UNI-Americas and its sectors believe that the defence and full respect of human and trade union rights are the main political objectives of all trade unions. Respecting human and trade union rights is absolutely essential if we are to obtain better working conditions, greater prosperity in society in general and a stronger economy.
The extent to which workers are not prevented from organizing themselves in unions, becoming trade union leaders, or having unrestricted access to the workplace through their national and international organizations, will determine their success in obtaining a share of the wealth and decent working conditions for the workers. This will contribute to the emergence of societies that are less exclusive and which achieve a better social balance.
Defend Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
UNI-Americas demands the respect of the trade union rights laid down in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Rights and Principles at Work and in the other ILO Conventions. The majority of these legal instruments have been ratified by member states, but they have not always been respected in practice. It is therefore necessary that they be given top priority in order to ensure full compliance. We also want to see the creation of protection networks aimed at facilitating activities at the local and national level.
In view of the situation described above, UNI-Americas has decided to carry out joint campaigns with other regional and sub-regional unions, as well as with other Global Union Federations, in order to defend freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in the Americas.
“Freedom from Fear” Campaign
In Colombia, UNI-Americas is engaged in an on-going campaign for the defence of freedom of association and the respect of human rights. This is particularly important given the fact that hundreds of trade union leaders in this county have lost their lives. UNI-Americas condemns the Colombian government which has a proven responsibility in the assassination of union leaders and workers. The legal authorities of the country discovered that the Colombian Security Administrative Department (DAS), the investigative agency which is Colombia’s equivalent of the FBI, had drawn up lists of trade union leaders which it gave to paramilitary groups, and the leaders on the list were subsequently assassinated.
For UNI-Americas and the international trade union movement, Colombian trade union leaders are heroes. In spite of decades of repression, they have tirelessly and courageously pursued their struggle for economic and social justice for workers. However, they need more than just the admiration of trade unionists around the world. They need us to provide them with tangible help. They need our solidarity, not just in words, but also in deeds.
Solidarity Campaign in Guatemala
UNI-Americas is closely monitoring the events that are taking place in Guatemala where the situation in terms of labour and trade union rights is now right back to where it was before the restoration of democracy. UNI-Americas strongly condemns the climate of anti-union violence which is reflected in repeated death threats, the assassination of workers and union leaders, intimidation, dismissals, the existence of “black lists”, persecution, and the harassment and discrimination of unionists. This atmosphere of intolerance is an obstacle which prevents the exercise and enjoyment of trade union and human rights in Guatemala.
One of the most striking features of globalization is the dominating role played by multinationals. Multinationals are private or public corporations, and sometimes even a mixture of public and private, whose capital often far exceeds the budget of most of the countries of the Third World. The profits and economic power of multinationals are often in sharp contrast with the poverty in which millions of people in many countries, including most of Latin America and the Caribbean, live.
UNI-Americas and its affiliates in the various sectors advocate a more equitable form of globalization, and therefore support the proposal made by the United Nations. Economic development must go hand in hand with a social dimension, and this must include the respect of human rights and especially freedom of association. At the same time, companies must adopt a neutral position and not interfere in the process of trade union organization.
UNI-Americas aspires to, and is fighting for a better world, and it is working closely with the various sectors to achieve this. It will continue to work for a stronger international trade union movement via the establishment of sectoral networks, and together with the unions representing workers in the multinationals it will continue to demand the application of the OECD and ILO instruments that already exist. This will provide a structure for trade union action in the areas of employment, vocational training, salaries, etc., as well for the development of a more supranational vision both in terms of coordinating employment plans, negotiating framework agreements and, lastly, of engaging in collective bargaining.
Thus, UNI-Americas and its affiliates insist on a much more active role in the process of consolidating these standards in multinational enterprises, calling on the latter to guarantee neutrality. Furthermore, national and international employers must recognize that they have a greater responsibility towards society as a whole and that they must respect international standards (OECD, UN Global Compact, the ILO Tripartite Declaration on the Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and especially the triennial surveys).
We shall being take a closer look at the implementation at enterprise level of the concepts of CSR (corporate social responsibility) a decent work. These are objectives which meet the need for a greater commitment to workers. We shall also demand that multinationals sign global agreements that require them to fully comply with core international labour standards.