Participation strengthened solidarity bonds amongst unions of several countries.
After attending the International Trade Union Meeting in Paris, France, the Metalworkers Union of São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil, also sent a representative to the World Social Forum, held in Tunis, Tunisia, on March 26-30, 2013.
At the event, the Union Vice-President and member of the International Relations Department of the CSP-Conlutas, Herbert Claros, brought his solidarity to the struggles that have been spread through the Middle East and North Africa over the recent years and he also exchanged information and experiences with workers’ organizations of several countries.
For the Union Vice-President, to establish contacts, to exchange experiences and to strengthen the working class solidarity are the main objectives when participating in meetings such as this. “The unity, the solidarity and therefore the working class struggles endup by being strengthened”, he said.
This year’s edition of the World Social Forum was hosted by Tunisia, the first stage of the Arab Spring which begun in 2010, where a series of street protests and grassroots uprisings united workers and the youth to overthrow the Middle East and North Africa dictatorships. As it could be expected, the debates on the struggles for equality and democracy highlightedthe meeting.
One of the Forum’s highlights points wasthe Palestinian people struggle against Israel’s domination. At a debate on the “Campaign to Boycott Israel”, Herbert spoke about his Union criticism regarding the partnership signed by Embraer (an airplanes company headquartered in São José dos Campos) with the Israeli company Elbit, for the manufacturing ofthe so called “drones”, unmanned warplanes used by Israel in the repression against the Palestinian people.
Revolutionsin the Arab World
Another theme reflected in the Forum was the unity among the trade unions and the youth that drove the revolutions in the Arab World. In his speech, Herbert pointed out that this strategic unity was also fundamental in Latin America for the military dictatorships overthrow in the 1980s.
In Tunisia, the unity between the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) and the youth boosted the mobilization for the overthrowing of Ben Ali, who ruled the country for 24 years.
“In Tunisia, the revolution started because population was fed up with misery, unemployment and oppression. In the talks I had with retailers, taxi drivers and young people, I could notice that the prevailing feeling is that the revolution must continue”, says Herbert.
“They celebrate the conquest of democracy as an important step that made possible the freedom of expression and the advocacy of ideas. However, they recognize that the struggle must continue towards the achievement ofnational sovereignty and social equality”, he adds.
French and U.S.companies are broadly established in Tunisia, and these companies suck up the country’s natural resources and make merciless use of the cheap manpower besidesbeing favored by the absence of a labor legislation to protect the workers. This lack of labor legislation allowsthem to exploit the workers and to profit even more.
World economic crisis
The global economic downturn, the attacksof European governments and the Troika (EU, ECB and IMF) through austerity plans that remove social and labor rights were also discussed at the Forum.
The central union Solidaires of France denounced the PSA/Peugeot units’ closure which threatens up to 8000 workers to be fired. The notice of the activities’ closure of the Aulnay factory in Paris has led the metalworkers to occupy the company premises since January this year.
“From the statements of the comrades, it was possible to find out that the attacks made abroad are the same that have been made in Brazil, as it is the case of GM layoffs. In Germany, this automaker threatens to close Opel and lay off 5000 workers, despite the concessions granted by the local trade union”, states Herbert.
In addition to UGTT and the Solidaires, the MetalworkersUnion of São José dos Campos has also established contacts with the Argentine Workers Central (CTA) and with the Democratic Workers’ Organization (ODT) of Morocco. These contacts are going to strengthen the union network of solidarity and struggles created during the International Meeting of Alternative Unionism, heldin France last March, of which the Union has also participated.