Why it’s important to have a voice at the International Labour Conference, by Roberto Trochez Bardales
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I would like to thank Education International for giving Colprosumah the opportunity to participate in the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference at the ILO in Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of this global teachers’ federation of which we are proudly members. Our participation focused on denouncing the inequalities and violations of human and labour rights committed by the government of Honduras against the nation's teachers and human rights defenders. It also enabled us to provide first-hand accounts of the events, trends and mechanisms in the world of work that can help us move forward towards solving the general issues faced by teachers in Honduras.
I believe that this experience strengthens Latin American leadership, which will then have a further impact on leadership training in other countries. What we have learnt from this process should help enable us to have a more open dialogue with the national government of Honduras. This is due to the commitment undertaken by the government during the event, who repeatedly stressed the importance of social dialogue and their willingness to comply with recommendations made by the panel of experts. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that Honduran government officials may not match their actions to their speech at the conference, and instead opt to attack labour union organisations even more strongly.
Participation in the International Labour Conference provides an opportunity to learn about the different opinions held by employers, employees and participating governments. This experience demonstrates the tendency of people to unite around interests and political orientations they hold in common. These alliances often include employers as well, and they clearly seek to infringe upon the social rights acquired through years of struggle and negotiations by workers around the world. One concrete example of this is the right to go on strike; in the case of Honduras, both employers and the national government insisted that these rights should not be taken into account given that they are not established under Convention C087 of the ILO.
In the case of Honduras, the country is currently in a very precarious position, as the government has been globally sanctioned for its violation of the human and labour rights of the entire national workforce. It is for this reason that, on behalf of Education International, I requested that a contact committee be created that would travel to the country to compile both personal accounts and solid evidence with a view to determining the true extent of alleged persecution and suppression of the working class. The Honduran government must resume this dialogue, especially with its teachers, who suffer some of the worst discrimination in the country.
This was also an opportunity to get to know the different opinions held by employers, employees and participating governments. It is clear that governments will always unite in favour of their own interests, just like employers. Therefore, although divided opinions were to be expected given the collusion between governments and employers, both workers’ representatives and some of the government representatives present were in favour of the proposal I made during my presentation on behalf of EI to create a contact committee in order to assess and follow up on the human rights violations within the country.
Participation in these kinds of activities helps to strengthen strategic thinking and to learn to think things through and plan carefully prior to taking action. Sharing our thoughts with world leadership brings us closer to other methods of training and other political realities. In addition, by making contact with organisations similar to ours, we can see that trade union challenges are similar around the world and recognise that this is a permanent struggle that unions must take up as part of their commitment to their people.What might be able to save the trade union and working class from these on-going neoliberal attacks is a strong sense of solidarity between trade unions across the world. This requires a lot of training and social awareness, work that unions in Latin America and across the world must take up urgently.
Maintaining this proximity to other trade unions helps us be more in solidarity with those who have less training and identifies us as true members of the working class at the global level. Furthermore, as observed during the conference, we must create a very strong training space for women members in order to expand their opportunities for participation in all organisations at both the national and international level. Every adult human being in the world should have the right to decent work, as this affects the very social fabric of nations at a macro level; at a micro level, this affects family structures — which, if they are favoured by fair working conditions, help to ensure that our nations’ children have access to a decent childhood, a free, high-quality education, and to general conditions favourable to physical, emotional and intellectual development.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.