The changes in the global economy, the general economic stagnation, the reduction of social benefits and the deterioration of working conditions are the main topics discussed at the 16th World Trade Union Congress of held in Athens. It will last four days, but the union leaders agreed even during the first day of the session that the global crisis put ordinary employees worldwide at significant disadvantage.
Union leaders from five continents called for international solidarity and equal rights. They gathered in Athens to discuss the problems of workers throughout the world and decide on the organisation of new strike activities in the coming year.
"There are no social rights for protection of workers," said Gerry Thompson Kennedy, trade unionists from Australia. The state and the employers have managed to destroy the trade union movement in the country. In case of a strike, the employers have the right to sue the union leaders and even threaten them with 5 months in jail if they win the trial. As a result of this policy many small unions that wanted to gain basic social benefits have been brought to beggary and have been ruined.
Regarding the equal rights and opportunities, Gerry Kennedy Thompson said that the Aborigines were not allowed to vote until the middle of the last century. They gained this general human right only in the 1960s, but there is still discrimination. Colombian trade unionists face more serious problems as the trade union activity could even lead to death sentence. After a seminar held in Colombia, the two largest trade unions in the country have become members of the World Federation of Trade Unions. Nevertheless, attacks on workers who want to protect their rights continue. Almost eight thousand people are in jail now, and over five million were killed by the local regime.
Salvador Antonios Valdes Mesa, a union leader from Cuba, said that one in every six people in the world dies of hunger. He stated that this shows how wrong is the economic policy implemented in the world today and how important it is the state leaders to look at the needs of ordinary people more closely, not just at the corporations’ needs. Salvador Mesa said that his country is in a state of reformation of the socialist system there, but he expressed his full and unconditional support to the idea that health and social security should be public and should apply equally to all.
The Bulgarian representative at the World Trade Union Congress of is Pepa Krasteva from the General Central of the Branch Trade Unions in Bulgaria, established in late 1990. The organisation is a member of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Brussels for 17 years and of the World Federation of Trade Unions for 9 years. She explained that the most serious problem in Bulgaria is illegal hiring. Another obstacle to the unions that protect workers' rights in Bulgaria is the low esteem of the Bulgarian workforce to employers, preventing them from actively fighting for their social rights. There will be more information about the problems of the union forces in Bulgaria in the GRReporter’s interview with Pepa Krasteva, which will be published later this week.