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02 / 07 / 2004
Unions urge Unesco to make dignified labor part of world heritage

The Dialogue “Work Cultures” concludes with the unification of the principal international and the launch of a thousand black balloons against precariousness and on-the-job accidents.

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The main labor organizations have joined together to fight against globalization and promised to back this pluralism in order to make their cause more effective. An image whose reflection was found in the conclusions of the Dialogue “Work Cultures,” which included Emilio Cabaglio, international director of the Dialogue, Cándido Méndez, general secretary of the UGT, his counterpart in CC.OO., José María Fidalgo, general secretaries of the international unions CIOSL and CMT, Guy Ryder and Willy Thys, respectively, and María Elena Andrés, from the Confederation of European Labor Unions.

The Dialogue “Work Cultures” met at the Forum with over 2,300 participants that represented 76 union confederations of different countries around the world and shop steward’s committees from multinationals. The Dialogue, which concludes today, backed the so-called Barcelona Declaration, which calls for UNESCO to declare dignified labor part of cultural heritage. “It’s a provocation because we don’t know if it’s within Unesco’s rules, and we are hoping for a response from the international labor movement,” said Cabaglio. “Without dignified work there is nothing,” said José María Fidalgo.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have begun discussing a fusion as a result of this Dialogue. “We’re on the right track and we’re heading into our world congress this coming December with the clear intention of unifying the world labor movement,” said Ryder from the ICFTU. “There is hope because the earlier informal discussions have been good. We’ll decide in October,” said Thys, of the ILO.

«In many cases, multinationals scorn workers’ rights and it’s helpful that the movement joins hands and recomposes the international unity lost fifty years ago,” said Carbaglio. The highest members of the main Spanish labor unions seconded the proposal.. Fidalgo pointed out that this process of international unity will allow for them to come closer to the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), the third-largest union in Spain, while Méndez highlighted that, “unity in action” is the main contribution the Spanish unions have made to the process.

No to this Globalization

Elena Andrés said that the unions’ clear rejection of “today’s globalization that only benefits large companies and forgets to distribute the wealth, a common problem in both the North and the South,” was obvious at the Dialogue. “We say yes to the globalization of justice, healthcare and education and the globalization of workers’ rights without reducing the circulation of capital,” added Méndez.

According to Cabaglio, globalization is “a great challenge,” like “a plan that needs a pilot who defends the little peoples’ interests and not just the big guys’”. “We need a world power to make globalization democratic, and that’s what the labor movement is involved in,” said the Dialogue director who was visibly happy with the unification process of the ILO and the ICFTU. “It’s very good news that syndicalism create tools to represent workers before the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization,” said Fidalgo.

1,000 Black Balloons

At the Forum Site participants from the “Work Cultures” will release a thousand balloons as a symbol of the fight against precariousness and on-the-job accidents. In Catalonia alone there were 170,000 work-related accidents and 149 workers died. The sky above the Forum filled with black balloons in memory of them.