Crumlin Speaks At ITUC Conference in Berlin, Delegates Address Workers Power

Paddy Crumlin made a strong argument for the use of workers' capital at the recent Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation, which brought together trade unionists from all over the world to tackle the theme "Building Workers Power".

During a debate on sustainable jobs, Crumlin, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), argued that investments in key big infrastructure projects, such as road, rail and ports, will bolster sagging economies and create good jobs for working people.

Austerity doesn’t work, he told the meeting – consumption drives the world and can deliver jobs. The ITF is already connecting worker supply chain power, he explained, linking transport with retail, manufacturing and mining. By combining resources, he said, the ITF, global union federations and the ITUC can deliver not-for-profit pensions that benefit workers.

“Pension funds can come together in a collaborative sense; they can map where the money goes, they can identify risk, they can identify poor labour practices; they can make decisions that connect poor labour practices with the creation of wealth,” Mr Crumlin said.

“It is an objective process, not a subjective process; it is a proper process and it’s our responsibility to deliver that process over the next four years from the ITUC in a translative way. It is a tool within our toolbox – not just in  terms of the political distemper of our times but also to be able to do it in a transformative way that makes us a part of the financial system – not just outside the AGMs with a placard encouraging them or cajoling them to do the right thing because they never will unless there is ownership and the ownership lies with us.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from – Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, South America, North America or Australia – the same fundamental things create wealth. What are they? Roads, rail, ports, freight-forwarding, manufacturing.”

Mr Crumlin said Global Union Federations such as the ITF and UNI are investing in capital strategies to make this happen.

“This is not an industrial or political agenda but a wealth creation agenda; we need to understand the market and the financial system,” Mr Crumlin said.

Austerity doesn’t work, he told the meeting – consumption drives the world and can deliver jobs. The ITF is already connecting worker supply chain power, he explained, linking transport with retail, manufacturing and mining. By combining resources, he said, the ITF, global union federations and the ITUC can deliver not-for-profit pensions that benefit workers.

“Pension funds can come together in a collaborative sense; they can map where the money goes, they can identify risk, they can identify poor labour practices; they can make decisions that connect poor labour practices with the creation of wealth,” Mr Crumlin said.

“It is an objective process, not a subjective process; it is a proper process and it’s our responsibility to deliver that process over the next four years from the ITUC in a translative way. It is a tool within our toolbox – not just in  terms of the political distemper of our times but also to be able to do it in a transformative way that makes us a part of the financial system – not just outside the AGMs with a placard encouraging them or cajoling them to do the right thing because they never will unless there is ownership and the ownership lies with us.”

“It doesn’t matter where you come from – Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, South America, North America or Australia – the same fundamental things create wealth. What are they? Roads, rail, ports, freight-forwarding, manufacturing.”

Mr Crumlin said Global Union Federations such as the ITF and UNI are investing in capital strategies to make this happen.

“This is not an industrial or political agenda but a wealth creation agenda; we need to understand the market and the financial system,” Mr Crumlin said.

Mr. Crumlin's remarks can be viewed here:

The ITUC represents 325 national trade unions, and more than 175 million workers. 

One of the main points of interest for the Australian delegation was the re-election, for a second term, of Sharan Burrow, formerly ACTU President, as ITUC General Secretary.

ITF Acting General Secretary Steve Cotton shared the lessons of the DHL campaign. He told the 1,500 delegates: “I want to pay tribute to TUMTIS, a union with a flair for organising, true grit and determination. Its vision was to unionise Turkey's logistics sector, and it went on to win that battle.
 
“This win was due to TUMTIS's unstinting resolve over nearly 500 days on the picket line, backed by your international solidarity. But it was not just a win in Turkey, it was a win that opened the door for other DHL workers worldwide. Deutsche Post DHL is now tied into an agreement, via the German government, to talk to the ITF and to UNI Global Union. This is a win for all of us and a big opportunity to build union strength.”
 
The hard-fought campaign illustrated the importance of organising the supply chain, and also the strength of global unions working together, he continued: “We worked closely with UNI throughout and with other global unions – the IUF and IndustriALL, whose members were producing goods that were going through DHL warehouses. We worked with the ITUC, and of course we worked with DHL's home union, ver.di, and with the DGB. Thank you for your support!”
 
The ITF’s message was strongly supported by Goknur Mars of TUMTIS, who powerfully conveyed the workers’ experience of nearly 500 days on the picket line. She movingly told the audience how at DHL Supply Chain Turkey the other workers were working for low pay for long hours – often sleeping at the warehouse. When they decided to join TUMTIS they were sacked, and workers were intimidated and pushed towards a different union.
 
But, she explained, the international support from trade unionists worldwide helped them put pressure on the company until TUMTIS triumphed.
 
MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman joined the ITF’s Jodi Evans in a debate on how unions can tackle violence against women. The ITF’s Action guide on violence against women was shared as a campaign tool all unions can use.

“Violence against women is not a women’s issue but a man’s issue,” Mr Doleman said as he explained every male official and employee of the MUA is a White Ribbon Ambassador.

“Men perpetrate violence against women. This is a social issue which fits squarely into union movement values.”

Mr Doleman explained that the ACTU has endorsed a model clause for collective agreements which provided greater protections for women workers who are experiencing domestic violence, including paid leave and privacy.

All of the Australian contingent was active across the ITUC Congress.

During the debate on Women in Work and Unions, Judith Wright, from the Australian Services Union outlined her union’s extremely successful Equal Pay case.

There were a few ‘wows’ when she explained 200,000 social and community services workers won a massive pay increase. A rise of up to 45%, on the grounds their work has been historically undervalued.

Dave Noonan of the CFMEU gave a spirited address on Tuesday morning on behalf of the ACTU delegation, highlighting the imposition of austerity policies in Australia under the Abbott government - notwithstanding the complete absence of any economic crisis in the country.

Dave Oliver and ACTU International Officer Grant Belchamber attended and spoke at a breakfast meeting on trade agreements. The two of them told the meeting the big global tobacco giant Phillip Morris was chasing the Australian government for compensation over our plain packaging laws.

The giant American corporation was trying to sidestep an earlier High Court ruling which gave the same claim a thumbs down.

And Susan Hopgood, the Federal Secretary of the Australian Education Union took centre stage at the Congress as she moved an important amendment to ensure the global union movement adopted specific Millenium Development goals for post-2015.

 

On the first day of the Conference, outgoing ITUC President Michael Sommer noted the many attacks on union rights by the Abbott Government. Disturbingly, Australia joined Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and Fiji in being listed as countries of crisis for unions.

 

One of the lead topics at the congress was realising rights, with a special focus on the labour abuses in Qatar that make it such an unfitting host nation for the World Cup. The ITF’s campaign onexposing the conditions at Qatar Airways was highlighted, and the airline’s CEO Akbar Al-Bakr was only cheated of being voted the world’s worst boss by 2.2 percentage points. Out of nine possible candiates in the contest, he  finishing a whisker behind Amazon’s CEO in the vote. Al-Bakr garnered 20.5 per cent of all votes cast, to the “winner’s” 22.7, and pushed Rupert Murdoch into third place.