Sunday, November 29, 2009

Copenhagen: Climate Change, Public Transport Systems

by Mike Tolochko

In Preparation for Copenhagen: World Trade Union Federation's Trade Union Int'l for Transport Sounds Alarm and Solidarity

Public Transportation systems are a crucial strategy to begin to reverse the disastrous Climate Change [aka Global Warming] direction that our earth is on. Key to that strategy is the worker and unions who represent workers in those transport systems. The Neoliberal policies that still grip the world economic capitalist system is taking its toll as the world continues its lurching toward greater climate change.

The December, 2009 United Nations meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark will certainly focus on public vs. private systems. Clearly public systems in every aspect of economic and political life are preferred over the greed of private/profit making systems.

The following is the resolution by the Transport Trade Union International [TUI] of the World Federation of Trade Unions, Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, November 17, 2009.


World Federation of Trade Unions
Class oriented - uniting - democratic - modern - independent!

Painting by Pablo Picasso on the occasion of 10th anniversary of WFTU in 1955

Resolution of the meeting of TUI Transport held in Lisbon on November 17th 2009

In the History of Humankind, the development of societies is intimately connected to the development of means of transportation, which have always brought peoples together, whilst at the same time helping to disseminate ideas, thus contributing to increase the consciousness of working people.

Transports are a strategic sector for an integral and sustainable development in each country. For several decades, there was in Europe the concern to introduce a strong social component, namely by creating a public transportation system. Placing people at the core, as the main beneficiaries of transportation policies, many States became the driving force in this sector, with a view to placing transports at the service of society and the peoples. The sector created jobs and reduced asymmetries, its workers acquired an important class consciousness, strengthened their trade union activity and representation and played an extremely important role in securing fundamental rights for working people as a whole.

The abandonment of these policies, in favour of neoliberal policies which seek an unbridled increase in profits through a greater exploitation of the workers, has subordinated everything to the interests of the major economic groups. This has had very negative effects for the sector, namely:

· Causing the disintegration of a system which should be an essentially integrated and complementary system and therefore more economical, balanced and environmentally-friendly.

· Decreasing the system's public nature in order to favour the private interests of economic groups which have pocketed the returns generated by public investment, in a logic of "public investment, private profit";

· Threatening democracy and national sovereignty, a threat which is actually contained in the neoliberal and anti-social provisions of the Lisbon Treaty.

· Reducing the transportation systems' public role, with higher fares, more expensive travel cards, and less services, thereby making the mobility of communities more difficult and more costly;

· Subordinating public transportation to private transportation, in particular road transports, with a negative impact on environmental sustainability, namely by increasing the emission of CO2, thus leading to dangerous climate change;

· Resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs, deteriorated living standards and working conditions and making precarious jobs more widespread;

· Seeking to deregulate labour relations, in the quest for longer working hours and less pay;

· Representing an assault on collective bargaining, thus creating entire generations of workers without rights and with deregulated labour relations;

· Deteriorating safety and health standards at the workplace;

· Seeking to pit the workers against each other, by making it easier to hire the workers from less developed countries under the labour rules that exist in those countries;

· Trying to break the bonds of solidarity among the workers, by promoting individualism and group mentality among certain trades.

In a European context, the European Union is the top expression of neoliberalism in the Continent. The impact of its decisions extends beyond the EU arena. The steps that are being taken tend to promote the same policies that led to the serious economic and social crisis which grips our societies.

The Lisbon Treaty enshrines policies of full liberalization of the transport sector, which are contained in the various directives and packages for the transport sector, deregulating labour relations through measures that seek to introduce the so-called "flexicurity", which is none other than flexibility for the workers and security for the profits of big business.

The serious decisions taken by the European Court of Justice regarding the Laval, Viking Line and Ruffert cases, among others, have made it clear that free competition, the freedom of circulation for companies and the right to establishment that are envisaged in the European Union Treaty that is in force, and which are also included in the Lisbon Treaty, are used to justify practices of social dumping, to degrade collective bargaining, to relocate workers from low-wage to high-wage countries, whilst preserving wage differentials in the countries of origin, in order to pit the workers in competition against each other and to favour greater exploitation and higher profits.

Issues such as the packages for the railways, European air space, the liberalization of ports and the deregulation of maritime transports, etc., are all different sides of the same coin: the attempt to liberalize this sector so as to favour the interests of the big economic groups.

The crisis in which we are sunk is the result of capitalist policies, which are not the solution to the existing problems: on the contrary, those policies are part of the problem.

The Trade Union movement, more than ever has a role and a historic duty to lead the workers in the struggle to build a new society, which may respect the peoples' interests, value labour as a factor for social progress, and be a society of solidarity and peace.

Based on the concrete struggles in each country, trade union activity should build on strengthening unity in action, with concrete proposals, demands and mass action, in order to give strength to a response that must be vigorous, against an offensive that is global in nature.

To state that solutions for the workers' problems can be found within neoliberal policies, as long as one or other aspect are more "humanized", is a fundamental mistake. Capital is insatiable in its appetites.

There can be no solution without the workers' mobilization for the struggle, an organized and class struggle. The workers must be involved in the processes of collective bargaining of their demands. What the workers need is a militant and demanding trade-unionism, in Europe and throughout the world.

It is in this context that Transport – TUI and the organizations that were present at the Lisbon Conference of November 17, 2009, considered it necessary, whilst taking into account each country's specificities and each organization's identity and priorities for trade union activity, to strengthen the cooperation in defence of the following priority lines of action:

· To oppose a Europe that represents the interests of the economic groups and to strive for alternative policies that correspond to the peoples' aspirations for welfare, that can generate solidarity and promote peace;

· To defend integrated systems of transportation, that are placed at the service of societies and the peoples, that cooperate in their own midst and can be more economical, safer and more environmentally-friendly;

· Stronger public investment in public and socially-oriented transportation, that may contribute to environmental protection and create decent and secure jobs;

· To oppose all decisions that seek to promote "flexicurity", which means security for the capitalists and flexibility for the workers;

· To struggle against all attempts at social dumping, which strive to level labour rules by the lowest standards, thereby reducing the workers' capacity to resist and fight;

· To raise workers' wages and improve their living standards;

· To defend policies that may raise the workers' professional standards and enhance the working classes' knowledge;

· To improve workplace safety and health conditions.

These organizations consider that it is the workers' struggle that can change the policies at the service of big business, which have brought a major crisis to the world, and to prevent the ongoing attempts to make the workers pay for the crisis – a crisis for which they are not responsible.

Therefore, to defend the transport workers in Europe, to improve their living standards and working conditions and to defend an integrated transportation system that may serve the communities and the peoples, the Transport TUI proposes to the European Transport Trade Unions:

To hold a day of action and struggle during the first quarter of 2010, that may be as broad and united as possible, involving public actions, demonstrations, rallies, strikes, etc., in which the concrete and specific demands of the workers in each country may also be included.

The precise date of this day of action will be announced before the end of 2009.

Lisbon, November 17, 2009

Posted Transport

© 2009 World Federation of Trade Unions