB new leadership should address and propose solutions. If we want to be an organisation that will play the role and assume the responsibility that the workers have assigned to us, we must be adamant on the specific issue.
We should also take great care in the preparation of the meetings of the Executive Committee, aiming to make them more productive and focussed, as this will help us achieve our goals. The new members of the Executive Committee must realise that upon their election they assume an extremely serious duty and it is their responsibility to participate in the various meetings of the body. Unfortunately, we have underperformed on this issue as well, because certain members did not attend the meetings at all, even though we only convened twice in the review period.
Based on our Constitution, the Secretariat, which consists of the President, the General Secretary and the Secretaries, is responsible for the day-to-day action of UITBB and it reports to the Executive Committee. Some of the Secretariat’s responsibilities include the implementation of the Conference decisions, the communication with the members as well as with other national and global organisations in the sectors we represent, the promotion of the publications and statements of UITBB and managing its finances. The General Secretary must lead the Secretariat’s workload on a daily basis, while he also represents UITBB in its relationships with international governmental or non-governmental bodies.
In the review period, the Secretariat has convened 5 times:
- 7-10 February 2011, Athens
- 19-21 July 2011, Lisbon
- 3-4 December 2012, Vigo
- 23 July 2013, Lisbon
- 13-14 February 2015, Vigo
Assessing the activities of the Secretariat in this review period we might say that it could have managed the facts presented to us in a better way, while it could also respond to the needs of the members in a more efficient way. We also showed weaknesses in our communication with our members and generally in strengthening the image of UITBB as an international, class-oriented organisation, acting within WFTU’s lines.
UITBB Members and their connection to the organisation
The daily communication between our members and the UITBB is not limited to a typical contact with the Secretariat through emails or over the phone. Primarily, it means that all members should implement the positions and decisions of UITBB regarding the workers, always of course respecting the local conditions, and promote the image and role of UITBB among their workers. Having a true connection with UITBB practically means that the members should promote the issues relating to our principles and the class orientation of our organisation.
If all members implement the aforementioned, the image of our international organisation as one with a clear goal and aims will be helped immensely, raising the esteem the builders hold for it even more.
New members are very significant for the present and the future of our organisation. While we should try to continuously strengthen our organisation, we should also be careful and implement certain preconditions for affiliation, as per our Constitution. We wish to have active members which respond to certain basic responsibilities and we refrain from affiliating members which do not have any connection with our industry.
- The Situation in the International Trade Union Movement
Based on our constitution, UITBB is a member of WFTU and represents those working in the sectors of construction, wood, building materials and allied trades. UITBB unites all these organisations around common goals, without discriminating on the basis of origin, gender, political or ideological beliefs, nationality or the financial and social system the workers find themselves in.
UITBB should work against capitalist, as well as any other form of exploitation and injustice, aiming at social progress, human dignity, trade union rights and democracy, for the self-determination of people and for peace.
UITBB is our closest family, through which we combine forces and support the struggles in the construction industry and the relevant sectors we represent.
WFTU is everyone’s big family, within which all sectors and all class-based organisations, which base their actions on the same values and principles, can come together.
UITBB is a major, significant part of WFTU, guided as it is by the principles and the values of the latter. Of course, UITBB coordinates with WFTU on the basis of the decisions of the latter’s ruling bodies, in which the UITBB is represented.
At the same time though, UITBB has its own identity and autonomy, especially concerning the management of the aforementioned sectors’ issues as well as its organisational and financial issues.
Given today’s challenges faced by the workers, the WFTU movement finds itself amidst new challenges and responsibilities.
Common action and further strengthening of the trade union movement is more significant than ever, in order to create a common front against the lawlessness of the new world order and the capitalist crisis.
We all firmly believe that if we safeguard the unity of our workers’ movement, if we protect and strengthen our trade unions and, more importantly, if we stay focused on our class-based struggle, we can effectively resist such efforts and create the conditions for social progress and justice.
Unfortunately, we have to point out that many important fights for the workers on a global level could have been won, if the leadership of the so-called “Free Trade Unions” and ITUC – which is their continuation – showed the necessary class-based consistency on the positions of the trade union movement.
It would definitely be our mistake to try and monopolise class consistency and disregard all other struggles, but we must point out that those who are in power in ITUC today, have accepted the theories calling for abolishing class-based struggles and, furthermore, totally accept the dominant interpretations pertaining to social dialogue, which tends to bypass and undermine the social interests of the workers, ultimately advancing the interests of the multinational companies and their dominant circles.
Both UITBB and WFTU are working for a trade union movement with a clear, class-based orientation and a will to fight. Such a movement must be creative and valid with views and propositions, but at the same time decisive and powerful, able to defend hard-won rights.
This deep capitalist crisis should be the triggering event that would allow societies to claim a new, different kind of development, one that is based on a fair distribution of labour production, social solidarity and social control over the market’s unruliness.
- For the abolition of nuclear weapons and against war
This summer will mark 70th anniversary of Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The average age of Hibakushas (survivors) is now more than 80 years, they call for No More Hibakushas.
There is overwhelming support for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the international community and public opinion around the world. The 2010 NPT Review Conference agreed by consensus, including the five nuclear weapon states, on achieving a “world without nuclear weapons,” and further agreed on making “special efforts to establish the necessary framework” to achieve it. Before the NPT Review Conference in April-May this year, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted last year a resolution to call for implementation of the 2010 NPT agreement or immediate start of negotiation on a nuclear weapon convention. Joint statements or international conferences on the humanitarian threat represented by nuclear weapons have gained stronger support and are growing. They criticize the inhuman nature of the bombs and demand the abolition of nuclear weapons.
This is the result of the struggle and actions by people who support this cause. Peace and progressive movements around the world plan to accelerate their campaign and struggles toward the NPT Review Conference in April-May in the respective countries building even more public support for the abolition. The Japanese peace movement, including the 3 UITBB Japanese affiliates, carry out the international petition campaign, which is supported by many progressive unions such as CGTP-IN and has been endorsed by UITBB Asia-Pacific Seminar in Hanoi, in October 2014. In Japan, the campaign has already collected more than 5 million signatures, and 60% of Japanese mayors signed it. UITBB supports this international petition campaign and urge affiliates to collect signatures on paper and online thus marking the 70th anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 8.
Nuclear powers and their allies have a great responsibility in achieving a nuclear free world. The nuclear deterrence policy, which they use to secure their own country, is contrary to the UN Charter that bans the use of military force or threats to settle international disputes. This policy also impedes reaching an agreement on a “world without nuclear weapons” at the NPT Review conference. We have to struggle against the deterrent policy.
Solving all conflicts and confrontations by peaceful and diplomatic means is increasingly important in realizing a world of peace without nuclear weapons. Increasing reliance on “deterrence”, including the reinforcement of military bases and military alliances, will only aggravate confrontation and tensions. We demand the withdrawal of foreign military bases and oppose the reinforcement of military alliances and Missile Defence programs.
We, construction workers, can work in peace, and contribute in building houses, hospitals, schools, buildings, railways, tunnels or airports to defend people and improve their lives in peaceful period. This is what we are proud of and this is part of the struggle of the UITBB against exploitation, unemployment, poverty and war.
- Information and Training
The task of informing and educating our members should be one of the most important responsibilities of our Organisations. Within such activities, we should be able to provide our members with the proper tools which are to be used in their daily actions, in order to promote the sector’s best interests. In the review period we organised a number of seminars, we issued our bulletin and kept our webpage up and running. More specifically we organised the following:
- FLEMACON’s seminar in cooperation with the National Organisation of Construction Workers in Cuba on 28 and 29 April 2011 in Havana.
- Educational seminar in cooperation with ILO in Duala, Cameroon, with the participation of 9 African organisations.
- Education seminar by UTIBB for African Trade Unionist women from 15-17 May 2012 in Togo.
- 8th Asia-Pacific seminar on 15 and 16 September 2012 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Issuing the bulletin is very important for our organisation because members and other allied organisations are briefed for important events on labour issues. Unfortunately during the review period, we only issued 2 copies of the bulletin in 3 languages, which constitutes a significant weakness. The new Secretariat that will be elected at the Conference must deal with this issue and come up with solutions, so that our esteemed bulletin can continue being a tool for informing, activating and constructing solidarity amongst us.
Our webpage must be upgraded in order to meet the needs of our members in a better way. It is a means that completes the work of the bulletin, which is issued thrice a year; however, members should send all the relevant information along with pictures in order to be published. UITBB’s new leadership must deal with this question as well.
UITBB Secretariat, 13 March 2015