NLC President seeks end to brutal war against Ukraine

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…Urges peace in other African countries

By Chimezie Godfrey

The President, Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba has called for an end to the brutal war against the people and workers in Ukraine.

Comrade Wabba made the call on Thursday during the 5th International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Congress holding in Melbourne, Australia on 17th to 22nd November, 2022.

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He thanked the governments of Australia and the State of Victoria for hosting us in this historical city of Melbourne which wears an enviable badge of nearly two centuries of trade unionism. Between 1830 when the Shipwrights Union was formed and 1927 when the Australian Council of Trade Unions

The NLC Boss who commended the ITUC leadership for selfless services, called to remembrance many cities in the world where safety and peace are luxury items.

He particularly called for an end to the Russian attack on Ukraine that has resulted devastating loss of lives and property in the country.

He said,”We thank the governments of Australia and the State of Victoria for hosting us in this historical city of Melbourne which wears an enviable badge of nearly two centuries of trade unionism. Between 1830 when the Shipwrights Union was formed and 1927 when the Australian Council of Trade Unions was formed, the City of Melbourne has been at the epicentre of trade unionism in Australia. Indeed, it was here that workers first won the 8-hour day, back in 1856.

“I salute the thoughtfulness of the ITUC leadership especially the Secretariat led by Sister Sharan Burrow, a daughter of Australia, an internationalist who has invested most of her life to the service of the world’s working people, for bringing the biggest rendezvous of the global working-class community to this place.

“While we relish the safe and peaceful city of Melbourne, we remember that there are many cities in the world where safety and peace are luxury items. The cities in Ukraine which are being savagely attacked by Russia occasioning deaths in thousands, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and displacement of more than 6.2 million Ukrainians.

“We call for an end to the brutal war against the people and workers in Ukraine. We condemn the overt and covert threat to deploy nuclear weapons. We demand that the UN Charter on territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected. Peace must come to Ukraine, and it must come with justice.

“There are also many countries of the world where peace has become elusive for some time now – Israel-Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Eswatini, Sudan and a few countries in Africa South of the Sahara where terrorists’ activities are precipitating military coups, population-wide displacements, and general anarchy.

“We call for the cessation of hostilities. On this premise, we are excited about the ceasefire and peace agreement brokered by the African Union between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces.

“We must continue to demand and work for participatory plural democracy in countries where military rule has been established and where pseudo- democratic governments have been contrived. Also, our calls for the respect of human and trade union rights in all conflicted countries must remain loud, strong, and consistent.”

Wabba pointed out that the preamble of the Constitution of the International Labour Organization says, “Universal and lasting peace can be established only if it based upon social justice.”

“There is no gainsaying the fact that Social Justice is the master key to sustainable peace, progress, and development. The paucity of Social Justice in our world is a major contributor to the tensions, upheavals, vices, and violent conflicts in many countries.

“The ITUC’s commitment to Social Justice informs the theme of this year’s Congress “A New Social Contract” – all the more relevant given the dislocations and devastations of COVID-19 pandemic claiming nearly seven million lives and destroying about 250 million jobs. A significant number of the people who died were workers, many of them frontline workers.

“A New Social Contract means promotion of Jobs, Rights, Wages, Social Protection, Equality, and Inclusion. At its’ heart is Jobs. All the other cardinal pillars of it revolve around Jobs, not just any kind of job but decent jobs. Globally, we need to create 575 million new jobs to achieve full employment. New jobs should especially go to women who are already at the receiving end of the gender jobs gap.

“As already noted, we are living in a world where the gains on rights elevation are being increasingly wiped out by heinous attacks on basic human and trade union rights. Dictators both in government and private workplaces are rolling back hard-fought trade union and workers’ rights. Corporate Power is seeking to undermine the right to organize, to engage in collective bargaining, the right to hold and express political thoughts and the right to strike. These rights are sacrosanct and non-negotiable.

“Linked to jobs is the issue of wages. The 2020 ITUC Global Poll shows that the household income of 42% of the world population fell behind the cost of living. The global increase in labour productivity has not translated to living wages. While the desired wage outcome is living wages, so many countries especially countries of the Global South still struggle to pay minimum wage.

“According to the last World Inequality Report, the richest 1% took 38% of all additional wealth accumulated since the mid-1990s, whereas the bottom 50% captured just 2% of it. The poorest half of the world’s population possesses only 2% of the total wealth, while the richest 10% owns 76%.

“There can never be Social Justice without Social Protection. 75% of workers all over the world are outside the Social Protection net. There is no justification for this as just 0.25% of the global Gross Domestic Product would close the social protection gap,” he said.

Wabba added,”In order for the future of work we are building to be sustainable, we must pay attention to equality and inclusion. Care work must be paid for. We must promote equal pay for work of equal value. We must commit to freeing workplaces from sexual harassment and violence. And we must remove the barriers to economic and social development which stop progress in so many countries.

“From the perspective of my continent, Africa, to realise the SDGs we need a greater inclusion of trade unions in development processes through stronger social dialogue practices and institutions, ensuring workers can contribute to shape policies to fight poverty and inequalities. Inclusive development must be backed by investment, and by changing the rules that dominate the international financial institutions and system to enable countries to achieve equitable and sustainable development. I think this perspective from Africa also has global relevance.

“Sisters and Brothers, we are battling a debilitating climate emergency, with extreme weather conditions that have defied thresholds maintained for hundreds of years. The scorching heat which rose to unprecedented levels this summer, the flooding of whole regions in Pakistan, Nigeria, Europe, Australia, and many parts of the world in recent years, to the severe drought in East and Central Africa, parts of Asia and to the recurring rage of wildfires across Europe, South America, and USA, show we live in dire times.

“Despite these existential threats, corporate greed continues to stand in the way of the actualization of the global commitments to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions. Fossil capitalism must be stopped in its tracks.

“Just Transition, which is the response of workers all over the world to the threats posed by climate change, is gaining traction globally. The processes that are at the heart of the green economy must respect international labour standards. A case in hand is the use of child labour in Congo DRC to mine cobalt which is one of the key raw materials used in the manufacture of lithium batteries. We condemn this modern form of slavery and demand that cobalt produced under barbaric and slavish conditions should be treated as blood diamonds.

“Just Transition means alternative sustainable path to production and consumption. It must involve workers in decision-making and change the narrative of workers as victims of climate injustice to partners in finding solutions.

“The rapid evolution of technology, albeit helpful for the growth of the green economy, artificial intelligence and machine learning also presents its own challenges.

“The hijack and misuse of big data by corporate power and the casualization of platform work adds to the burden of 2 billion precarious work in the informal economy, some 60 percent of the global labour force. We need to arise from this Congress with a clear position on these issues.

“Sisters and Brothers, as the curtain draws on our stewardship at the ITUC, I relish the opportunity of working with some of the brightest minds available on this planet.

“The solidarity and cooperation we have offered ourselves through thick and thin have made all the difference. I remember vividly the warm hands of solidarity offered to the Nigeria Labour Congress by the ITUC and its affiliates when we engaged one of the most ultra-right-wing sub-national governments in Nigeria on the mass redundancy of workers. I profoundly relish and will forever cherish those moments of your amazing support.

“In the past four years, we have seen the ITUC rise to the occasion globally and regionally, to confront dictatorial governments such as the regimes in Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. We have seen the ITUC expand the frontiers of its partnership with international multilateral organizations such as the ILO and others. We have seen improvements in places like Qatar.

“We are also witnessing the ascendancy of labour and trade unionists in the corridors of political power. From Chile to Colombia, in Nordic countries and most recently our hosts here in Australia. We are excited by the victory of President Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil. We are confident that progressive forces nationally, with support from their external allies such as the ITUC shall continue to successfully push back right-wing and extremist rule and enthrone progressive democratic governance.

“Finally, sisters and brothers, it is critical that we take measured and inclusive steps; inclusive also means increasing the mainstreaming of women in leadership positions in our organisations to revamp working class unity and cohesion at the sectoral, national and international levels of our activities as workers representatives.

“We have a packed agenda to get through this week. We look forward to the contributions of affiliates in the plenary debate on our draft Congress Statement and full engagement in all the other elements of the Congress this week. At a time where the world is increasingly divided, it is crucial that we, the international trade union movement, move ahead with solidarity and unity.”

The NLC President stressed the vital need for a New Social Contract is clear, adding that all nations and all peoples included in a just future.

“This must be the foundation for a world that leaves behind the contours of colonialism and provides social and economic justice and development for all.

“It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve as ITUC President for the past four years, many achievements and many challenges to come.

“Sisters and brothers, our mantra “Workers united can never be defeated” remains true and must always be kept true. We must commit to building our unity through constant and timely introspection and openness to robust and frank engagements in addressing concerns that might fracture and erode our unity.

“Once again, I thank all our affiliate members, our global secretariat under the leadership by Sister Sharan Burrow, our social partners, civil society organizations and the media for making our burden these past four years lighter. We implore us all to extend the same hand of fellowship and cooperation to our successors in office,” Wabba said.

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