Monday, April 18, 2022
16 April 2022 marks the 30th Anniversary of the General Confederation of Trade Unions (GCTU) uniting in its ranks trade unions of Newly Independent States that emerged over the post-Soviet expanse.
The creation of the GCTU came as the result of free will expression by the region’s trade unions, their desire to keep intact the fraternal ties built over decades, and jointly seek solutions to challenges confronting them in the transition period. This unification helped them not only survive and preserve many gains achieved earlier, but also take a proper niche in the new political and socio-economic systems, both in their respective states and in the region as a whole. It also made it possible for the GCTU and its member organisations, in a historically short period of time, to fit successfully into the structure of the world trade union movement and get involved in its life, while saving their own identities.
The 30-year-long path gone together was a path of solidarity, mutual aid and cooperation for the sake of achieving common goals. While in the GCTU ranks, the region’s trade unions jointly grasped the mysteries of working in a market economy, learnt together how to protect employees’ interests, and mastered international trade union experience. With the support of its affiliates, the Confederation established, and to this day fruitfully maintains, cooperation with interstate bodies of the CIS and the EAEU.
Almost on the day of its foundation, the GCTU proclaimed its intention to build relations with the outside trade union world, guided by the principles of openness and ideological impartiality, and by the willingness to enter into dialogue with trade unions of different orientation, regardless of their international affiliation. Today, 30 years later, it is clear that this choice, prompted by the political realities of that time, has proved correct.
As a regional structure, the GCTU has won recognition, both in the international trade union movement, and in specialised UN institutions and agencies, such as the International Labour Organisation, the Economic and Social Council, and the Department of Public Information. This enables the Confederation to represent the agreed-upon interests of its affiliates in these institutions, and maintain cooperation with other international non-governmental organisations.
The acute need for such a structure as the GCTU, with its potential for support, mobilisation and solidarity, is especially apparent in times of trouble, such as today, when living standards in our countries are falling amid declining economic growth, the social protection of the population is slackening, the already huge income gap keeps increasing, the social stratification is deepening and, subsequently, the attacks on workers' rights and trade union freedoms are increasingly frequent.
The 30th Anniversary of the GCTU falls on a tense period of international development. Globalism is going through a grave crisis, with its multinational structures losing resilience, and trade and economic contradictions growing ever sharper, as can be seen from the unbroken series of unsubstantiated, unlawful sanctions against Russia. In an atmosphere of militarist frenzy, passions around the explosive situation in south-eastern Ukraine have reached an all-time high. Destabilising outside attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the region’s countries go on unabated. Particularly alarming is the unprecedented surge of nationalism and xenophobia in the United States, which has resulted in unparallel outbreaks of open racial hostility and intolerance.
In light of this, the GCTU Council, having gathered in Moscow for a meeting to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Confederation, appeals to all trade union organisations to put truly trade union values at the forefront of their activities, first of all, the protection of employees’ interests, build up international solidarity in the face of new formidable challenges posed by globalisation, and press ahead with the fight against its harmful impact on the world of work, against the dictates of TNCs in the economy and politics, and against instigating militarism.
The General Confederation of Trade Unions and its affiliates will promote these struggles in every possible way.
All sores, distortions and problems inherent in the global economy became especially obvious against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against which required from the human race a special mobilisation of means and resources. Globalisation tailored on the patterns imposed by the transnationals has run into a bitter conflict with the national interests of states. What we are witnessing now is the actual fall of the seemingly unshakable well-being systems built on liberal approaches.
We stand in solidarity with the ITUC call to fight for a radical restructuring of the global economic order to put the interests of the worker at the heart of economic development. In doing so, we proceed from the firm conviction that economic difficulties or upheavals, including those related to the removal the effects of the of coronavirus pandemic, can under no circumstances be used to justify political or economic measures running contrary to international labour standards and decent work principles.
As part of international solidarity, we will keep rebuffing any attacks on the rights of workers and trade unions or attempts to strip them of their property and assets. We will fight against any discrimination in the sphere of labour and social policy, for full and productive employment, for the elimination of mass poverty and social exclusion, for the triumph of decent work.
Together with the entire world trade union movement, the GCTU and its members will in all possible ways strengthen the International Labour Organisation. We are vitally interested in a strong and efficient ILO, with its highly credible international labour standards. With regard for the new experience gained in the course of eliminating COVID-19 socio-economic consequences, the Confederation will develop and upgrade its regional campaign for compliance with international labour standards initiated in April 2006. The trade union monitoring established as part of this campaign has already helped accelerate the ratification by the region’s countries of all fundamental and other important ILO conventions.
The ILO's consistent course for the realisation of the decent work agenda and social justice all over the world, underpinned by its recent policy documents, such as the Decent Work Agenda and the Future of Work Centenary Declaration, will meet with further support from trade unions in our countries. To this end, the GCTU will continue making an active contribution to the annual World Day for Decent Work.
The GCTU and its affiliates accepted the ILO modernisation programme with understanding. We expect that the upgraded Organisation, without losing anything from its unique experience, without departing from its fundamental principles and objectives, will acquire new qualities and capabilities that will enable it to respond more rapidly, and in the spirit of the times, to social challenges posed by the volatile world of globalisation, and interact more closely and substantively with the United Nations on issues of labour and workers’ rights.
As an international non-governmental organisation enjoying permanent status with the UN Economic and Social Council and the UN Department of Public Information, the GCTU will further support the UN line to add a tangible social dimension to world politics, promote its major initiatives affirming social justice, and safeguard peace and security on this Planet. Together with our member organisations, we shall help implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The GCTU Council reaffirms the commitment of our Confederation to the principles of trade union solidarity, as well as its willingness to support struggles waged by the international trade union movement to protect the common gains, goals and values that are indispensable for achieving the mainstream goal of the World of Work, namely, the universal implementation of decent work principles.
The Council calls on world trade unions to do all they can to jointly stop the human race from sliding down into the abyss of continued confrontation, mutual embitterment and mistrust. Without normalising the international climate, without restoring the enabling environment for constructive dialogue with due respect for the arguments of each of the conflicting parties, the unions can hardly count on creating favourable conditions for a successful common response to the challenges of this global world. The worst option in this situation would be to revive Cold War rhetoric or jump at rash, ill-considered decisions as prompted by emotions and impulsive assessments.