Sunday, September 28, 2008

PA Interview: Osiris Oviedo

by Mike Tolochko

Osiris Oviedo de la Torre works for the World Federation of Trade Unions in Geneva Switzerland. She is a Cuban national from Havana, Cuba. Ms. Oviedo is part of the new aggressive stance by the new WFTU.

PA: Before we discuss the WFTU and the ILO organization, can you tell me about the hurricanes in Cuba?

OO: Yes, the two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, were devastating to our country. Of course, we are used to hurricanes at this time of year; and, there was plenty of advance warning and preparations. But, two in a row was more than we could handle. Fortunately, we have strong national resources and our people help each other. But, we also have some international organizations helping out. They have responded to the crisis to help our already stretched resources. With the tens of thousands of people out of their homes and the deaths, the situation is very difficult.

PA: When did you takeover this position?

OO: When the WFTU met in Havana in 2005 and decided to move its headquarters from Prague to Athens, Greece, they also made a decision to change their personnel in Geneva. The meeting in Havana was at a Congress of the WFTU; and George Mavrikos, from Greece, was elected secretary- general of the WFTU.

PA: It is the ILO in Geneva, right?

OO Yes, the main international organization located in Geneva Switzerland is the International Labor Organization. Since the new WFTU leadership, we have been seeking deeper involvement in the activities of the ILO; those activities that can improve the lives of working class people.

PA: Please explain.

OO: We held WFTU organizational meetings at the ILO's recent Annual Conference. An Informal WFTU Presidential Council Meeting was held on June 4th.

On June 6th, George Mavrikos, WFTU Sec. Gen. chaired a special meeting in Solidarity with Columbia trade Unionists. Ramon Cardona from Cuba and a WFTU head in the American Region spoke. More than 100 trade unionists from Portugal, China, South Africa, Palestine and Venezuela took the floor in that meeting.

PA: Does the WFTU function inside ILO?

OO Many WFTU affiliates have responsibilities in ILO organizations. Prof Ibrahim Ghandour, president of the Sudan SWTUF and President of the OATUU and member of the WFTU Presidential Council was elected to the Workers' Group proposed by the OATUU meeting.

Shaban Azzouz, Secretary General GFTU from Syria and WFTU Council was a member of the Workers Bureau. Their aim is the strengthening the ILO capacity to assist its members efforts to reach its objectives in the context of globalization where Ramon Cardona, WFTU Secretary for America was coordinator.

Sandiago Yagual, Sec. Gen. for CTE from Ecuador and Sourbiandhu Kar, Sec Gen. from the AITUD, India were with the Committee on Skills.

Abid Miro and Valentin Pacho, but leaders of AFTU participated and kept track of ILO committees.

PA: I understand that the Chinese labor federation was seeking ILO recognition. Did the WFTU help in this effort?

OO: Yes, We were very active in helping the Chinese labor federation gain its rightful place in the ILO. There was luke warm support from other labor organizations, but we were fully behind their efforts. We were told that our efforts made it possible for the Chinese trade unionist to gain a Deputy Member status.

PA: Did Mavrikos speak at the ILO conference?

OO: Yes, he spoke at the ILC Plenary. He quoted from Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was created in 1948: "All human beings are born free and equlity in dignity and rights and as they have logic and conscience, they have to behave fraternally one to the other."

He questioned if the millions of human beings dying from hunger should not be protected by that Declaration; as well as the millions in poverty around the world. He focused on migrant workers conditions and, he focused on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the attacks by Israel against the people of Palestine and against the people of Lebanon; don't they violate that Declaration, he asked?

He also made it clear that the WFTU is the oldest labor organization being founded 3 years prior to the Declaration, in 1945, but today is excluded from the Governing Body of the Workers Group.

He said that the WFTU wants an ILO that has pluralism and open to all ideologies; without exclusions and discriminations.

PA: Did the Havana Conference change the WFTU Look at the ILO?

OO Yes. Mavrikos said that the Havana conference sets the WFTU into a new uprising course. He said that we are open to working with all labor federations on an international, national or local level. He made it clear that the WFTU works with all people, regardless of race, color or language.

PA: Finally, does the WFTU have a proposal for ILO participation by labor unions?

OO: Yes, We suggest that before the next elections in the Administrative Council that:

"The Workers group, on behalf of the necessary trade-union plurality, which should also be in force in the ILO Governing Body, to ensure that the WFTU as well as the organizations without international affiliations could be fairly represented [20% and 10 percent respectively] in its various categories."

And, at a meeting of the Workers' Group, 97 ILO Conference, May 29th, 2008, I presented a WFTU proposal. Our proposed formula has been that of 70% for organizations affiliated to the ITUC; 20% for those affiliated to the WFTU and the remaining 10% for those without affiliation.

PA: Thank you very much.

OO: Thank you; and, please remember the new WFTU will be seen more and more in coming months and years.