World labor leaders reject dictatorship of markets
By Scott Marshall
In his opening address, Guy Ryder, the outgoing ITUC general secretary, called for an end to the "dictatorship of the finance-atariate." He said it is the people's time to fight for "fundamental change in globalization."
A highlight of the congress so far was an address by a young hotel worker from Vancouver. She spoke about workers' struggle for a new contract with some of the biggest hotel chains in the world like Hyatt and Four Seasons. She said these hotels in Vancouver are recovering from the economic crisis and the rooms are full. And still, she said, they are cutting staff, increasing workloads and demanding concessions even as they make big profits.
Several delegates joined with A. Jerad of Tunisia in calling for peace as central to a new economic model. In particular Jerad called for an end to the blockade of Gaza and for an independent Palestinian state. Others called for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This echoed Ryder's statement that "our world is not just and not at peace." Ryder said wars "are a blight" on progress and that trade unionists must fight to end them.
Delegates also called for special attention to the impact of the crisis on women and young workers. Many spoke of the terrible conditions faced by women in the informal economy and in export zones around the world. And they called for special efforts to bring women into unions and into union leadership.
Also much attention was given by delegates to green development and sustainability. They heartily agreed with Ryder when he said, "The road to global justice must be a green road. Green development and protecting the environment cannot be put off to after the crisis."
Photo: Inuit throat-singers welcome delegates to the second congress of the ITUC in Vancouver. (PW/Scott Marshall)