Monday, May 19, 2014

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 33 ( the ongoing story of the international trade federations)

After the WCL World Congress in Bangkok 1997, at the WCL secretariat 4 secretaries were working at the WCL Secretariat for International Trade Action. From left to right: Gaston De la Haye, Secretary General of the WCT (World Confederation of Teachers), Freddy Pools, Executive Secretary for Transport and other ITF's, José Gomez Cerda, Secretary General of FEMTAA and myself Executive Secretary for WFIW and others and Secretary General of the WFCW. The photograph was taken at the Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle on our way to an Pan African Trade Action Colloquium (February 1998).

Until the official election of former ACV Board Member Willy Thys as General Secretary of the WCL at the World Congress in Bangkok (November 1997), little changed at the WCL secretariat for the international federations. At the Congress itself, there was an incident between the presidents of some International Federations, especially between EUROFEDOP / INFEDOP and the CSC Board. ACV blocked the candidacy for the elections of an Executive Secretary replacing Dirk Uyttenhoven who was going back to the textile and clothing trade union ACV. ACV offered the candidate a job the night before the election. The result was that the presidents of the International Trade Federations had to look for another candidate quickly. Fred Pools, former general secretary of ACV Transcom, was elected the next day.

Half a year after the World Congress, the WCL Trade Action under the Presidency of Jacques Jouret (President of the International Federation of Textiles and Clothing IFTC) made another attempt to set things right for the International Trade Union Federations within the WCL Secretariat. Once again a memorandum was presented which once again referred to the aforementioned Trade Action Protocal that was derived from the WCL World Congress in Mauritius in 1993. Unlike previous memoranda this one entered in great detail about the tasks of the Executive Secretaries and the role to play by the WCL Secretariat.

Participants at the Pan African Trade Action Colloquium at the African training centre FOPADESH of ODSTA/DOAWTU. 1. Adrienne Akouete, Deputy Secretary General DOAWTU, 2. Freddy Pools, Executive Secretary WCL, 3. Koffi Chrysanthe Zounnadjala, Secretary General of the Pan African Federation of Employees FPE, 4. Romuald Nuwokpe, Secretary General of the Pan African Federation of Industrial Workers FPTI, 5. Jan Ridder of CNV Aktie Kom Over, the sponsor of the colloquium, 6. Michel André, Secretary General of the World Federation of Industrial Workers WFIW, 7. Gaston De la Haye, Secretary General of the World Confederation of Teachers WCT, 8. José Gomez Cerda, Secretary General of the World Federation of Agriculture and Food FEMTAA, 9.Gbessi and 10.Klefallah both Staff Members of the African Trade Action Department ODSTA.

The new memorandum not only gave a detailed overview of the tasks to comply by the Executive Secretaries (to be the secretariat of all International Trade Union Federations, to participate in all statutory and other meetings, to prepare reports, to maintain regular contacts with the presidents and general secretaries, to review documents, etc.) but also indicated their duties as Confederal Secretaries (Europe and North America). In fact the memorandum gave instructions to the newly elected Secretary General Willy Thys how to organize his secretariat.

Was it coincidence or it had to do with an internal debate within the ACV on the future of the WCL that just before the WCL World Congress in Bangkok a small paper was published by Tony Janssen, (October 29), President of the metalworkers' trade union of the ACV, containing a proposal for the future of the WCL International Trade Federations? A remarkable paper also because the ACV Metal trade union did not belong to the WCL Trade Action since I arrived in 1992 at the WCL. I remember that once Tony Janssen spoke informally with me quite surprisingly very critically about CLAT at a drink organized by ACV.

Article in the magazine 'Camarade Salut', Novembre 1997 of the Togolese
Confederation CSTT on the foundation of the Pan African Federation
of Employees FPE, affiliated to the WFCW/FME.  

The paper begins with the observation that although there are frictions between WCL and ICFTU trade unions about becoming member of the European Federations, which are ICFTU dominated , that at the end things are not going that bad. (see also “Downfall of the WCL part 13” were it is told that FIET/EUROFIET -now UNI- did not accept the European trade union members of WFCW in spite of the statutes of the the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC ) In the paper it is also established that, in a smaller organization like the WCL it is more easy to come " to a consensus because for example one has not to overcome political- industrial conflicts between USA , Germany and Japan.” What is actually said here ? That a large organization like the ICFTU by definition is much more difficult to manage than a small organization like the WCL, that a large organization has more responsibilities than a smaller or that the WCL is insignificant because the major industrial countries are not represented? If these arguments are all correct then it is still the question if all is said about the significance of the WCL for the international trade union movement . Maybe a smaller organization like the WCL is more agile and flexible than a large organization and therefore more efficient? And may be more important than anything else, what about pluralism?

The paper also establishes that cooperation with "the comrades" is well possible. So President Willy Vijverman of the ACV Food trade union became chairman of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Union Federation UITA and writer of this note Tony Janssen became President of the European Metalworkers' Federation EMF. I have learned that generally international positions say more about money power of the member organization than anything else. Who pays more dues has more power. That is human, and even to some extent inevitable but it goes too far to take it for granted. Perhaps somewhat naive but one of the principles of the WCL was not to take for granted such matters.
In the note the differences between WCL and ICFTU are trivialized. The different visions on mankind, world, society and government are reduced to "village quarrels that must not stand in the way to the strengthening of the international trade union movement." The reality of the international trade union movement is to create a "countervailing power against international capitalism in the globalized economy "and that is why unity is required in the international trade union movement. It seems obvious, but the question unto what this unity should ultimately lead , has gone out of sight. Unity is only instrumental, the question still is where are you going?
Together with the African Trade Action Colloquium there was
also a mission of the  World Federation of Industrial Workers.
The picture is taken during a visit to the phosphate mines of Togo.

At the end of his paper Tony Janssen wonders whether in view of the foregoing, an old proposal by former WCL General Secretary Carlos Custer should not be considered again? This proposal means that ICFTU and WCL together take on certain International Trade Union Federations (for example International Metal Federation IMF). "This also means that the International Trade Union Federations should relate to the ICFTU and WCL like the European Trade Union Federations relate to the ETUC. At least the two international confederations would really be recognized and give their original input (at the next congress of the IMB someone from the WCL can speak in addition to Bill Jordan of the ICFTU). In this way, there remains pluralism without entering in a merely harmful competition for local organizations. "

The beauty of this proposal by Tony Janssen lies in maintaining international trade union pluralism which he calls even imperitive. Although he promises in his paper "to test the proposal within IMF" (he expects little opposition concerning the proposal), unfortunately, never anything has been heard about this anymore. As we now know, it ended into a global merger between WCL and ICFTU followed by some mergers between the International Trade Union Federations of WCL and ICFTU. But we are not yet at the end of this history. A lot has still to be told first.  

No comments:

Post a Comment