Friday, March 29, 2013


Some of the children who are attending the newly created Child Labour School of the Bangladesh trade union BSCWF

The core bussiness of trade unions normally is to establish a collective agreement by negotiating about wages and working conditions with the employer or in case the union is dealing with a whole sector, like for example building and construction workers or textile workers, then the trade union has to negotiate with a group of employers. But what to do in countries where a huge amount of people don't have work or only informal work like streetselling or doing small jobs for a few hours? What should a trade union do when children are working because the parents do not earn enough income to live? And to make things worse, what to do when these people don't have any social protection or health care service?

The children attending the Child Labour School get also to eat during school time.
These are questions many trade union leaders around the world have to answer. For example it is obvious that child labour should not exist. In stead of working, sometimes under harsh and dangerous conditions, children should go to school and have time to play around. That is why the International Labour Organization ILO for already a long time is focussing on child labour by adopting special conventions andrecommendations on child labour with the aim to get rid of child labour worldwide.

They are right, children are entitled to education.
But conventions, recommendations and even laws are not enough to eradicate child labour. What is also needed are practical measures and initiatives to help families to get a better income and to help children to get a better future. That is not easy, especially not for trade unions which have no or just limited possibilities to do something. But that there is always a way to do something, even in a poor country like Bangladesh, is demonstrated by the Bangladesh Trade Union BSCWF. During their board meeting in November 2012 the BSCWF decided to start to organize a so called Child Labour School.

Meeting of the parents of the children together with one of the teachers and Warish Ahmed,secretary general of the BSCWF
To give the children a better future, the BSCWF together with the parents decided to start a Child Labour School. The Child Labour School is meant for children of dues paying members and activists of the BSCWF who are working with their parents on their working place. Because of lack of means, it will be a difficult task. But taking the responsibility to do something is the first big step on the long road to create a better world for the children. Therefore we wish the parents, their children and of course the BSCWF lots of succes with their Child Labour School.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Effligies of Angela Merkel and Nikos Anastadiasis on display at a carnival in Limasssol, Cyprus

The following article comes from the website EUROPRESS. On this site you can read the article in its original Spanish text as well as many other languages.


The aid plan launched by the Eurogroup in return for a tax levied on Cyprian bank deposits has provoked violent reactions. Germany is often accused of wanting to punish a struggling country. However, it’s not the Chancellor who is to blame for the mistakes of the island, writes an economist.

By John Müller

In this latest crisis hitting the euro, it’s not the Cypriots who are at fault; it’s Angela Merkel and her government – don’t waste time looking for other explanations. It’s not the fault of a bloated banking sector that holds €128bn in assets in a country with a GDP of €17bn – it’s Merkel who did it.

Don’t blame those banks that, as the German secret service warned in November, opened their vaults to €21bn from Russian Oligarchs without looking too closely and accepted – no questions asked – a few other thick wads from Arab millionaires (from fortunes that are hard to justify). The banks practice International Personal Banking and "tax optimisation"; Merkel, in contrast, labours under a Protestant sense of morality.
It’s not even the fault of the money managers who put 50 per cent of their money – that’s right, 50 per cent – into Greek bonds, purely out of patriotism (Cyprus is half Greek), even though they knew that they risked losing it all. No, that’s Merkel’s fault.

Christofias's crisis

It’s certainly not the fault of Sigmar Gabriel, the agreeable German Social Democrat leader, who cut off all lines of retreat for the Chancellor: "I cannot imagine the German taxpayer bailing out Cypriot banks whose business model is based on allowing tax evasion." The entire blame, of course, falls on Merkel.

Nor is it the fault of the pathetic ex-President of Cyprus, the communist Dimitris Christofias, an autocrat formed in the Soviet Komsomol (perhaps the reason why there are so many Russian bank accounts in Cyprus), who was not in the habit of consulting his ministers, the parliament or the central bank.

The Guardian, a newspaper that cannot be suspected of ill will, accused him in December of leading the country into "a sorry state." Christofias was the one who decided in 2011 to keep in Limassol harbour the ship carrying explosives to Hezbollah, which then blew up and took out the only power plant in the country. He also supported the president of one of the two big banks, the Marfin Laiki, when it decided to shift its headquarters to Greece despite opposition from the central bank of Cyprus. His last act of foolishness was refusing to allow negotiations on the merger of the Marfin Egnatia Bank of Greece with the Laiki Bank of Cyprus when the famous offshoring to Greece was decided on, a move that cost Cyprus €4bn in assumed liabilities. With that, this economic genius sank his country. But no – it’s all Merkel’s fault.

Weak leader

Nor does it appear that his brand-new successor, Nicos Anastasiadis, a weak leader playing the game of ‘blame Europe for what I have to do,’ should shoulder any responsibility at all. Anastasiadis props himself up on half-truths to plunder the deposits of the Cypriots instead of starting with sending a bill to the shareholders and creditors of the banks. But of course, that would end the cushy financial system that they have built up and that they expect to continue to live off. Schäuble reminded him yesterday that the idea of robbing depositors didn’t come from Germany. But no. It’s all Merkel’s fault.

And it’s Merkel fault, too, for allowing Anastadiadis to toy with the prestige of the Eurozone, as Papandreou did before him. And because four years ago she didn’t stand firm and veto Cyprus’s entry into the eurozone. Because she let herself be fooled by the certification of the OECD that Cyprus had met 40 EU directives against money-laundering. And, in passing, it’s also the fault of Christine Lagarde, of the IMF, which supported it. Do you recall who it was who handed the Greek minister the list of tax evaders, the one that got lost? As if Lagarde knew nothing about the state of the Cypriot banking sector! But no. It’s all Merkel’s fault. And it had better be her fault, because any other theory will leave us standing naked before our own cluelessness.

Translated from the Spanish by Anton Baer

Friday, March 15, 2013


Every beginning is difficult, even that of a manifestation. It's cold (about 3 degrees) and it begins to snow.

Below some pictures of the European protest manifestation that the ETUC has held on Thursday 14 March in Brussels during the two-day summit of European leaders in the same city. The ETUC calls for less austerity and more growth through investment. For European leaders a dilemma. Excessive deficits in national budgets provoked reactions from distrustful international capital, which ultimately may threaten the existence of the Euro and consequently destabilize the whole European economy . But rising unemployment due to the economic crisis leads also to ever greater social tensions that ultimately could threaten the democratic stability of Europe. What to do? It seems that Europe stands with its back against the wall.

This red cowboy hood men believes in victory for the union

The unions do not give up and continue to advocate for a more social Europe. It looks more and more European leaders in particular Herman Van Rompuy, President of the core European Council of Heads of Government, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, realize that time is running out. During the summit, they called the Government urgently to work on the arrangements made to reduce unemployment, especially those among the young.

The first men with flags are coming on the square. These are from the Belgian socialist federation ABVV / FGTB, flemish part.

Snow is falling while there is still a lot of snow on the ground. 
However serious, a modern trade union manifestation has also something of a little festival hence the pop musicians on stage. They do forget the cold and the snow.

The Belgian trade union movement is colorful because every organization has its own color: socialists in red, Christians in green and liberals in blue

As a good host, the Belgian trade unions ensures free french fries, soft drinks and beer.
The Greeks may suffer most from the economic crisis, they present a small folklore festival, even when it is snowing heavy.
Some use the opportunity to give their protest a carnivalesque face

Their carnavalesque painted faces makes them look even more serious.

The Czech delegation comes from far but is no less cheerful.

The workers of the Belgian Ford factory in Ghent and Arcelor metal in Liège on stage require extra attention for their cause. Their factories are closed together with the suppliers.

It's the capital that is expensive not the unemployed, says the sign of this serious looking woman.

The union band cheers the crowd. Like magic it stops snowing.
Young unemployed from Grand Duchy Luxembourg show clearly on a symbolic way that they have no future without employment
These Polish nurses look worried about their future.
It is a doubtful gesture of victory but it is still there.
For a Better Europe. The Red Anger!!!

Some official speakers are boring but it looks if this one gets light and support from Heaven.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the revolution?
Things are becoming hot like this protest fire of the metal workers of Arcelor Liège
Some take precautions and immediately cover their face with a scarf against the black smoke.
Red meets Blue.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Through a series of emergency measures the European Eurozone has managed to recover international confidence in the Euro. The Euro has come into calmer waters. The value of the euro against the dollar is back to its old level. The European Central Bank monitors the 200 largest European banks. The ECB has also agreed, to act as soon as possible a country has to pay too high interest rates on their loans. There are special emergency funds to help forward those countries that are no longer able to borrow on the international market at a reasonable rate. A special European Commissioner maintains strict surveillance of national budgets, so that they do not exceed the 3% norm. In the event that this happens, a country receives automatically a high penalty.

So with the Euro it is going better now, but not with the European economy. The economic crisis is getting deeper and not just in countries like Ireland, Greece and Portugal the first to be hit by the debt crisis, but also in countries such as Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. The only country that has so far managed to escape from the economic crisis is Germany. Some people go so far as to think that Germany is benefitting from the economic misery of the other European countries. Others believe that Germany, in contrast to those other European countries, has become a global competetor.

European leaders realize of course that the economic crisis has not only political consequences, such as the growing political distrust towards 'Brussels' ('Brussels' is no longer the solution but the disease), but also may lead to more social tensions. Hence, the European leaders last December decided that the roadmap for the completion of the European Monetary Union (EMU) should include a social dimension, comprising social dialogue. President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy called for proposals on the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union. To assemble the views or institutional stakeholders, social partners and civil society organisaties, Europe is holding a hearing on "For a social dimension of the European Economic and Monetary Union".

In response to this invitation the Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC made the following declaration: “The ETUC considers that the proposal to discuss a social dimension of the EMU is too restrictive. Our commitment to the process of European integration depends on the fact that Europe is not a free trade zone, but an area whose objectives are economic and social progress. Therefore a discussion on the social dimension of the EMU is only acceptable if it triggers social progress in the whole of the European Union.
ETUC opposes current austerity policies. They are implemented to the detriment of working people and citizens who have been made the variable of adjustment. This is not acceptable. These policies are also counterproductive and are having a negative impact on the EU’s economy. The financial sector has been saved, at an unsustainable cost. There can be no social dimension whether in the EU or in the EMU without a change in these policies. The ETUC will continue to mobilise towards that end.
ETUC considers that a roadmap on the social dimension of the EMU, in the framework of increased policy coordinations should aim at upward convergence to deal with inequalities, poverty, unemployment and precarious work that are ethically unacceptable and are creating a social emergency. There can be no sustainable economic governance and coordination of policies if these injustices are not addressed.
ETUC demands new large scale investment plans equal to at least 1 % of EU GDP annually to promote sustainable growth and jobs. The current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposals are a retrograde step and totally inadequate to meet our objectives.
The ETUC strongly underlines that social partners must be included and fully involved on an equal footing in the debate about the design of new coordination instruments. There should be effective guarantees at all stages that trade union rights and fundamental rights will be respected and promoted, particularly the autonomy of collective bargaining.
Contractual arrangements in the form of memoranda have been put in place undemocratically and have imposed the wrong policy mix. They infringe collective agreements, industrial relations and social dialogue. This should not apply to any contractual arrangement. Financial support has been made conditional for such contractual arrangements. The ETUC opposes this unfair and undemocratic approach.
On the basis of the Social Compact it has already proposed, the ETUC will further develop its position and press its policies in the context of the debate on the social dimension of the EU and EMU.”

In this declarartion you can read the dilemma the European labor movement currently is facing. The ETUC calls for more European coordination by a stronger 'Brussels' while the political unease in the EU member states about the growing power of Brussels increases. The ETUC enters with this declaration in a strong political debate that touches also many national and nationalistic sentiments like for example the delicate question of the so called cheap labor migrants coming from Eastern European member states. It will not be easy for the ETUC to handle politically this debate within and outside its ranks.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Corruption is everywhere. It is a disease that can affect everyone and every organization worldwide including trade unions. Poor and working people suffer most from widespread corruption. That makes corruption within the trade union movement particularly tragic.

Tuesday 26th of February Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the Mexican teachers' union SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educacion) , was arrested because she would have embezzled about 120 million Euros of the trade union. This was announced by the Mexican Ministry of Justice. She is considered as one of the most powerfull persons in the country. She could convince the 1,5 million members of the SNTE to vote as one block in favor or against a politician.

The 68 year old trade union leader, also known as 'La Maestra' (the teacher), has been active in politics since the eighties and had a lot of influence in the administration. But earlier in the week, the educational system in Mexico has been reformed, allowing abuses such as buying a job as teacher should disappear. The Ministry of Finance conducted an investigation into transactions with trade union funds and found that more than 2 billion pesos (about 120 million €) had been transferred to personal accounts of Gordillo. She was arrested at the airport of Toluca. Three other persons, that would have stolen money from the trade union, were also arrested .

Former employee Professor Noe Rivera declared that Gordillo is a person without morals and has turned the trade union into an election machine. That gave her a lot of power. “It's an unscrupulous woman, who spies those whom she wants to buy, to join or to destroy," said Rivera. He told that the Citizen Association of Teachers since 2006 investigated the diversion of funds and found that in 18 years Gordillo handled more than 104 billion pesos. The greatest gift made by Elba Esther was a house in Zihuatanejo "to a well-known journalist."

Unfortunately this is not the first time that Mexican union leaders are accused of corruption. In the seventies, a group of trade unionists of the PEMEX union, camped on the Zocalo in Mexico City protesting against corruption in their union. They told that the union leadership sold jobs for such high prices, that workers had to ask for a loan from the union. The result was that many workers for the rest of their lives had to pay to their own union. You could call this a modern form of slavery. The corruption had penetrated also deep into the company involving many employees. It was generally believed that this was the main reason PEMEX was not profitable enough as otherwise would have been.

This is a very sad situation especially because trade unionism is one of the main instruments of workers to promote more fair wages and working conditions as well as a more equal distribution of wealth based on transparancy. Corrupt trade unions act therefore always against the interests of the workers and especially the poor. Therefore trade unions should declare corruption on whatever level as their first enemy. International trade unions and the ILO must fight against trade union corruption without hesitation and with all means they have at their disposal.