THE 17th Congress of the WFTU (World Federation of Trade Unions) was held on 5-8 October 2016 at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban city of Republic of South Africa, the land of the heroic liberation and anti-apartheid struggle. The Congress culminated in a spirited rally and a mass meeting at historic Curries Fountain Stadium on 8 October. As part of the closing ceremony, a workers’ memorial plaque was unveiled at the entrance of the stadium. The theme of the Congress was “Struggle, Internationalism and Unity, For Attainment of the Workers’ Needs, Against Poverty and Wars Generated by Capitalist Barbarism.”
In the country where the people fought hard and victoriously against the apartheid, 1500 workers’ and employees’ delegates from 111 countries and more than 210 central trade unions and sector based Trade Union Internationals representing 92 million workers from five continents participated in the Congress. The gathering comprised of 340 women trade-unionists and 31% of the delegates were from the Public Sector and 69% were private employees. From India 62 delegates participated from AITUC, CITU, AICCTU, AIUTUC and TUCC. From AICCTU 6-Member Delegation participated namely, Rajiv Dimri (General Secretary), SK Sharma and S. Balan (both vice-presidents), Bhuvaneswari and Uday Bhat (both Secretaries) and AS Kumar (Tamil Nadu state President and national councilor).
The Congress was greeted by leaders from South Africa, namely, COSATU President Sdumo Dlamini, General Secretary of South African Communist Party Blade Nzimande and ANC leader and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma. Several solidarity messages were also sent to the Congress.
In total, 112 speakers took the floor and spoke about the international situation and situation of the working people in their countries. On behalf of AICCTU, Rajiv Dimri addressed the Congress, describing workers’ struggles in India in the face of the Government’s assault on workers’ rights. He observed, “In Asia, Africa and Latin America we are witnessing powerful movements against attacks on labour rights, minimum wages and social security....transnational companies have severely brought down the wages and increased un-employment in the entire world including the developed world. On their diktats the governments everywhere are blatantly pursuing the policies of contractualization / casualization and snatching the workers’ rights, the right to collective bargaining and thus further pushing the wages down....The ruling classes are consciously and in planned manner fomenting racism, war, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant frenzy. The working class must unitedly thwart these divisive machinations and stop them.”
AICCTU moved the resolution for observance of centenary of Russian Revolution. The Congress discussed the ways and means to respond effectively from WFTU to the challenges facing the working class all around the world and also to consolidate and strengthen the principles of working class internationalism.
The Congress was jointly hosted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) affiliated unions, namely the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), the Police Prisons and Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and the Chemical Energy Print Paper and Allied Workers Union (CEPPWAWU).
The Congress elected a 47-member Presidential Council. Michael Mzwandile Makwayiba, South African trade union leader was elected as President and George Mavrikos was re-elected as General Secretary of WFTU for next five years.
The Congress wore festive look with dances and spirited peoples’ songs performed by South African worker delegates from time to time and reverberated with the slogans “Amandla” and “Awethu” (power to the people) with all delegates joining them.
The Congress adopted many Resolutions including observance of centenary of Russian Revolution throughout the world.