Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL (Part 28: European Christian Miners)

On the 15th of December 1997 The European Federation of Christian Miners Unions EFCMU ceased to exist. For the sake of international solidarity the members of the Federation decided to continue as a European Foundation of Christian Miners. From left to right: Secretary General Antoine Cuyvers (Belgium), President Franz Breuer (Germany), and the President of the new Foundation Jean Marc Mohr (France)

WCL Meetings in Mangalia, Rumania

In order to use the limited resources as efficiently as possible, activities were combined as much as possible. In September 1994, a seminar was held, followed by a meeting of the European Coordination Comitee and Coordination Comitee Central and Eastern Europe in Mangalia on the Romanian Black Sea coast. The seminar was for participants from Central and Eastern Europe. The theme was "Migration and Minorities". In my notes I read that the 3 hour journey from the capital Bucharest to Mangalia was too long. I read in my notes also that the hotel had the well known depressing atmosphere of old communist hotels, despite the presence of Dutch and Flemish vacationers. But it was very cheap.

The travel expenses for participants from Central and Eastern Europe to Mangalia were low because most participants could come by car or train. Because the Western European participants paid their own travel expenses, their expenses were not paid by the WCL. Such a combination of activities meant, on the one hand, a cut in costs but on the other hand also an additional burden on the Secretariat. Thanks to the support of Cartel alpha it was all still to do.

European Federation of Christian Miners Unions EFCMU

In October 1994, the European Federation of Christian Miners Unions EFCMU organized a seminar on the problems - read closures- of coal mines. Besides the usual participants from Western Europe (Germany, France and Belgium) also delegations from Poland and Romania were present. Speakers included representatives of the European Commission and the European Coal and Steel Community. The seminar was held in the Jean Monnet Building of the European Union in Luxembourg. At the seminar it was clear that in the future more coal mines will be closed in France and Germany, and that the same is going to happen in countries like Poland and Romania.

With the future closure of the coal mines in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, the future of EFCMU looked bleak. But despite this bleak outlook, the Board of the EFCMU decided to continue in one way or another in favor of the Romanian, Polish and other miners unions in Central and Eastern Europe, and if possible also in the rest of the world. (See also part 23 of 'TheFall of the WCL').

In March 1999, the EFCM organized with the support of the Hungarian confederation Munkastancsok a European miners seminar in Budapest  presided by EFCM President Jean Marc Mohr.  

On the 15th of December 1997, the Federation decided to cease to exist. Instead, an European Foundation for Christian Miners EFCM was established with the main objective to support miners' unions in Europe and the rest of the world, in building their organization for the struggle for a decent wage and labour conditions. The members of the fund paid an annual fee. Other organizations were asked for financial support for activities, for example, the Belgian Miners Fund that was established after the closure of the Belgian coalmines. The Foundation also decided to have a formal relation with the World Federation of Industrial Workers WFIW ( an international trade union federation affiliated to the WCL) by signing up a protocol. Because of the protocol, a board member of the WFIW became a member ex officio of the Board of the Foundation.

Seminar Participants of African Miners held in the city of Douala in May 1999. The seminar was supported by the Ministry of Labor of Cameroun and held in one of its buildings. During the seminar I proposed to make this kind of individual photographs with name and country in stead of the traditional group photo.
From left to right: Romuald Nuwokpe, President of the Panafrican Federation of Industrial Workers and as such responsible for the organization of the seminar. Bongali Shabala from South Africa, Souma Mamadouba from Guinee, Sidi Bouna from Mauritanie, Marcel Niabode from Central Africa, Jones Malcolm from Sierra Leone,Mensa Tchegnon from Togo, WFIW Secretary General Italo Rodomonti from belgium and André Enganabissen from Cameroun.

The closure of the mines in Europe went through. The minutes of the meeting of the European Foundation for Christian Miners held in Speyer, Germany on October 1, 2004, says on the situation of the coal mines in France and Germany:

- In April 2004, all mining activities in France have been finished.

- In Germany, there are about 20,000 miners. After 2005 there will be about 17,000 until about 2010. Until 2012, public funds are available for mining with the approval of the European Commission.

On the situation in Central and Eastern Europe, we read that:

"- In Albania still much has to be done to create a democratic trade union culture to replace the old communist culture . (The WFIW had for some time good relations with the Albanian miners leader Gezim Kalaya, who after some time became the President of the trade union confederation BSPSH - The Union of Independent Trade Unions of Albania )

- WFIW Chairman Bart Bruggeman reports on a conversation he had with representatives of the South African trade union UASA . The metal and mining ( gold mining ) trade unions may want to join the WFIW.

- The Argentine Federation ATE would like to affiliate to the WCL. The miners and workers in the gas and electricity sector may affiliate to the WFIW . Carlos Gaitan, President of FLATIC ( the Latin American organisation affiliated to the WFIW) has more information." (Because of these relations, the WFIW organized a seminar for miners in Argentina. WFIW Secretary general Italo Rodomonti was present at this seminar.)

The photo has been taken in Metz (France) on the 28th of October 2005 after the meeting of the EFCM where the decision was taken to stop. Standing from left to right: Ex-President Jean Marc Mohr (France), WFIW representative Piet Nelissen (Netherlands), honorary chairman Franz Breuer (germany), special guest Robert Maurer (France), special guest Antoine Cuyvers (Belgium). Sitting from left to right:Treasurer Adalbert Ewen (Germany), President Albert Hermans (Belgium) and board member Serge Brettar (France).

Just one year later, the Foundation ceased to exist due to the proposed merger plans between WFIW with the ICEM within the context of the merger between the WCL and the ICFTU .

In the minutes of October 28, 2005 of the meeting held in Metz , France is to read the following :

“At this meeting the central question is the future of the Foundation. Our Foundation has always conducted its activities based on a protocol of cooperation with the WFIW. As is known, the WFIW has a merger agreement with ICEM since its last Congress in Senegal in june this year . Also, the WFIW Board talks with IMF about the affiliation of its metal trade unions. The question that arises, therefore, is whether it is possible to continue, given the WFIW and hence the protocol of cooperation between WFIW will cease to exist?

Serge notes that the CFTC (France) will hold its National Congress in mid-November and that will be spoken about new ways of working with other Christian organisations in Europe. Adalbert reports that also in his confederation (DGB, Germany) one is reflecting about the future and possible new and different partnerships.

The general conclusion is that the Foundation has no or at least insufficient possiblities to function. Hence the decision of the Board to submit to the General Assembly the proposal to dissolve the Foundation.”

Albert Mourer, a former member of the board of the EFCMU wrote a book on the history of the Christian coal miners of the Lorraine region in France, subtitled 3The Footprint of Christian Trade Unionsim". A well chosen subtitle. 

Thus came to an end a carefully constructed unique international solidarity network which had been build in many years with the aim to serve miners trade unions worldwide in their fight for social justice, more safety and a better income. 

Moreover, one should not forget that the European Union after World War 2 started in this border region of France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands with the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community. Reconciliation after World War 2 between these nations was brought into practice by these Christian trade unions of coalminers. 

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