Second Congress of TUCA: Address by Dan Cunniah, Director of Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)

Second Congress of TUCA, from 17 to 21 April 2012, Iguassu Falls, Brazil.

Statement | Iguassu Falls, Brazil. | 17 April 2012

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to address you on behalf of the ILO and I am pleased to convey to you the warm greetings of the Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia.

I was at your founding congress in Panama City in 2008 and I am pleased to be here for your second Congress. Four years have passed since then. During this period, the cooperation between ACTRAV and the Regional trade union movement has been further strengthened and I wish to congratulate to my friend, Victor Baez and his team for the tremendous efforts they have put in to make this unity a reality and to build a strong, effective and respected Regional Trade Union Movement.

Your Congress is meeting at a time of turbulence affecting deeply workers and their families. The current economic crisis has caused an unprecedented loss of jobs in several countries and exacerbated the unemployment problem in many others. The impact is being felt in developed and developing countries alike. Workers have seen their wages and pensions reduced. The poor have been hardest hit. People are forced in precarious and insecure jobs. For all these reasons the Decent Work Agenda of the ILO remains very relevant.

This call is amplified in the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, which requires the ILO to effectively assist its Members, in their efforts to: promote employment, skills development and economic growth; extend social security and labour protection, promote social dialogue and tripartism; and respect, promote and realize the fundamental principles and rights at work.

Today, youth unemployment constitutes a “social time bomb” in many countries. Seventy-five million people are unemployed in the world. The rate of unemployment among youth is almost three times higher than for adults. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the youth urban unemployment rate is 14.9 % and around 5 % for adults. It is in this context that we are going to have an important discussion in June on youth employment at the International Labour Conference. This problem has reached alarming proportions. If jobs are not created for young people urgently, the social fabric in many countries could be disrupted and the stability of Governments threatened. Youth employment has been a subject of a lot of discussion already. At the conference, the focus should be more on the good practices and measures adopted in several countries to deal with this problem and sharing the knowledge gathered so far.

The Conference is also going to debate two other important subjects, the fundamental principles and rights at work and social protection.

ACTRAV support to the priorities of TUCA during the period 2008-2012

Some of these issues were discussed at the Regional Meeting held in Santiago de Chile in December 2010. Nevertheless, right before that, ACTRAV had already given a boost to its collaboration with TUCA. Likewise, it received also support from the ILO Regional Office in Lima and other Subregional Offices. You must also know my colleagues who are working in this region: Hilda Sanchez, who is the Desk Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean and my principal adviser. You would certainly have met also with Carmen Benitez and Eduardo Rodriguez based in Lima, Carlos Rodriguez in Santiago and Oscar Valverde in San Jose. I must also mention two dynamic colleagues from Spain, Luis Fuertes and Jesus Garcia who are managing two big projects on Social Security and the strengthening of the trade union organizations in the region.

Let me enumerate some of the achievements during these four years. Starting with those having a regional character, one of the most important has been ACTRAV support to the Project on Trade Union Self- Reform, one of the main objectives arising from the Panama Congress. This project of Strengthening of the Trade Unions in Latin America was implemented in 2006 with the cooperation from the Government of Spain. In ACTRAV, we attach great importance to the remarkable work performed by the Working Group on Trade Union Self Reform (GTAS) during the last three years. Furthermore, it is also worth mentioning the dynamic process of trade union informal debates, exchanges and activities that have taken place so far and which were recorded in three books already edited by the GTAS, the last of which will be presented at this congress.

Another cornerstone has been the strengthening and development of the Humans Rights Network of TUCA and the Continental Legal Team, which constitute a strategic reference for the Regional Campaign for the defense and promotion of the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, embodied in Conventions nos. 87 and 98.

Another noteworthy area of work developed jointly during this period is the one related to social protection which has been deepened with the creation, in 2009, of the PLACOSS supported by the Project “SSOS-Seguridad Social para las Organizaciones Sindicales”, with the cooperation of the Government of Spain. Latin America and the Caribbean is an appropriate region for undertaking this kind of work, due to the fact that several countries have recently ratified the Convention 102 on Social Security.

ACTRAV has also supported the work on social dialogue performed by TUCA at the Continental level, specifically with the OAS through the trade union participation from COSATE. In terms of social dialogue on issues of trade and integration process ACTRAV has also supported the work of TUCA in MERCOSUR, SICA, and more recently in UNASUR. Another important Inter- American joint area of work is on Migrant Workers. In December 2009, TUCA and ACTRAV held in Washington, D.C. a strategic meeting on a rights-based approach to labour migration with focus on the promotion and ratification of Convention No. 97 (Migration for Employment Convention, Revised) and the Convention No. 143 on Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions). The Migrant workers finding themselves in an irregular situation, temporary migrant workers and domestic migrant workers have been identified by the ILO as the most vulnerable to exploitation. On the positive side however, and very much thanks to the trade union organizations in this region, last year , the ILO adopted a landmark Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (No. 189) – and an accompanying Recommendation (No. 201) – to address the fate of the estimated 100 million domestic workers working in precarious and exploitative situations.

At the subregional level, ACTRAV has kept supporting the trade union coordination bodies (CCSCS, CSU, CCSA) having in mind the importance that TUCA attaches to these areas of trade union coordination and cooperation, as well as the coordination with the regional structures of the Global Union Federations (GUFS), through the Global Union Americas.

At the national level, ACTRAV has supported TUCA´s affiliates and fraternal trade union organizations on the following strategic processes;

  • Involving trade unions in the development of the DWCPs in Argentina, Brasil and Honduras, just to name the most outstanding ones.
  • Several countries in the Americas have been selected as case studies for implementing the PME (El Salvador and Argentina).
  • During these years, ACTRAV has been advising the trade union organizations to address the most recent labor reforms in Panama, Honduras, and Ecuador.
  • In the case of Colombia and Guatemala, ACTRAV has accompanied the trade union action to promote the respect of the Rights of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining. In the specific case of Guatemala, ACTRAV supported the Second Conference against the Impunity in 2011 and the campaign for the respect of the rights on freedom of association and collective bargaining.
  • In Haiti, ACTRAV has supported the design and monitoring of the Roadmap for the Reconstruction following the coordination between ITUC and TUCA.
  • Finally, ACTRAV has supported at national level the TUCA´s work on the ratification and promotion of Convention No. 169, following the strategic conclusions adopted in the regional seminar held in Asuncion in 2010.

The forthcoming period

Having in mind the next four years, it is clear that the support from ACTRAV will continue even greater in pursuing the aforementioned issues with some emphasis on the following themes.

  • The promotion of the regional campaign for the ratification and implementation of the Convention 189 on Domestic workers in several countries in this region.
  • The promotion of the regional campaign on Convention 154 on Collective Bargaining in the public sector with the support of the Public Services International.
  • The promotion of the implementation of the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy in conformity with the most recent decisions adopted by the Governing Body.
  • A reinforcement of the activities related to Gender Audits linked with the Trade Unions’ Self- Reform Process in Latin America and Caribbean.
  • Strengthening trade union action on Social Protection and Safety and Health at Work.
  • Supporting TUCA’s efforts to combat precarious employment.
  • Boosting the South~South cooperation.

Colleagues, Allow me to thanks you for the warm welcome you have extended to me since I arrived here. I wish to thank you wholeheartedly for your support, affection and cooperation. Let me say also a few words in Spanish:

Me gustaria cerrar mi intervencion deseandoles a todos ustedes unos fructiferos debates y un gran exito para este Congreso. ACTRAV queda a la espera de las decisiones estratégicas que se adopten a traves de su Plan de Acción para el 2012-2016, y en el conjunto de resoluciones que seran adoptadas por este Segundo Congreso de la CSA, las cuales estamos seguros fortaleceran al Movimiento Sindical de Las Americas.

Muchas gracias por su atencion y buen Congreso.