*Bureaucratic business unionism amongst the `organised’ sector?
Since collective bargaining for wages and working conditions began as sectional bargaining with individual capitalist, it accentuated money motive and individualism. It made workers fall an easy prey to commodity fetishism and hence consumerism.
Sectionalism rather than solidarity followed naturally. This made the unions accept and in fact stabilise the capital-imposed divisions by their union activities. The pecuniary motive became the dominant, if not the sole, motive for trade unionism. The pecuniary motive made unionisation depend on the workers’ capacity to pay regular subscription. Hence unionism got confined dominantly to regular employees of the so-called organised sector. The unions of regular employees shunned casual, temporary and contract labour. The unemployed were simply defined away as non-workers. The state played a very important role in legalising and controlling unions and their activities in such a way that they could not build any sustained and effective solidarity of the class. Solidarity strikes and even secondary strikes were frowned upon by the state. All this implies that the working class movement was led to accept implicitly and sometimes explicitly competition-led capitalist political economy. Hence trade unionism that was expected to transcend all the capital-imposed segmentation and divisions ended up by and large in stabilising them. Bureaucratic business unionism was its inevitable result.
*Atypical forms of employment and jobless growth
The rate of growth of employment has been less in the postglobalisation decade relative to that in the pre-globalisation decade. In fact, the rate of growth of employment has been less than the rate of increase of the labourforce. Accordingly unemployment rate has increased in the wake of the introduction of the consensusled policy of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation. Casual employment has grown at the cost of self-employment and regular employment. Fordist mass production with regular _employment that helped union grow has given way to lean or flexible production system with large-scale contingent employment. But for the socalled core production activities, all other productive activities are being pushed into the informal unorganised sector. Sourcing out `noncore’ activities, even core activities, is the emergent reality. Even at the workplace temporary, part-time workers, casual and contract labour are increasingly replacing the regular workers.
*A new strategy needed-common fight against privatisation
The need is to devise the strategy of organising that is intrinsically solidarity —oriented. At present, the class conscious leadership of the working class movement does call for solidarity from time to time that, still proves to be evanescent. This is because solidarity does not emerge as the necessary outcome of organising that is sectionalist at best. As solidarity across the working class is not integral to the organising concept of traditional unions it becomes just an add-on. It is a matter of ideological orientation that needs to be inculcated and fostered in a way that jells with the history and culture of the working class in each country. However, there is one general answer that may be applicable in all countries as strategy. This derives from the essence of money as the monopolist of buying power in a capitalist society. This gives a social power that helps empower the capitalist class. Hence so long as pecuniary transaction inheres the trade union movement, empowering of the class cannot be effective. ‘Their social power can rise dramatically if the buying power of money was limited relative to key wage goods’.
When education. health, transport and housing are met through public provisioning, the power of the working class vis-a-vis capitalist class rises sharply. Contemporary assault on public provisioning of these goods is but an attempt of the capitalist class to regain absolute power over labour. It means that the working class must win the battle against privatisation in general and privatisation of provisioning of critical wage goods in particular on the priority basis.
* Organise the Unorganised
There is another problem in the way of effective working class organisation in developing countries. The working class of each developing nation is characterised by a small segment of organised labour and inordinately large segment of the unorganised and the unemployed. This segment is expanding day by day as lean production with more and more contingent employees is growing. This dichotomy of the labour market is being used to beat the organised workers in the name of being considerate to the unorganised workers. The growing contingent of the unemployed will prove to be a lethal weapon in a fascistic attack on the organised working class and democracy, if the trade unionism does not rise to the occasion in time to organise the unorganised and the unemployed to fight for decent employment for all as an integral part of working class organising.
* `Power’ to change the social structure – Expansion of organisation is the pre-requisite
What is the purpose of the labour movement? For what workers to be organised? If one of the purposes of the labour movement is to close the gap between rich and poor or to greater social equality, inevitably the question is whether these could be achieved under capitalism or whether the working class should plan methods for challenging capitalist institutions including the fundamentally exploitative character of the wage relationship, as it exists now under the capitalist system? L-raising these questions is considered idealistic and impractical, does not it mean that the situation is allowed to continue just for survival of the ‘existing’ organisations?
Trade unions, therefore, need to define and act on an Agenda that has ‘the potential to change the peoples’ lives? Do we not think of the workers movement to advance the pro-working class policies, in order to take power in the hands of the working class?. We need the power to change the social structure, exploitation and so on.
Does trade unionism respond the expectations, urgencies and necessities of the contemporary situation, full of risks, as well as opportunities? Does trade unionism have the capacity, the means and the preparedness to play a decisive role in the decision making processes of governments, employers and institutions? Is trade unionism prepared to become an efficient counterbalance in the face of neo-liberal political economic and social, aggressive and costly policies when implemented synonymous with the elimination of the historical achievements of the workers, the destruction of the system of social protection, health and education, retirement, pension and the environment? Should not trade unionism build together with the peasant movement a solid alliance in order to put an end to the plundering and for the recovery of ‘their lands and means of production, necessary for the defence and protection of their culture, responding to their domestic necessities and contributing towards the real reforms? A common struggle of all workers become necessary in alliance with the peasants and peoples of the rural areas, in order to achieve democratic and progressive agrarian reforms that might place the land in the hands of those who toil the soil. Our trade unions both internationally and nationally, should be the frame work for the younger generations, immigrant workers, the unemployed the dispossessed of rights, those excluded from the collective bargaining to organise and defend themselves in particular the millions of workers, men and women in the informal sector.
*The need of the hour-united fight on common demands
The essence of universal human happiness is distributive justice, based on sharing and caring, on human rights as everyone’s title to life in dignity free from hunger, illiteracy and denial of equal opportunity and status. Even here, the law and life must go together and if life is to be human, not savage.
Many third world countries warehouses the largest number of the world’s poor and destitutes, illiterate and shelterless humans, victims of infant mortality and maternal mortality. Today, our slum indigents and village agrestics exceed in number their counterparts in other countries.
The challenges of globalisation could not be confronted without the effective role and participation of workers and peoples, towards the materialization of the objectives. How can it be justified that on one side there was absolute freedom for enterprises and the capitalists tycoons and on the other hand in the social field, people should be contended with fragmented and weak structures. The days to come are decisive ones. What is expected from the working class movement is a renewed capacity for making worthy the converging interest of all, from the very work place, as well as regions and continents, no matter their status or origin. The need for unity is of paramount importance.
WFTU’s Considered views:
- The Global economic & financial crisis underscores the fundamental flaws of capitalism and the urgent need for radical transformation towards a new economic order built on certain principles, such as, economic justice and equitable development, peoples participation in the shaping of economic policy, food and energy sovereignty, universal access to essential services and public utilities, protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular right to food, air, water, right of workers, rural & urban communities, indigenous people, women & children.
- Using industrial policy to strengthen manufacturing sector and creating purchasing power for a vibrant economy, where `living wage’ is ensured .
- Protection of jobs; labour and migrant workers in accordance with ILO core labour standards and based on the definition of decent work (contents of work, nature of jobs, security & representation), creation and facilitation of alternate employment and in the process advance other development goals; prioritation of Govt. assistance to small & medium scale sector and assistance to big industries should ensure employment of a significant number of workers.
- Re-orient budgets to finance immediate measures to address the impacts of the crisis, additional public investments to social infrastructure; Repeal and reverse the policies that brought on this crisis (eg.) Liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation.
- UN should play a central role; Govts to re-negotiate the free trade agreements, placing control on capital flows and applying sensible conditions to foreign investments and financial transactions.
- Radically reduce military spending and allocate to social sector; commit massive public funds to reverse privatisation of common essential services, and public utilities.
- Apply stringent `progressive’ tax systems by raising exemption from income tax to the poor, no tax on basic consumption foods and tax on the rich and luxury goods. Adopt controls such as, Tobin Taxes, on movement of speculative capital. Dismantle Tax Havens’.
- Finance Capital and financial system should not dominate over the real economy (production & social production) and ensure economic equity; self determination of sovereignty of peoples and nations.
- Cancel unsustainable and illegitimate debts of developing countries unconditionally; Tied aids to be rejected. The strategic vision should be to end the Aid regime. Restitution of undue wealth should become a principle of international law.
- Phase out the WB, IMF and WTO and help to build a new international financial architecture; withdraw from ICSID. A reformed and democratised UN and not the G7 or G20 must be the at the heart of the financial system reform. Decision making should be based on the 192 country parity vote.
- Introduce full scale socialisation of Banks, not just nationalisation of bad assets; recover the cost of the bailout from the hanks/companies assets and assets of the Executives; Potentially big banks must be subjected to anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws; The offshore banking system to be shut down.
- The end goal of trade should be social usefulness and not just financial profits; Trade policy should not destroy traditional, home-based and small & medium industries, as these have huge amount of potential employment for the urban and rural poor.
- Abandon capitalist practice of (a) capital-intensive industrial structure (b) lean model production, (c) free exit policy. Industrial policy should prioritise employment generation, safety & health, improving the quality of life, implementing the ILO’s Decent Work in letter and spirit.
- Goal of agricultural policy should be food self-sufficiency; Abolishing big land system & Corporitation of land, to protect small farmers and not the needs of the transnational agribusiness. WTO should be kept out of agriculture.