The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), co-hosting with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its affiliates the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU), the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Chemical, Engineering, Paper, Pulp, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU, salutes the workers of the world and welcomes the delegates representing the people who carry the global economy on their backs to the 17th World Trade Union Congress. This congress is organised under the theme “Struggle, Internationalism and Unity for the attainment of the contemporary workers’ needs, against poverty and wars generated by capitalist barbarism”,

This congress will see the arrival of over 800 international delegates, 700 local South African delegates throughout today, 340 of the delegates will be women. 31% from the public sector and 69% from the private sector respectively, representing 111 countries and 242 trade unions from all continents. This therefore means that the total expected number of delegates to this important workers event is 1500 delegates who will be deliberating throughout the rest of the week in ensuring the workers’ mandate is carried through in our struggle for a better world free of capitalist barbarism.

This congress will also afford the workers an opportunity to pay the greatest homage to the foundational figures of the South African trade union movement such as Moses Mabhida, JB Marks, John Nkadimeng, Eric ‘Stalin’ Mtshali, John Taolo Gaetsewe, Billy Nair, Wilton Mkwayi, Mark Shope, Joe Molokeng, Ray Alexander, Stephen Dlamini, Leslie Masina, Leon Levy and many others who pioneered COSATU’s predecessor SACTU.

Most significantly, Cde Eric ‘Stalin’ Mtshali will be hoisting the WFTU flag at the opening ceremony, in honour of the role that he, the likes of Moses Mabhida and Leslie Masina played in dedicating their lives both in WFTU and in the formation of a formidable Trade Union movement across many parts of the African continent.

The class orientated and revolutionary trade union movement under the banner of WFTU will use this opportunity to reflect and come out with responses to the challenges facing the working class all around the world and also to consolidate and strengthen the principles of working class internationalism and universalism.

It has become gradually obvious for millions of working people across the world that the capitalist crisis is a crisis of the system. It is not faults within the system but the system itself that is faulty, generating regular and periodic crises resulting from the sharpening of the main contradiction of capitalism. This highlights the historical boundaries of capitalism and the need to strengthen the struggles against capitalism, and ultimately its overthrow.

We are quite confident that a platform for democratic, open and frank engagements around common challenges facing workers the world over will deliver fruitful results in taking the struggles of workers forward

This is very key considering that we are faced with a crisis which intensifies the ruthless competition between the monopolies and forces the implementation of anti-labour and anti-peoples policies that also seeks to impose the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the toiling masses. The labour, social and trade union rights are under attack all around the world. Privatization flourishes and the scourge of unemployment rate is skyrocketing. The quality of life for the working class is deteriorating at a rapid pace.

For the control of natural resources, markets, roads for transport of goods and the control of new territories, the competition between the imperialist forces and their satellites is being intensified day after day generating new wars, conflicts and interventions in different countries.

The two main poles, the social-democrats and the neoconservatives which are represented by new or older parties, are utilized by the capitalist system to transform the indignation of the masses against the anti-peoples policies into passive or active support for the policy of the ruling class.

The working class is pushing back and is waging heroic struggles in all parts of the world. Workers have to deal with the brutal reaction of authorities and the capitalists whose response against these legitimate and fair struggles is to arrest, imprison and even murder of trade unionists. The workers struggle against the anti-labour and the neoliberal anti-people policies is the positive perspective that can open up new roads for the reconstruction of the trade union movement and rebuild an international working class movement.

The working class needs stronger, more dynamic, more mass-based, more class-oriented, trade union movement, Trade unions with deep and stable roots within the industries, within the multinationals and within all sectors, to defend its rights and demand social justice.

The 17th World Trade Union Congress gives the call to go “Forward!” to the international working class and the international class-oriented trade union movement.

The World Federation of Trade Unions as well as the South African working class have struggled side by side from the very first moment against the racist apartheid regime for a world without exploitation of man by man, for a socialist world and continue till today the struggle for the defense of the workers and people’s rights.

We are happy to be convening our 17th World Trade Union Congress in South Africa, the land of the heroic liberation and anti-apartheid struggle, the land of the militant and heroic SACTU, the land of Moses Mabhida, J.B Marks, Mark Shope and thousands of other known and unknown fighters, the land of the heroic South African working class.

WFTU prides itself of being a staunch supporter of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and other associated activities including the annual Israeli Apartheid Week. This WFTU shall continue to speak out against all forms of discrimination including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other sectarian sentiments in favour of a secular and tolerant world.

This Congress will be concluded by a mass workers rally to take place at the Curries Fountain stadium on the 8th October 2016, where a workers memorial plague will be unveiled in honour of the many who contributed immensely to workers’ rights.

Issued by WFTU


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