Declaration of the Worker’s Forum

2009-04-24 00:00:00

A Worker’s Forum of the Americas
Fifth Summit of the Americas, Port of Spain, 15-16 April 2009
We, trade unionists of the Americas, representing over fifty million workers across the entire continent, have met in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on 15 and 16 of April 2009, on the occasion of the Fifth Summit of Heads of State of the Americas, and following the G-20 Summit held recently in London, and hereby declare:
The current crisis deepens the crisis of distributive justice
In recent months, our region has sunk into a new recession worse than the great depression of the 1930´s, but it is one that is different in depth and magnitude.  Because it coincides with the food, energy, social and environmental crises, this indicates a systemic crisis of global proportions. As usual, those first and most seriously affected are women, youth, informal sector and migrant workers.  Another effect has been the deepening of a social crisis  which affecting primarily women, making access to employment difficult, widening the gaps in wages and reducing investments in  health, education and universal public policies, replacing formal employment with sub-contracting and labour flexibility, provoking a crisis on social security systems and social protection in general.
In their analysis which predicted this crisis, international trade unions had already highlighted the a “crisis of distributive justice” (or crisis of inequality), in other words, a disconnect between wage increases and increased productivity, which seriously affects fundamental human rights such as the right to live in a healthy environment, with access to education, health care, social protection and food security.
Finally, the crisis is now causing a reversal in the flow of migration from destination countries in the North to countries of origin in the South, as well as a significant reduction of remittances, affecting millions of working people and their families.
The environmental, energy and food crises
We share the view of the International Trade Union Confederation which affirms that countries of the South cannot be denied the right to development, and that at the same time, the planet’s natural resources do not allow us to spread the consumption patterns of industrialized countries to the entire world population. Added to this, are the effects of climate change, and the fact that social inequalities remain exposed to the negative impacts of climate change because, clearly, it is the poor who suffer the most.
This is why we believe that especially in the rich North, the failure of the neo liberal model calls for a change in the production/consumption pattern which will permit sustainable development respecting the values of social justice and pluralism.  This also involves reformulating the energy matrix towards clean and renewable sources of energy.  The current drop in the oil price (clear evidence that there was high speculation on this price before the crisis) should not be a reason to stop looking for alternative sources.
Although the drop in agricultural commodity prices tends to regulate the food crisis, there are three negative aspects which continue to have an effect on it – excessive food consumption in the North, financing of the global food market, and the unacceptable genetic control and manipulation of seeds by transnational companies. These elements, together with the concentrated agribusiness export model, in opposition to agrarian reform policies, threaten the survival of the peasant populations and improved living standards through food consumption in poor countries.
For the trade union movement in the Americas the greatest responsibility for this crisis rests with the governments of the world powers.  They are the ones who shaped the  world (that fell apart) by means of their political and economic power. These governments used or neutralized international institutions in the interests of multinational companies, leading to high levels of corruption and impunity. 
 To lay the blame solely on irresponsible bankers is to deny the responsibility of those who were supposed to regulate financial markets.  To blame only the industrialists and consumers for the overflow of the planet’s capacity is to deny the responsibility of those who should have curbed this type of production and consumption a long time ago, and should have moved to another development model.
The “London Consensus” of the G-20 is not up to the circumstances
Years ago, the international trade union movement sounded the alert with regard to the crisis of the capitalism of financial hegemony which neglects to give credit to productive activities and engage in unproductive speculation. Recently, the trade union world came to agreement responding to the declarations at the G-20 Summits in Washington and London.  They also said “No to the casino economy” at the World Social Forum in Belem, a coherent proposal en relation to the crisis.
In spite of our expectations of the possibility of a new multilateralism emerging in response to the crisis, we see that the two G-20 Summits have fallen short in many ways.  The financial regulation for which the world is clamoring did not reach the levels that even governments feel necessary, and there was agreement only for a Financial Stabilization Council, with a mainly supervisory role. Except for measures dealing with high risk funds, tax havens, risk assessment companies and the banks themselves, the other measures are specific and limited. One example is the set of resolutions adopted concerning executive bonuses, since there are no limits set on this type of remuneration.
We have been deeply disappointed with the reuslts of efforts  to bail out financial institutions which are the paradigm of the neo liberal model.  This is why it is a mistake to place the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a coordinating, financial and supervisory role as a way of ensuring the salvation of the system, without setting new criteria for changing its conditionalities, or with no serious criticism of its responsibility through the implementation of policies which were dismantled by States and governments, thus eroding their ability to exercise economic control and allowing markets to destroy their sovereign ability to set economic and fiscal policies.
We believe that it is important to defend the countries of the South in terms of the importance of expansion programs, and the emphasis given to the regulation of the financial system. But, it is a bitter surprise to us that the resources promised are especially aimed at countries of the North, with very little allocated to countries of the South (about 10%).  Similarly, we have to wait and see if the promise of a change in the voting system within the IMF and the World Bank will be fulfilled.   
With regards to trade, the call by the G-20 to complete the Doha Round based on the agreements reached last year, is of great concern, since it provides a new opportunity for the block of countries which proposed an unbalanced and unsatisfactory focus for the countries of the South and emerging states.
Finally, call attention to the place assigned to labor in the London Declaration, recognizing the need to create jobs and to have the International Labor Organization (ILO) assume the role of evaluating labor related issues in the policies of the G-20.
The Fifth Summit of the Americas must approve changes
This Fifth Summit has created high expectations in public opinion in general and for the trade movement of the region in particular, not only because of the maturity of a number of progressive Latin American governments and the assumption of a new US leadership, but because it provides an opportunity for dealing with the crisis at a hemispheric level. From a trade union perspective, it is also important, as it is the first Summit since the defeat of the FTAA at the Mar del Plata Summit in 2005. However, the draft of the declaration does not reflect the political sensitivity of this situation. It is just “one more document”, with only a brief generic paragraph in which the governments state that they are determined to strengthen cooperation, work together to restore growth in the world and adopt the necessary reforms to the world financial systems.
There are no concrete policy proposals for regional coordination or actions for the effective improvement of the quality of life and employment of people. The document should be start from the decisions of the G-20 and advance much further, namely to completely turn around economic, political and social orientations in the region. 
Furthermore, it seems to ignore the fact that many countries are still encouraging and negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs). As we have seen in the experiences of some countries such as Mexico or Chile, these do not lead to the development of the weakest economies nor to the improvement of the quality of life of workers in the strongest economies. These attempts to maintain the system are made primarily at the expense of women’s lives, through massive dismissal of workers, cuts in public spending in social areas and by reaffirming the model of production and development that directly impacts these areas, in that it increases reproductive work and sustainability increases. FTAs arise as a constant threat and undermine the integrity and progress of regional integration processes, which undoubtedly, since they are more equitable, could lead to alternative solutions to the crisis.
We are absolutely certain that one of the ways to move towards this model of development in the Americas is through the strengthening and deepening of the processes of regional integration in a coordinated, complementary way and in solidarity, so that member states can each strengthen their economies and ensure the well-being of their societies. We have no doubt that integration must go beyond trade issues. This is why trade unionism in the Americas has opposed free-trade agreement negotiations and investments for more than 15 years and demands a review of current agreements, which, as we have warned, have brought great sorrow to our peoples.
We, the workers of the Americas, have proposals
Almost four years ago, the trade union movement, together with other social movements, mobilized for the Fourth Summit of the Americas (Mar del Plata, November 2005) against the FTAA and in defense of the Labor Platform of the Americas (LPA), presenting a broad agenda on public policy to promote “sustainable development with decent work”.
 The LPA proposal is highly relevant today and shows the urgency of establishing a model of sustainable development that integrates social, economic, environmental, political and cultural dimensions in a framework of intra- and inter-generational justice. This is the only suitable response to the multiple crises in the world today: in other words, development with social justice, distribution of wealth, preservation of the environment, gender equity, protection of health, participatory democracy, respect for diversity, and equity among nations and generations.
At present, and in response to the crisis, it is essential to keep in mind the following issues:
Multilateralism and the new global institutionality
-  The defense of multilateralism is key. Fair standards for international trade must be established and mechanisms for enforcing labor rights must be strengthened in order to contribute to the development of nations and to reduce inequalities between nations.  The new multilateralism must give priority to labour issues.
-  The United Nations is the natural venue for debating this crisis, and as such, it should be strengthened. We believe that the proposal to create a Global Economic Council, at the same level as the Security Council, is important to define concrete guidelines for resolving the crisis.
-  It is time to take up again the debate on the “Tobin tax” and mechanisms for controlling monetary and financial flows worldwide, to restrain and avoid speculation and put an end to tax heavens. The establishment of new financial services for the solidarity economy must be given priority.
-   There should be a clear mandate on the role and structure of the WTO, in order to make the way it functions more transparent and democratic. 
Social protection, decent jobs and sustainability of the planet
-  In the social arena, it is necessary to have a social bailout, based on public policies and the strengthening of the State’s role in the economy.
- We must ensure that the new global arquitecture for development fully integrates gender equality and women’s human rights on the basis of internacional commitments and treaties. According to paragraph 20 of the United Nations Millenium Declaration, “The States commit to promoting equality between the sexes and the economic autonomy of women as effective  means for fighting poverty, hunger and illnesses, and for stimulating truly sustainable growth”. The way this objective has been formulated implies an acknowledgement of the fact that once the different needs and realities of men and women are contemplated, only then will it be possible to improve the situation of alarming inequalities that are present in the Continent, strengthen democracy and social peace.
-  The ITUC proposes a plan for recovery and sustainable growth, based on a public investment policy geared towards social development and job creation. As such, the building of productive and social infrastructure, which includes improving public services for everyone, must be prioritized.
-  It is crucial that the income of the low and middle classes be increased and to have policies focused on the groups that are most affected: youth, women, migrants, the elderly, individuals with special needs, indigenous groups, and temporary, underemployed and part-time workers. Finally, it is necessary to insist on the right of workers to form free trade unions, elect delegates and to negotiate collectively, putting special emphasis on the redistribution of benefits.
-  We support the initiative of the ILO to, through the Global Employment Pact, debate the creation of a Global Employment Fund that takes into account existing asymmetries between developed and developing countries in terms of their fiscal capacities.