por jawsdigital. 12 set 2016 . 09:15
Nilton Souza da Silva (Neco)
Worker in commerce, President of the Employees in Commerce Trade Union of Porto Alegre (Sindec), Secretary of International Relations of Força Sindical and Representative of Brazilian workers in the Council of Management of International Labor Organization (ILO).
Interview made in March 25, 2011
International Union Organizations
In 1991, beyond ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions), which preached “democratic and independent syndicalism”, there were the WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions), of left, aligned to the socialist block, and WCL (World Confederation of Labor), next to the Christian democracy and Vatican. In Brazil, CUT, Força and CGT, the existent centers in the 1990’s, have always been affiliated to ICFTU, which had the line of a social-politic syndicalism.
Each one of these “world centers” had a regional arm in the American continent: the ORIT (Inter-American Regional Organization) was linked to ICFTU; the Permanent Congress of Trade Union Unit of Latin America and Caribbean Workers was aligned to WFTU; and CLAT (Latin American Central of Workers) was next to WCL.
The ORIT turned to AWTUC (American Workers Trade Union Confederation) and ICFTU turned to ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) (1). Today, while CUT, Força and UGT are at ITUC, CTB and CGTB are in WFTU.
Today, Força Sindical keeps relations with practically all Countries in America. We have a good relation with CGT of Argentina. In Mexico, Venezuela and the United States we also have good relations for a long time. Beyond Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile and Peru.
We are coming now to Africa, which is an important region, in function of the Countries of Portuguese language, but where we did not have any relationship. We act in an organization named Trade Union Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CSPLP), in which I am vice-president. Portugal is also in, but we give emphasis to Africa because of the difficulties they have. Taking South Africa, which has money, the rest is in absolute poverty. Senegal has 12 million inhabitants, but only 300 hundred formalized. We can have an idea through it. The African union movement is stumbling, trying to survive.
Out of America and Africa, Força has traditional relations in Europe. We have an important relation with the Italian UIL (Unione Italiana del Lavoro), with union organizations of Spain, Portugal and France. These are relations we have in function of the experience Europeans pass to us and also because of the European multinationals here installed.
We are beginning, for some time, a relation with China. We cannot despise China, which has become the second economy of the world. We already have been there. Now, in April (of 2011) we will again try to deepen our union cooperation (1). Our talks with them are in the meaning of leading experience in relation to the labor conditions, to respect of the labor legislation, to ILO (International Labor Organization).
The Chinese union leaders belong to the Party, as in Cuba. Our idea, respecting all the cultural characteristics of the Country, is to deepen a bit the discussion about the labor conditions, the relation employee-employer. We are knowing a little more China. In the first visit, we have been with all the categories. It was three or four years ago, in 2007 or 2008. We went there to know. Who received us was the Secretary of International Relations not from a Center, but from the Party. And we opened to him that we were there to know the real China. We did not want to know what was written in press, but do know the factories, see how the work happened, the conditions of security, the rights. Only after talking to the Secretary of the Party, we had a meeting with the Union Federation. This pressure we have been doing with the union movement is improving the conditions there. Of course we must have in perspective that there are 1,3 billion people, and feed this people is not that easy. And the Chinese culture is pacific, but different from ours.
Beyond these visits, of these bi-lateral relations we make to consolidate the work of Força Sindical in international level, we also participate of international seminaries, as guests, because we are linked to ITUC and AWTUC.
The Trade Union Center CROC (Confederácion Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos), from Mexico, is coping our experience of the party of the Worker Day. In the last two years, they make a first of May like ours, more massive and popular.
This exchange happened in simple way. In a conversation we asked if they want to continuous with a First of May with speeches for the militancy, with only six people, or if they would like to make an event for workers, with concerts of big artists and raffle of prizes, in which they could take the family, in a day of leisure, but also politic.
Today, as it is a strong Country in international level, with an in development economy, Brazil is not seen abroad anymore as poor, not even as a Country where people do not have money and the union movement is weak. No! Our trade union movement has money and it is strong. The Country grown and it even lend money to the IMF (International Monetary Fund). When would we imagine something like this? I am from the time we went to the streets to shout “Get away from here, IMF!”
As Brazil grown, the Brazilian multi-nationals also did the same, and there is not only Petrobrás. There is a range of big companies which invaded other Countries. See the branch of food, of beef, in which we are the first of the world. And construction, then! We are very strong, with big Brazilian companies in the area, as Odebrecht, in Angola. They are our multi-nationals.
We knew to survive in an environment of economic crisis and we passed quickly through it. Today we know that the best union model to overcome crisis is the Brazilian. The unit of the movement caused it. It does not help CUT, Força, CGTB, or CTB try to face the crisis alone. What helps, in these cases, is us unite to discuss proposals with the governments, as it was in the recuperation of the minimum wage. Even with economic crisis we could increase the minimum wage, which meant “income distribution”.
The payroll loan, which was decision of government Lula, with fundamental participation of the Union Centers, is another fundamental thing in Brazil, because it made easier to worker the access to credit. Besides, we also have the campaign for the policy of facing interests, undertaken by the Centers, specially Força Sindical.
It is not for nothing that, when we travel abroad, people admires the fact that Brazil took 8 million people of the level of poverty and elevated 30 million to the class C. This show what? Our assertive policies, the income distribution through the minimum wage, of “Bolsa Família”.
World Social Forum
In the first editions of the World Social Forum we participated as guests, in punctual debates. From 2005 we started to invest strongly in the Forum, with our own activities, the called “self-managed” activities. We started to throw a lot of weight, sending big delegations with 100, 150 people when the Forum is in Brazil, and 15, 20 people when it is abroad. We have betting in this big event as an ideas disseminator.
In the last unified Forum, in Belem (2009) we participated with 120 union leaders. We made conjunct workshops with the other Centers, in the Tent of the World of Work, and own workshops. In Dakar, 2011, which was a decentralized edition, we also participated with own activities. Now we are planning activities for 2013, in Porto Alegre, in an edition also decentralized.
In relation to the slogan “Another World is Possible”, we defend that we already built this World, and we have to change this focus. In the World of Work, for example, we need to understand that not any claim is universal. The workload reduction to 40 hours weekly, which is so in vogue in Brazil, is a national claim, linked to certain local contingencies and circumstances, as the stage of industrialization and development of the Country.
In international level it is highlight three very important themes. One of them is the Decent Work, which we can work in world level, because it is an ILO orientation. It is a matter we are leading to the international sphere, which, in Brazil, is very in advance. We are, including, the “Country-Pilot” in ILO for the application of the World Agenda of Decent Work. ILO gave a deadline (until 2015), for the signatories of this Convention implement in their Countries the Agenda of Decent Work.
We are working for more than four years, in a national commission looking forward the indicators to measure if we applied this agenda. In 2012, and it is already proved, we will make a National Congress of the application of the Agenda of the decent work.
Other theme we were also able to put in international level, in the union movement, is the question of the effective solidarity. It is necessary to send concrete stuff, materials, a financial help. We have to see how we contribute to this solidarity be really effective.
The third universal theme is the unit of the Trade Union movement. We have been working this theme, looking forward to consolidate space at the Mercosur, which was constituted with a European influence. In Europe workers have an entity, the European Confederation of Trade Unions, which deals only with workers’ matters. In Mercosur we are consolidating it. In 2013, probably, it would be own elections in each region – today, the Parlasul is occupied by deputies of the legislature of each Country. Workers have the right to elect who will represent them, and we will participate of it.
The organic union unit and the unit of action
There is an international debate about two different positions about the union centers: the organic union unit and the unit of action. Some defend that the unit only can happen in the ambit of an organic sphere, inside a same entity. We, of Força Sindical, are in that field that the unit do not have to be organic, but can be a unit of action. This thesis influenced us a lot. And it became a reality that Brazil is trying to export. We try to lead the current Brazilian experience, which has six union centers with a common agenda, as example for the rest of the world, mainly in the Countries in which the movement is very divided, with almost 15 centers. I believe that since 2004 (3) it began to gain force, in the Brazilian union movement, the tendency favorable to the unit of action. The organic fusion that happened was from CGT (General workers’ confederation) with SDS (Trade union social democracy) and with CAT (Autonomous center of workers), which formed UGT, in 2007, packed in this organic fusion of the international entities.
It is not easy to manage and keep the unit when it gathers different groups, as the people linked to the Church, the people linked to the left, and the social-democratic people. The hegemonic group always try to prevail.
It will happen, in 2012, the Congress of AWTUC, in which we will put in debate the great experience of this international organic unit. This because the unit in the formation of ITUC and AWTUC also happens by transition agreements. In 2012, these agreements will be discussed again to guarantee a new representativeness, which may not correspond to what had been sewed by years.
The discussion is not anymore about the fusion. It already merged. The big struggle we will catch is about who really has representativeness to be in charge. There is already people defending that, from the first to the second mandate, we have to, more or less, keep things as they are. We will see if this unit of several tendencies will or not consolidate. It will be a good debate!
(1) From April 19 and 28 of 2011, an entourage of 12 union leaders of Força Sindical visited China, by invitation of the National Federation of Trade Unions from China (FNSCh), participating of union meetings in the cities of Ynchaun, Shanghai and Beijing, and of the International Forum about Economic Globalization and Trade Unions, “Transforming the standard of economic growth, decent work and social security”, in Beijing.
(2) It was an earthquake with magnitude of 8,9 degrees in the Richter scale, which hit the north-east coast of Japan in March 11, and generated a tsunami of ten meters, which dragged coastal cities next to the epicenter. It was the biggest tremor already registered in the History of the Country in 140 years (since it began the monitoring of the data).
(3) In 2004 it happened the National March of the Minimum Wage, in Brasília, marking the beginning of the Working Class Marches, in which all the Union Centers participate, sealing the unitary action. The Sixth March, the last one, happened in November, 2009.