Report from the ITF Congress, Mexico City - by Carlos Da Costa

ITF Congress 2010 – Mexico City

Recently the IAMAW attended the ITF 43rd congress in Mexico City, an event which is held every 4 years.

Some 1376 participants from 368 unions from 112 countries attended the event, which began on 5 August and which determines the policies of the ITF – a global union federation with 760 affiliated trade unions with 4.69 million members in 154 countries – for the next four years.

This conference offered opportunities to come together, learn from each other, and forge new paths for the future.  As a result the delegation adopted a strategy covering several themes, including defending basic union rights, addressing the use of casual workers and outsourcing, fighting deregulation and liberalisation and meeting the challenge of climate change.

Discussions took place on the potential industrial strength enjoyed by transport trade unions, and of the two basic functions of our industries – to move goods around and to move people around.

Despite the fact that there is a global financial crisis in place, global production still relies on components and parts and finished goods being moved around the world along global supply chains and distribution networks.  We discussed how unions can strengthen themselves and how we can create international union networks to challenge multinational corporations. 

It was widely believed by most in attendance that unions should not rely on social democratic political parties to deliver their objectives.   Instead we have to start teaching our members what is left and what is right and hope that our members will realise what is going on when many of the actions taken by most political parties are against the interests of trade unionists, and their families.

The 2010 event also featured two special conferences; Young Transport Workers and Climate Change.

The first ever youth conference took place that developed a youth policy and an appointment of a youth representative to the Executive Board.  Young transport workers successfully campaigned the ITF Congress delegates to formally recognise them as a fully fledged part of the ITF’s structures. Formal recognition within the ITF constitution, which was approved unanimously, gives the young workers – representing the under-35s – similar status as the ITF women transport workers’ committee.

A youth steering committee, previously set up following the 2006 Congress, has been building a network of young active transport trade unionists around the world.

At this conference in Mexico City, speakers stressed that greater participation by young workers was an essential tool in the objective of building strong unions and international solidarity.

The more than 100 youth delegates broke into working groups to consider five topics: climate change, precarious work, strengthening the ITF’s young workers’ network, organising and campaigning and making the work of young activists relevant to young workers in the workplace.

Their future involvement will add to the overall strength of the ITF and all of its union members around the world.

Successful discussions and decisions also took place on climate change along with the election of a new President, Paddy Crumlin, General Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia for the next four years.

On climate change, transport workers stated that we must take responsibility for tackling climate change.  This process would require fundamental changes in the current system of globalised production which relies on global supply chains, low transport costs and cheap and increasingly casual labour. It would also require a bigger role for public transport.

The motion which was passed at the Congress, insists that the ITF would never accept that the transition to a low-carbon society should take place through increased unemployment and the undermining of wages and working conditions. It requires that a just transition to greener technology and a way of life has to involve job creation, decent work and quality jobs, a radical redistribution of wealth and social security schemes which safeguard people’s livelihood and social and human rights.

The IAMAW stated through a position paper which was adopted as part of the main motion that it would be necessary for unions to oppose job-destroying initiatives associated with climate change.  A study will be carried out by the ITF to investigate the effects of this policy and make recommendations to be adopted in the climate change strategy.  At the same time the IAMAW stated that we can unite with environmentalists on a range of policy issues.

Studies have shown that transportation is a significant and growing source of emissions, responsible for around 14 per cent of the global total. The aim is to take a lead in promoting a science-based approach which utilises ‘reduce-shift-improve’ strategies that will contribute to the major transformations which are necessary in the transport industry and society as a whole. The ITF delegation supported the creation of sustainable jobs and a just transition.

These are just some of the topics debated at this congress and to give you an idea how the IAMAW is involved in addressing globalization and its impact on workers and their families in our country.

For more information, check their website at http://www.itfcongress2010.org/index.cfm and select the language of your choice to read up on events that took place at the 43rd Congress.

Carlos DaCosta