UNI America’s Regional Conference opens to the cumbia beat
More than 600 unionists from across the Americas and attended the opening of the 4th UNI America’s Conference which began with a fusion of Latin Jazz Rock and ended with the cumbia beat of Colombia. The participants were entertained by the traditional dancing of the Papayeras.
The UNI Americas family as well as members from other continents are meeting in Medellin to discuss the issues facing the region at the largest trade union gathering in the history of Colombia. Union leaders will discuss plans to build peace and international union solidarity, and faced up to the challenges of the Future World of Work.
The theme of the conference - “Vamos juntos companeros – con tu quiero y con mi puedo”, inspired by a Mario Benedetti poem- urges the labour movement to bring together the activist will to fight with the building of strategic power. UNI Americas will continue to work to protect the right to strike and to grow unions by building power for working people.
The President of the Union de Trabajadores de Grandes Superficies de Comercion in Colombia, Luz Marina Diaz said, “Colombian workers are building together through its unions. We believe in achieving a better world for and with youth with the solidarity of the unions. We embrace the 18 Colombian unions affiliated to UNI. We will never give in to violence and will continue to work for peace.
Miguel Morantes, President of the Confederacion de Trabajadores of Colombia said, “Colombia is entering a defining moment with the peace process. UNI has played an important role by supporting us. If we can consolidate this peace in Colombia it will be a significant example of what can be achieved for the whole of Latin America.
The General Secretary of the CSA (ITUCA), Victor Baez said, “Thank you to Adriana Rosenzvaig, the UNI Americas’ General Secretary for all she has done for working people in the Latin America and the rest of the world. UNI Americas is with us in Colombia in calling for peace. We want an active and constructive peace for workers in Colombia and the rest of the region.
“We also have to fight and speak up for each and every one of those people who do not have a job and prepare for the challenges of the Future World of Work.”
Riccardo Gallindo, the representative of the mayor of Medellin said “We want to generate quality employment, by working with business, government and workers, through social dialogue. We want to create the city we dream of which everyone has a stake and share in.”
UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings explained that he was speaking on behalf of UNI Global Union President Ann Selin.
He introduced a video message from the UNI Global Union President, who unfortunately was unable to attend because of illness.
In her message to Conference the UNI President called on participants to use the meeting to drive on with the Breaking Through union growth programme and thanked them for their messages of support. The participants reciprocated with a warm round of applause.
Jennings then took the floor and reminded participants of the importance of the meeting not only to Colombia but the whole of the region, “We are standing in the shadow of 3000 ghosts – 3000 union leaders have been killed in Colombia, we must take on their legacy and continue in their footsteps.”
“The Americas are at risk. From the US to Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, we are seeing a closing of democratic spaces. As unions, we will continue to grow and represent working people for a region based on social inclusion, democracy, labour rights and most importantly, peace.”
“After the breakthrough in peace negotiations in Colombia, this is a chance to write a new chapter in Colombian history. Only with peace can we start to make real changes.
“It is not by chance that we are here in Colombia, for what is one of the biggest and most significant union meetings in the history of the modern Americas.
”We fear no-one and this conference will be a time of confidence as we tackle the issues and challenges of the region.”
Dr Ana María Castaño Álvarez, representing the Minister of Labour, Dr Clara López Obregón said, “We need a massive programme for youth and this is not a challenge just for the goverment but the whole of society. Our task is prepare the next generation for the opportunities which will bring us peace. We have to give a hand to everyone even if we don’t share their views to take the peace forward. We thank UNI Americas for supporting the peace process.”
Finally, Ruben Cortina, the President of UNI Americas said “UNI Americas is working towards finding solutions to regional and global problems at a time when we are confronted by hostility and aggression everywhere.” The UNI Americas President concluded by welcoming everyone in the packed conference hall to the conference and declaring the 4th UNI Americas Regional Conference open.