The right to strike must be defended at all costs


The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) recently initiated a broad mobilisation in defence of the right to strike. It is a basic human right that has been the target of repeated attacks by big business – particularly the financial sector and multinationals – and authoritarian governments averse to dialogue.

Thus, in each of the 161 countries in which it is rooted, the ITUC will reaffirm the importance of this working class/trade union achievement, which is – with the support of the control system of the International Labour Organization (ILO) – critical to increasing income, maintaining employment and guaranteeing rights.

The right to strike is protected by ILO Convention 87, but since 2012 the Employers Group at the ILO has been conducting an unprecedented attack in in order to paralyse the supervisory system, seeking to undermine the authority of those who have contributed to the regulation of labour relations and the curbing of abuses.

Unlike those who wish to return to the law of the jungle, we understand that the right to strike is an important strategic tool for workers to raise their purchasing power. And this is a key step to the advancement of any society combating inequality.

More than just a demonstration of strength, which is embodied as the mobilisation of tens, hundreds, or thousands of workers, strikes are the result of organisation, and of a collective consciousness about common problems, to which alternative solutions can be found.

If companies utilise subterfuge – often in unspeakable ways – in order to press governments, why don’t workers have the right to cross their arms and say no?
In all my years of trade union militancy, I have never heard of a single company that went bankrupt because it paid its workers dignified wages.

In any case, payroll is often one of the lowest labour costs given the magnitude of the profits gained from the exploitation of labour.

In a context in which the crisis of so-called "developed countries" results in flattened wages and weakened rights in an attempt to stimulate "competitiveness", the right to strike has proved to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

After all, the current scenario demands for a situation where labour relations strengthen collective bargaining to oxygenate and boost domestic markets; markets which cannot and should not be held at the mercy of monopolies or oligopolies.

Our agenda is the opposite of what has been proposed and applied by many companies – the beneficiaries of neoliberal globalisation – and the government’s that have submitted to neoliberal “logic”.

These are people acting as if we live in the time of mass slavery, even though this is the 21st century, seeking only to substitute the leather whip with a metaphorical one.
But we are not going back. On the streets and in our workplaces, the workers of the world are coming together to say a loud no!


This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on the CUT Brazil website in Portuguese: