Monday, September 29, 2014

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 40 (The Death of Emilio Maspero)

CLAT Secretary General Emilo Maspero at the VII CLAT Congress in San José, Costa Rica, November 1977

Has the death of CLAT General Secretary Emilio Maspero in the year 2000 something to do with the fall of the WVA? Some believe so. They think, that if Emilio Maspero would be still alive that CLAT and WCL probably still would exist. I suspect too, but of course I am not sure about it. Why the suspicion? Because Maspero was unquestionably a man with a clear vision, self-confidence, strategic insight, authority and independence.

The Dominican trade union leader, former General Secretary of the FEMTAA (International Federation of Workers in Food and Agriculture) and now General Secretary of the CLATJUP (Latin American Federation of Pensioners) José Gomez Cerda has known Emilio Maspero for nearly a lifetime. He characterizes Maspero as follows in his in Spanish written blog “Emilio Maspero: el dirigente sindical" :

Emilio Maspero speaking at the opening of the VII CLAT Congress. 

"The charisma of Maspero had to do with his style as a speaker: frank, clear, lucid, with good intonation, clear ideas, profound messages, excellent diction, proposals for problems and a message of hope for the future of the workers. He was able to excite people, he always left a reflection for the listeners. Emilio spoke from the heart, and he believed what he said, thus convincing the audience.
After “America Latina, Hora Cero” he did not write many books, but if you would collect all his ideas, you could publish dozens of books with his works.

As ideologue Emilio had clear thoughts, he was an intellectual, a philosopher with humanistic and christian principles, he always presented the Christian social doctrine, adapted to the workers, to the trade unions, he never denied being a Christian, on the contrary he told everybody everywhere.

As strategist Máspero knew where he was going, what were his objectives (which were those of CLAT) and where he wanted to arrive. He knew to detect who the opponents were, and "how to distinguish to unite" . He knew also to listen to all sectors, to read,to study and to write, (although this looks easy, this is very difficult for an international leader who is permanently in action), what always kept him aware of all world events.

As tactician, Emilio knew how to use human and financial resources, so that they could better serve the cause. He had a natural flair for understanding situations and people.

As a trade union politician, he was an example of daily work with an incalculable production, of permanent action, at the events, where problems existed, always giving input, criteria, suggestions, ideas, reflections. He made every effort to fulfill his promises. As a good executive his first work was to fulfill and to enforce the agreements and resolutions of the management bodies.

These virtues, together in one intelligent leader with the privileged memory of time for events, people, dates and appointments, made of him one of the best international and world leaders, because his contributions were not only for CLAT, but also for his duties as Vice President of the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), which allowed him to give his views, opinions and ideas in global seminars, conferences and meetings.”

Emilio Maspero was a charismatic trade union leader and therefore 40 years the uncontested Secretary General of CLAT .
Emilio Maspero was therefore the uncontested leader of CLAT at the beginning of the sixties of the last century until his death in 2000. You can characterize him as a Latin American caudillo for trade unions. A caudillo has its positive sides, as mentioned above by Gomez Cerda, but there are also negative aspects.

Through his indisputable leadership Maspero had become CLAT over the years. The result was that after some time no fresh blood came into the organization. For a democratic organization like CLAT renewal of leadership and governance is vital so that new insights, changes and structures get a chance. The lack of innovation at the top led to stagnation in leadership and ideas and that probably has been one of the reasons that only six years after the death of Maspero, CLAT disappeared.

From right to left: Maspero talking to his wife Acacia and to Enrique Marius, Deputy Secretary General of CLAT. Enrique Marius and Acacia Maspero were responsible for ILACDE, the CLAT foundation for international cooperation that made possible the financing of many projects
Another reason is probably the lack of sufficient financial resources to maintain the Latin American trade union empire built up with the help of foreign aid. Training and education centers were distributed across the continent, with the Latin American Workers University UTAL in Venezuela as a spider in the web. The UTAL was an original idea of Maspero intended as an instrument for the emancipation of Latin American workers and the people. Led by Maspero, CLAT made training and educational the heart of its action in response to the lack of education for the common man and the high illiteracy rate in Latin America. A costly challenge for a trade union because education is expensive and could therefore not be achieved without financial support from outside.

But foreign aid is a double edged sword. In most countries of Latin America, the trade unions could not afford such training and education institutes. Also in Europe, unions are helped by their governments or employers with grants to finance their education and training structures. But financing from outside may also be an obstacle to the development of initiative and personal responsibility. It undermines self-finance of activities and structures. Maspero and CLAT have not been able to find a satisfactory solution to this issue.
 WCL Secretary General Jan Kulakowski was also present at the opening of the VII CLAT Congress. On the right  Alsimiro Herrera, Secretary General of the Costa Rican trade union confederation, member of CLAT and WCL.
This had its impact on the WCL. The WCL financially always has been a European affair. With the departure of the French (CFDT) and Dutch Catholic trade union confederations (NKV) in 1973 during the XVIII Congress of the WCL in Evian, France, the financing of the WCL became even a matter of only a few European countries with Belgium as first , Netherlands as second and France third. Although CLAT had grown in membership over the years, however, it appeared barely able to support the WCL financially.

Rather the reverse was the case. The WCL was seen by CLAT as a tool to finance the trade union movement in Latin America. Given the wealth of Europe, this appeal to European solidarity of CLAT (and unions from other continents) was understandable but the result was, that despite the democratic goodwill in the WCL, the ultimate authority stayed in Europe and particularly in Belgium, because of the enormous preponderance of the Belgian trade union ACV-CSC in WCL.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


 President Bozo Mikus of the trade union SING opened the seminar;
Recently (18 and 19 september 2014) WOW (World Organization of Workers) and the Danish trade union confederation KRIFA organized near Zagreb, the capital of the youngest member of the EU, a European seminar with the support of EZA (Europäisches Zentrum Arbeitnehmerfragen) and the European Commission. 52 Participants from 26 trade unions coming from 17 European countries exchanged ideas, thoughts and experiences with experts, scholars and trade union leaders on “Trade Unions and Youth Unemployment: is education the only answer?”

Mr. Matthias Homey of EZA was one of the first speakers of the seminar. He spoke about "What is the situation in Europe- which initiative are the EU countries taking to solve the problem with Youth Unemployment?/Europe 2020 strategy and the situation of young people on the labour market" (research IHS/EZA). Meanwhile Solveig Baekgaard Maksten (KRIFA) tried to solve a computer problem while sitting on the ground next to the speaker.

Youth unemployment is not new in Europe but since the financial and economic crisis it has got dramatic dimensions. The data of the European Commission show how dramatic.
  • Youth unemployment rate is more than twice as high as the adult one – 23.3 % against 9.3 % in the fourth quarter of 2012.
  • The chances for a young unemployed person of finding a job are low – only 29.7 % of those aged 15-24 and unemployed in 2010 found a job in 2011.
  • When young people do work, their jobs tend to be less stable – in 2012, 42.0 % of young employees were working on a temporary contract (four times as much as adults) and 32.0 % part-time (nearly twice the adults’ rate).
  • Early leavers from education and training are a high-risk group – 55.5% of them are not employed and within this group about 70% want to work.
  • Resignation is an increasing concern – 12.6 % of inactive youth wanted to work but were not searching for employment in the third quarter of 2012.
  • In 2011, 12.9% of young people were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs).
  • There are significant skills mismatches on Europe's labour market.
  • Despite the crisis, there are over 2 million unfilled vacancies in the EU.
At personal level the consequences for the young unemployed are also very dramatic: uncertainty, reduced self-confidence, no own family can build up resulting in postponement of getting children (with eventually demographic consequences), loss of knowledge due to lack of experience and less confidence in society and politics, which can lead to marginalization.

Irena Baselic of the Ministry of Labour and Pension System needed some assistance from WOW board member Wolfgang Pischinger and Solveig Baekgaard Maksten to solve some small technical problems before starting her speech on "Youth employment from the perspective of a local job centre-practical approaches and experiences."

The actual situation in the European Union is slightly better but still far away of being good. In July this year more than 5 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU. Compared with July 2013, youth unemployment decreased by more than a half million.

In July 2014, the youth unemployment rate was 21.7% compared with 23.6% in July 2013. This is the lowest rate since September 2011.

In July 2014, the lowest rates were observed in Germany (7.8%), Austria (9.3%) and the Netherlands (10.4%), and the highest in Spain (53.8%), Greece (53.1%), Italy (42.9%) and Croatia (41.5% in the second quarter 2014).

Two students in Dutch apprenticeship.

Why these big differences in youth unemployment rates between European countries? Research shows that more education and training significantly increase the chance to get a job. The dual education system of on the job training and education at the same time is an effective way to increase the chance to get a job for young people , as is showed by the German and Dutch cases. But experts warn that it takes a lot of time to develop such a dual education system because it needs well coordinated actions between many different institutions of the State, the Employers, the Trade Unions and other Non Governmental Organizations. In Germany and the Netherlands these institutions have been build up during a long time.

Tycho Filarski, president of the Working Group International of CNV Youth spoke about "How does CNV Youth promote the position of young workers in the Netherlands?"
What can trade unions do to attack the problem of youth unemployment and unemployment in general? Should they stick to the classic trade union position to defend and promote the rights of their members that are mainly working people, or should they be actively involved in the battle against unemployment? Should trade unions only play the blame game towards the government, the employers and the political parties, or must trade unions cooperate on different levels for solutions?

Trade unions should not only defend the rights of the working people but start activities to solve the problem of youth unemployment.
The participants agreed that trade unions must be involved in the battle against youth unemployment (and also unemployment in general), which in the long run affects society as a whole. Value oriented trade unions like those of WOW can never accept the marginalization of so many young people and workers from the labour market and the society.

Milica Jovanovic, legal adviser of the Croatian Employers' Association of Croatia, spoke about "The responsibility of the employers."

Trade unions must first of all start to listen to young unemployed people outside the trade union office and visit them. Trade unions must develop social media instruments like websites, blogs and so on, as new ways to communicate directly with the unemployed young people. Trade unions must help the young unemployed to orient themselves in the areas of training, education and labor market opportunities. Trade unions must pressure employers and governments to work on a system of better matching between education and labor market. Trade unions must do everything to maintain intergenerational solidarity, young and older unemployed should cooperate for solutions.

An absolute priority are investments in jobs, in the private and the public sector. Trade unions must give attention to all possibilities to create new jobs by investments in all sectors of the economy.

Rolf Weber of KRIFA dept. for international relations and one of the organizers of the seminar working outside the seminar room.

Trade unions must give special attention to those young unemployed who want to start as self-employed. Trade unions must support them to find new ways for them to participate in health insurance in pension schemes etc.
As a general comment, the seminar participants agreed that trade unions must change from being a kind of emergency centers for workers into all-round fitness centers for employed and unemployed, for part time workers, for self employed and so on.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

THE DOWNFALL OF THE WCL 39 (ITF's and the WCL secretariat)

In memory of Charles Steck, who died last week 

Last week Charles Steck died. He was treasurer of the WFCW (World federation of Clerical Workers) from 1993 to 2004 (at the front, second from right). The photo has been made in Lomé, Togo at a meeting of the WFCW World Board in 1997 held in the training centre of ODSTA (African regional organization of the WCL). It is tradition to make a picture with the traditional African chief (in front, in the middle). 

As a treasurer, Charles was strict, but with his heart in the right place. He was a man of few words, but with a lot of commitment to the WFCW. He was also much more than a treasurer. He organized seminars for the European organizations of the WFCW about themes such as computerization, increased flexibility, new organizational models, etc.. For Charles the union was primarily a way to give the employee a firm place in the new working conditions by confronting the challenges. Since Charles and his wife Marilena (in front, on the left of the traditional chief) had met with Africa, he strained together with Ivo Psenner, European president of the WFCW (front extreme left), to help financially and otherwise trade unions in Togo.

In a subsequent seminar with leaders of trade unions from other African countries, it was decided to establish an African organization (FPE). As a treasurer Charles made special effort to make possible the WFCW World Congress in Lomé, Togo which was held in 2001. That was the first time an International Trade Union Federation of the WCL held a world conference and later a World Congress in Africa.

Because of the lack of a profound analysis, it is not surprising that the conclusions of the 'Willy Thys paper' brought nothing new. Of course, there must be an efficient service to the members, more coordination of activities, a program of activities related to multinational corporations, activities in the areas of health and safety, rationalization of the institutional operations and much more. But quite apart from the fact that the ITF's were already doing this already for a long time, it is not enough to win new members. Why should one become a member of the WCL if one could get the same and even more with the ICFTU and its International Trade Federations?

To stand out in a credible way, the WCL should dare to present their own vision about man and society, about employer and worker, about the union and private enterprise, about government and state, about capital and labor, about family and so on. Though the WCL had traditionally its own christian and humanist inspired vision, this was not used actively anymore. Of course, that vision had to be adapted on the consequences of the fall of communism and the new developments in the world, but that did not happen at all.

As one can see already in 1998 the international trade union federations in the private sector coordinated together with their regional organizations and CLAT a seminar in the Workers University UTAL of CLAT. 1. Jorge Lasso, Secretary General of the Latin American Federation of Campesinos 2. Doekle Terpstra, President of the World Federation of Industrial Workers 3. Eduardo Garcia, Deputy Secretary General CLAT 4.Victor Duran, General Director of UTAL 5.Eduardo Estevez, Confederal Secretary WCL 6. Dick van de Kamp, Secretary General of the World Federation of Building and Wood Workers 7.Pedro Parra, Latin American Federation of Industrial Workers 8.Marcelo Luvecce, Secretary general of the Latin American federation of Building and Wood Workers 9.Jacques Jouret, President of the International Federation of Textile and Clothing, 10. Bart Bruggeman, Secretary General of the International federation of Textile and Clothing 11.Jacky Jackers, President of the World Federation of Building and Wood Workers 12. Fons van Genechten, Secretary General of the World Federation of Industrial Workers 13. Carlos Gaitan, Secretary general of the Latin American Federation of Industrial Workers 14.José Gomez Cerda, Secretary General of the World Federation of Agriculture and Food Workers
Instead, the WCL choosed for non ideological pragmatism and went on the easy road of rejecting neoliberalism and capitalism as diseases that needed to be be eradicated, saying that the growing globalisation of production and marketing was only bad news for the workers like also the flexibilization of labor and so on. Trade unionism meant more and more protest in stead of also looking for creative answers on the new challenges after the fall of communism and the growing industrial globalisation. The WCL was losing his own voice in the international concert of trade union voices. It became part of the big international choir of international trade unionism, without having an own voice.

At the same time the WCL was restructured on the level of the international secretariat under the guidance of the Secretary General himself. Central and Eastern Europe were not anymore a priority. The Coordination Committee for Central and Eastern Europe and the coordination secretariat for Central and Eastern Europe, established in Bucharest with the help of Cartel alfa, were dismantled. The special budget developed for activities and missions in Central and Eastern Europe was stopped and so there came an end to the special financial support for the new members in central and eastern Europa. This was very painful, because everybody knew that the development of a "new" trade unionism in that part of Europe was for long term, as part of the development into a democratic society and state. What happens today in the Ukraine and the Russian actions on the Krim and in Eastern Ukraine are a demonstration of this.

In spite of the 'Willy Thys' paper on International Trade Action Federations nothing new happened for international trade action. On the contrary, the Secretary General wanted even that the ITF's paid extra for services of the WCL secretariat besides the contribution they already were paying to the WCL. The small amount of money the ITF's received yearly from the ILO for special activities was not used anymore for their activities but went onto the general WCL budget. Manpower to support the ITF's was not extended but in stead more limited. All this together gave fuel to the animosity of the presidents of the ITF's towards the Secretary General.

Photo of the participants of the World Congress of the World Federation of Industrial Workers. President Jaap Wienen (1), Secretary general Fons van Genechten (2), former President Leo Dusoleil (3), Vice-President Carlos Gaitan (4), Board member for Central and Eastern Europe Achille Dutu (5), Pedro Parra (6), Secretary General of the African Federation of Industrial Workers Romuald Nuwokpe (7), President of the Miners Foundation Jean Marc Mohr (8), board member of the Miners Foundation Albert Hermans (9), Italo Rodomonti (10)

Another debate should have been about how a minority organization like the WCL should operate on international level especially within the ILO. One of the possibilities to let hear more loudly the message of the WCL and its ITF's at the ILO was to look for a lobbyist with a lot of trade union and (international) political experience while also speaking fluently different languages and convinced to present the vision and ideas of the WCL on all levels. The opportunity was there because of a change of personnel, but in stead, two young trade unionists were put in the ILO office of the WCL. Therefore, the ICFTU got all the space to do what they wanted in the ILO.

On the other side, the highest priority - financially and in manpower - was given to the renewal of the press office. The Secretary General wanted more attention in the international press for the WCL. This is of course very difficult because why should journalists be interested in the WCL that as an international organization cannot organize strikes or other protests to influence decisions on world level? Moreover, for international trade union organizations there are other ways to influence decisions on international level like for instance the ILO and other UN agencies, like the European Union and its institutions and so on. And another question, is it necessary for the WCL members to read about the WCL in the international press ? What is important for them is to be informed about what is going on in the international field of labor, to get the latest information and if necessary to get access to international institutions.