General Secretary Jyrki Raina's address to the Founding Congress of IndustriALL Global Union.
Can I welcome you all to our wonderful, marvelous new family.
Take a second, look around at the brothers and sisters sitting next to you, sitting behind you, sitting in front of you.
Take the time now to shake their hands.
Introduce yourself to your new relatives.
Meet a new member of your union family.
We’ve got an extraordinary new family in IndustriALL.
I want you to, before you leave Copenhagen, to go and get to know each other very, very well.
Because if we’re going to work together…
As a family.
With strong bonds.
Ready to stick together.
Stand up together.
Stick together through thick and thin for our sisters and brothers…
…..wherever they live…
….. then we must get to know each other
Now there are some real heroes in our family.
Brothers and sisters who have already done extraordinary things.
Members of our family who we can really be proud to count as one of us because of the way they have fought for the rights of workers in their country.
They’ve stood up to be counted when it comes to human rights.
Did you know that 18 per cent of the delegates attending this founding Congress have been arrested or jailed for their union work?
Did you know that 25 per cent have been threatened.
Or their families have been threatened, with physical violence because of their union work?
And 16 per cent have suffered actual physical violence for their union activity…
So you can see this founding Congress is made up of real heroes.
Real heroes from every part of the globe, prepared to put their lives on the line for human rights, workers’ rights.
There are of course many real heroic stories here in the Congress hall.
Let me just point out a few.
I see Grace Nyirenda is here at our founding Congress.
Where are you Grace? Please stand up.
Grace is the general secretary of the Malawi Textile, Garment, Leather and Security Service Workers’ Union.She has put her life on the line representing her members when workers were repressed and even killed.
For a while she even had to go into hiding and an online campaign, done by our friends at LabourStart, initiated by one of the predecessor organizations of IndustriALL, the IMF, supported the work of Grace and other Malawian trade unionists who have faced serious intimidation and arbitrary arrests.
Today because of the work of Grace and her sisters and brothers who were at the forefront of organizing mass actions it is possible to argue that there is real change going on in that country.
Grace, we salute you.
And we promise to honour your courage by following in your footsteps.
Also here, well he should be here, is an extraordinary delegate from Latin America.
He has been fighting for years a government who does not want to recognize his union’s independence, his union’s democratic decision-making.
Napoleon Gomez should be here.
Even though courts in Mexico have acquitted him of trumped up charges …. the Mexican government has ignored the judiciary and refused to take our brother off the Interpol list, so he can’t make it here to Copenhagen.
As the leader of Mexico’s mine and metalworkers union, known as Los Mineros, he had to be smuggled to Canada out of fear for his life.
The United Steelworkers have played an important role in organizing support, and providing a safe haven for Napoleon in Canada over several years. Workers rights activists world-wide have rallied time and again to support Los Mineros.
They’ve supported the demand that Napoleon be recognized, and reinstated as the leader of his union.
Two months ago, the Supreme Court in Mexico acknowledged that Napoleon Gomez is the legitimate leader of his union.
Since Napoleon is not here, he sent us this video. Have a look. (See video to the right)
Thank you Napoleon.
Even though you are not here, I want to acknowledge your very real presence here as part of the IndustriALL family of heroes.
I know I speak for everyone here when I commit IndustriALL to continue to fight for the rights of Los Mineros members, and for your right to a safe return to your family. One of the most exciting areas of trade union activity in recent times has been in North Africa and the Middle East with the so-called Arab Spring.
There is little doubt that it has been the trade union movement at the spearhead of the demand for the end to Arab dictatorships and the introduction of new democratic civil society norms.
We salute our Arab sisters and Brothers.
Especially our sisters and brothers in Tunisia and Egypt, the so-far most successful examples of the Arab Spring, where trade unions have played, and continue to play a central role as the guarantors of new democratic norms.
But the struggle continues in places like Iraq, where unions are fighting back against those who want to undermine democracy, undermine the rights of workers.
Where is Hashmeya Muhsin al-Saadawi.
There she is - the amazing feisty leader of the Electricity Utility Workers’ Union.
The current Iraqi government, despite massive popular opposition, wants to keep in place Saddam’s laws criminalizing independent union organizing. Hashmeya is recognized as one of the leaders of the Iraqi protest movement demanding workers’ rights. She is one of the leading voices in the Iraqi trade union movement demanding that, anti-democratic Saddam-era workplace laws, be revoked. T
his is an under-reported part of the Arab Spring…..but, as everywhere, it is unions who are the guarantors of democracy, the guarantors that the 99% will have their voices heard.
Finally I want to look to the future – among our visitors today are representatives of a world youth congress taking place here in Denmark made up of trade union activists. The youngest, 21 year old Mathias Skov of the Danish Metal Workers Union is here with us.
Mathias we want you to become part of the IndustriALL family as we fight for good jobs, secure jobs, well-paid jobs, environmentally clean jobs. I can’t pretend to you that this will be an easy fight. But I can say to you that unions around the world have shown that it is a fight we can win if we stand strong together, if your generation commits to being the union heroes of tomorrow.
So here we will bring together, under the IndustriALL banner, this family of heroes.
We’re creating IndustriALL, this new global union, at a crucial time. IndustriALL is a recognition of the increasing integration of global capital. The increasingly related supply chains across different industries means union members need a stronger global voice.
Which they will get in IndustriALL.
Therefore, In summary:
- Capital is global;
- Information and communication is global;
- Markets are global
Therefore …..workers must go global.
We’ve established IndustriALL just as employers, everywhere, are mobilizing, going on the offensive, wanting to roll back hard-won rights.
Employers are becoming more militant as they see their profits threatened, as they watch the unraveling of dreams to dominate global markets because of a global crisis. But not one worker, not one member of any of our unions, anywhere, is responsible for this crisis.
But our members, workers everywhere, are being asked to pay for the crisis.
We saw evidence of the new employer militancy just this month at the International Labour Organization – the oldest United Nations agency.
Since 1926 the ILO conference has regularly discussed the worst cases of labour abuse across the globe.
But this year, for the first time, the employer representatives blocked discussions of labour abuses.
This year the employer representatives at the ILO conference have decided, as part of a strategy to roll back the rights of workers, roll back the right to strike, they don’t want to allow the UN agency to put the spotlight onto labour abuses, to spotlight worker rights.
Wherever you look we are witnessing these attacks on workers:
- Anti-union practices, spreading across the developed and developing world;
- The rise of precarious forms of employment - informal, contract, outsourced, the grey economy
- Dramatically increased unemployment – 200 million, the highest level in history
- Increasing globalization of capital and power in the hands of a few transnational companies
- Direct attacks on social models of social dialogue – undermining the power of some of the strongest unions in the world
- Democratic government decision-making on behalf of constituents marginalized by powerful global companies and institutions
- Shifting powers in global decision making involving, among others, the IMF, World Bank, WTO, G20 – some of these groups having questionable democratic practices
I say to you this attack on workers is actually an attack on democracy, an attempt to allow the 1% to make all the decisions ignoring the interests of the 99%.
I say to you that our unions – strong, democratic, independent, self-reliant - are the best guarantors of the rights of the 99%, the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the world who are being sidelined by these attacks on our basic human rights.
I say to you that we can only be effective in this fight back by launching a new era of global solidarity as we launch IndustriALL.
I say to you that we must demand that democratic civil society must be respected – that our unions must be listened to.
I say to you that I guarantee IndustriALL will be in the forefront defending and fighting for the voice of the people to be heard everywhere.
To make sure this voice is heard, loud and clear, we will need to develop a strong new campaigning capacity, using all available tools.
I guarantee IndustriALL will make these tools available, to all our 50 million members in 140 countries, to serve in the defence of working peoples’ rights, and the defence of democratic civil society.
With the creation of this new united global union for industrial workers, we will launch a new era of global solidarity.
To be successful we will need to use the full potential of all of our affiliates, all of our millions of members.
Right now our Spanish affiliates are on the front line of the austerity debate with the Spanish government ignoring agreements with the unions and slashing about 10,000 coal mining jobs – at the behest of the EU austerity gurus.
Today we are launching the first IndustriALL Global Union campaign with LabourStart demanding the conservative government sit down and talk with the unions.
I want you to use the web to send a message – go to:
Let’s show the value of IndustriALL as a human and worker rights campaigning organization: go to
Everyone can participate in our key goal of building strong unions as the basis of IndustriALL’s global bargaining power, as the basis for our legitimacy as the voice of working people everywhere.
We are not leaving Copenhagen without an Action Plan, which is the next item on the agenda.
I want you to study carefully our ten-point Action Plan and help me, and the IndustriALL staff, to make it real.
Make it real in the lives of workers everywhere.
Our ten key goals listed in the Action Plan are to:
- Build Stronger Unions
Strong unions are the basis of our bargaining power and legitimacy as the voice of working people. We need to overcome divisions and build unity. IndustriALL will support any efforts towards greater unity through mergers and alliances.We will expand our programs in the global south to help unions grow strong, democratic, self-reliant and sustainable pillars of their societies.
- Organize and Increase Union Membership
Organizing is the lifeblood of unions. We will make organizing, recruitment and growth throughout the supply chains a leading theme in everything IndustriALL does. We will develop cross-border organizing campaigns by using union networks in multinational companies and global framework agreements.
- Fight for Trade Union Rights
We will develop strong campaigning capacity to make sure every worker on this planet has the right to join a trade union of his or her free choice, and enjoy the protection of a collective agreement. We will mobilize affiliates and workers in innovative global campaigns against attacks on trade union rights by governments and companies.
- Fight for Good Jobs and Rollback Insecure Precarious Jobs
We will fight for good quality industrial jobs and against precarious work in all its forms, in all regions of the world. We demand that government roll back their policies on flexible labour markets which the workers and citizens around the world reject.Tomorrow we will present one of the principal campaigns of IndustriALL: STOP precarious work.
- Build Union Power to Confront Global Capital
We will build union power to rebalance the power of MNCs in favour of workers by uniting workers in networks for solidarity, joint action and mobilization.
We will convene a global conference to be held in October in Frankfurt to develop a strategy for IndustriALL on networking and global framework agreements.
- Promote Industrial Policy and Sustainability
We will promote strong industrial policies that recognize manufacturing as a key engine of growth for national economies.
We support transfer of skills technologies to developing countries to accelerate industrialization and the creation of sustainable, good quality jobsCampaign for Global Social Justice by Confronting Disparities of Opportunity and Wealth
We will fight for a new global economic and social model that puts people first, that will confront disparities of opportunity and wealth within and between countries, between the global south and north.
We will make the voice of industrial workers heard in the global institutions. We will push for regulation of global financial markets that will prevent speculation precipitating another disaster to the real economy. We will fight against tax havens and continue campaigning for an international Financial Transaction Tax system.
- Take Action For Equal Rights and Against Discrimination in All Its Forms
Especially, we will continue work to remove barriers to women’s participation and representation at all levels in their unions. We will support networking of women unionists in the regions and globally. And we will continue efforts for a gender balance in all structures of IndustriALL.
- Support Campaigns To Achieve Safe and Healthy Working Conditions
At workplace level, joint health and safety committees are the best means of ensuring safe and healthy working conditions. Globally, we will continue campaigns to ban asbestos and denim sandblasting and for the ratification of ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines.
- Promote Democratic, Transparent and Inclusive Practices in Unions
Finally, we will ensure that the policies of IndustriALL are decided in a democratic and transparent process by the affiliated unions, which own this new global union. We will develop dynamic communications policies to ensure a continuous two-way exchange with you.
I hope you will all participate in our solidarity campaigns.
Whether it is in support of our Iraqi Sister;
Or supporting Mexican miners;
Or Malawian textile workers
Or in support of any one of your Members, back in your home countries.
Organizing, unity and joint campaigns, ignoring national borders will make us strong.
Workers power can grow globally – must grow globally.
Global solidarity can deliver us a better world.