The call of the G20 and the response of the global trade union movement

The Group of the Twenty (G20), the world forum that gathers the advanced and the emergent economies, will meet in South America for the first time since its creation in 1999. Its parallel will be the Congress of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Unions Rights (SIGTUR), which will take place in Buenos Aires today and tomorrow, where delegates will discuss the future of work.

The 13th Summit of the G20 will be held in Buenos Aires on 30 November and 1 December 2018. Argentina assumed the one-year presidency in a context of the regression of workers’ rights, both internationally and at home. That’s why the 11th SICTUR Congress is so important.

Founded in the 1980s as an alliance of the democratic trade unions from the southern hemisphere (Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania), SIGTUR will have its 11th Congress hosted by the Autonomous Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA-A) featuring delegations from Australia, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, Tunisia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

Nowadays, debates at the International Labour Organization (ILO) between states, workers and employers are dominated by the viewpoint of the North and the employers. The prospects of the future of work that they predict consists of: a) fewer jobs as a result of technological advancements; b) higher labour flexibility due to changes in work regimes.

From our point of view, SIGTUR can offer a different approach to the future of work. Its perspective must include bold proposals, aims to increase worker and trade union rights and a focus on decent work and a better society.

The Congress motto will be “Another Work is Possible” because it is vital to move past the question of whether there will or will not be work in the future. Instead, we should ask what kind of work and society we want. Hypothetically speaking, even if we imagine that there will be no major social change, is this the society we want, anyway?

SIGTUR seeks to disrupt the historical cores of power, both in a political sense and regarding trade unions. For decades, southern trade unions have focused their international policy on Europe. Since SIGTUR’s creation, campaigns and solutions have considered the common reality of the regions that suffered imperial colonialism in the past and suffer the colonialism of multinationals in the present.

SIGTUR is not defined by geography, because its national members come from both north and south of the Equator. Their definition is political. Those who comprise this alliance are committed to fighting against neoliberalism, which is currently incarnated in free trade agreements, government austerity programmes and the privatisation of public services. The fight of SIGTUR’s members states should be faced from an internationalist viewpoint, which does not mean the North dictates the agenda, as a kind of new colonialism; it means, instead, that the agenda is common and dictated by all members on an equal footing.

In recent years, SIGTUR has reinforced its internationalist activism and solidarity with campaigns supporting Lula and the CUT in Brazil; asking for the freedom of the KCTU leader, Han Sang-gyun; and denouncing trade union persecution in Argentina, amongst other examples.

The current state of affairs requires workers from around the world to form a bloc and act together in the best interests of international labour. Rarely do our countries have common positions on the major debates of workers. From this initiative, we aim to break our dependence on the traditional power bases, generate alliances between those experiencing similar realities, and intervene in the decisions that condition the situation of workers all around the world.

SIGTUR is the most important network of left-wing and democratic trade unions built in recent years. We will meet in Buenos Aires on 4 and 5 April to discuss the challenges facing workers in a global context. We will debate on universal basic income, the reduction of working hours without the loss of rights and salary, and the impact of the fourth industrial revolution.

Having a trade union voice from the Global South is relevant to the entire world. Buenos Aires will host trade unions from Asia, Africa, America and Oceania, and together we must find crucial answers regarding both the concentration of wealth and the advancement of technology that marginalises developing countries and broadens inequality.

SIGTUR becomes a strategic network for the challenges facing workers and for the generation of effective alternatives to this third neoliberal wave.

This article has been translated from Spanish.

This is an edited version of a blog first published on the SIGTUR website.