The secretary of Social and Economic Policy of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Victor Báez, says that criticisms of the neo-liberal economic model will mark the discussions at the 16 Continental Congress of the ICFTU this week in BrasÀlia, Brazil.
“We are going to study policies to restore the prestige of the State, to come to grips with the deification of the market. We shall also discuss the war on poverty and child labor and ways to achieve gender equality,” he says.
According to Báez, the Congress will consider the creation of a single international central union capable of influencing national and global policies. “The unions would undergo a process of unification,” he summarizes.
The secretary reports that countries with low union representation tend not to respect workers’ rights. As an example, he points to what happened in Argentina during the administration of ex-President Carlos Menen.
“When he took office, unemployment was 6%. When he left the presidency, the rate was up to 20%,” he observes.
Despite his criticisms of Latin American governments, Báez praises the labor relations and union reforms that are taking place in these countries, especially in Brazil. In his opinion, the labor relations and union reforms proposed by Lula’s Administration represent an ideal model for Latin America.
Báez emphasized that the reforms were debated and discussed with representatives of workers’ and employers’ unions, unlike the reforms adopted elsewhere in the world since the decade of the 1990’s.
“These reforms are intended to introduce flexibility, and they were agreed upon and approved by all the relevant organizations in this area,” Báez remarked.
He is fearful, however, of the measures applied in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. “They have serious problems. They are doing away with the workers’ social gains,” he said.
The ICFTU Congress was officially inaugurated today by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.