Monday, September 28, 2015


WCL members present at the foundation congress of the ITUC, Vienna 2006. 
From left to right starting left above: WCL Secretary General Willy Thys (ACV Belgium), 
Andrzej Adamcsyk (Solidarnosc Poland), Laura Gonzales Txabarri (ELA Spain), 
Bogdan Hossu (cartel Alfa Romania) 

On the 27th WCL Congress, held on October 31, 2006 in Vienna, an overwhelming majority voted for the abolishment of the WCL. The only organisation present at the meeting that voted against the abolition of the WCL was the WFCW, which at its congress in Medan, Indonesia had decided to oppose the merger and to remain independent as WFCW. A brave decision considering the pressure exerted to agree to the abolishment of the WCL and the creation of the new global trade union confederation ITUC. Moreover, the pressure kept going even after the foundation of the ITUC. 
Due to the WFCW I could be present on this last WCL Congress. With a view to the future the WFCW board had invited me to become a member of the World Board of WFCW and the European Board. I felt honored by this request and I was glad that I could still contribute to the strengthening of the WFCW and thus still keep alive the spirit of the WCL.

WCL adffiliates at the ITUC foundation Congress in Vienna, 2006.
From left to right starting left above: Julio Roberto Gomez (CGT Colombia),
José Pinzon (CGTG Guatemala), Mariano Mena (CGTP Panama),
Mamounata Cissé (ITUC Deputy Secretary General) talking to Eduardo Estevez
(WCL Confederal Secretary).

Nevertheless, I considered the abolition of the WCL also as a personal defeat. Since 1992 I had worked enthusiastically, under the leadership of General Secretary Carlos Custer, for the strengthening of the WCL. My field was especially Central and Eastern Europe and some International Trade Union Federations ITF's including WFCW. During that time I learned to know the power politics of the ICFTU. While the WCL mainly supported the newly created unions that arose from the dissident non-communist workers after the fall of communism, the ICFTU looked for mostly the old communist trade union leaders. Only the North American AFL-CIO made efforts to support newly created trade unions.

European WOW Board meeting at the WOW office in  Brussels in February 2007.
From left to right: Toni Liedlbauer, Roel Rotshuizen, Bjorn van Heusden,
Günther Trausznitz, Valère Jung and Rolf Weber.

Meanwhile, also had to be tried to stop the loss of Western European members of the International Trade Union Federations (ITF's). The departure of ACV and CNV trade unions from the ITF's was a serious financial and organizational loss. European trade unions dropped out because they claimed not to get enough support for their international trade union action. The unions in the Third World were organisationally and financially to weak and lacked a financially independent trade union culture. They leaned too much on their national and international trade union federations and the regional organizations. Decentralization of power, finances, accountability and responsibility remained problematic in the existing regional structures.

Now, 14 years later, I had to conclude that the WCL had not come out of the doldrums. Apparently, I had been unable to convince enough people to maintain the WCL against the trends of the times. One of those trends is of course the secularization, with one of the consequences that the social christian principles on which the WCL was built, were not so obvious anymore as foundation for a broad-based trade union movement. However these social christian values had not lost nothing of there significance for the society. On the contrary, many of the social christian principles had become commonplace in the trade union movement such as the social dialogue instead of class struggle, and the insight that private companies are an important source of employment and investment.

WOW president Roel Rotshuizen meets Dan Cunia from the ILO Actrav Department during
the ILO Conference in July 2008.

Simultaneously neoliberal capitalism and the consumer society triumphed, both built on market fundamentalism and capitalism with the walfare state as an outcome. Mass consumption became the highest ideal of society, also for the trade unions. Therefore, a lot of social christian oriented trade unions ended up as part of this capitalist materialism. In short, the struggle for wages meant more members, spiritual values were out of time. Spiritual life henceforth was a private matter for which you have to go to church. Anyway, for spiritual values, you had not to look for in the trade unions. The result was that solidarity was stripped of its spiritual dimensions, it became a marketing concept based mainly on the principle of redistribution of income and capital. An exclusive materialistic concept.

There were also internal causes for the decline of the WCL as for example the inability to reconcile organization and priorities with the financial revenues. Self-restraint would have been a good thing, as well as decentralization and delegation of responsibilities towards the continents. Now, each continent wanted to have its “own man” in Brussels with everything that goes with it. A smaller organization with fewer staff could have been equally effective at international level, provided that there would be a clear prioritization and effective division of roles between the member organizations.

View of the WOW World Congres in September 2012, Vancouver Canada.

One of the biggest obstacles to the membership growth of the WCL was the fact that new memberships practically spoken stood under the guardianship of the ETUC and in fact of the ICFTU. ETUC members repeatedly vetoed new WCL members, such as the Danish Confederation Krifa and the German CGB. Especially at the ACV this was a sensitive issue because of its position in the ETUC and its national rival, the socialist FGTB. The practical effect was that the WCL had already lost its autonomy and independence even before it was formally dissolved.

That the Dutch CNV bowed for the pressure of the ACV, to accept the abolishment of the WCL might be explained by the fact that Europe already has its own established social model based on the social dialogue and clear rules that apply to the government, employers and trade unions. The European "social economic game" is played by the ETUC. The ITUC has little or no influence. Quite the opposite, the European trade union movement is one of the game setters in the ITUC.

FPE Secretary General Koffi Zounnadjala, also vice president of the WOW,
with moto-taxistas, a project to support young people to have their own taxi motor,
Togo 2012

In Latin America, the role of trade unions in state and society is by no means defined. The social dialogue hardly exists and regulations are inadequate or sometimes even anti- trade union. In some countries there is not even freedom of trade union movement. Based on social Christian values, CLAT always fought for democracy and social dialogue like for example exists in the European Union. CLAT had nothing to do with state oriented socialism as for example in Cuba. CLAT also did not want the North American model of capitalism without social dialogue. North American trade unions are in fact a kind of “labor organized company” within an enterprise or economic sector. Therefore, it is curious that CLAT merged into the Inter-American organization TUCA-CSA (Trade Union of the Americas) in which the North American AFL-CIO is one of the major social-economic game setters. The question now will be what kind of social-economic model the TUCA-CSA will promote for Latin America.

Participants of the XXV Ordinary National Congress of the National Association of Journalists of Cusco, Peru, September 2015. The reelected ANP President Roberto Mejia is also Vice-President of WOW and President of the regional federation FELATRACCS.

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