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Speech by Luc Triangle at the LO Congress

Kongress Speech by Luc Triangle, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, at the LO congress 2024.

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Foto: Lars Forsstedt

Dear Delegates

I great you on behalf of the International Trade Union Confederation. We are the global voice of workers. We organise 340 national confederations, in nearly 170 countries, representing over 200 million workers.

Let me start by sharing with you some messages on Ukraine. I was there till yesterday and came directly from Kyiv to your congress. I met our national affiliates, we spoke to political leaders, we had some visits. It was a mission of support and solidarity. We also visited the main children hospital in Ukraine. There you can witness the horror of such war.

The ITUC stands for democracy, respect for human rights and workers’ rights. The ITUC stands for a free world where people and workers can express themselves without being scared of ending up in jail, or worse. We fight against dictatorships.

For this reason, there can be no doubt that the ITUC condemned and continues to condemn the Russian invasion and aggression against a free and independent Ukraine. There is no justification for this war. No justification by referring to history, no justification now and no justification never in the future.

Ukrainian people and workers are suffering. Thousands are killed, many more have been forced to flee, and many are living today in areas temporary in the hands of the aggressor. Hospitals have been bombed, energy infrastructure and railway infrastructure is hit. Daily life in Ukraine becomes more and more difficult.

The war in Ukraine is a war about the future of a free and democratic Europe. Ukraine fights for our freedoms. That’s why support is needed.

As Trade Union movement, I continue to say that we are one of the main actors of the global Peace movement. And we all know that a war never has winners, and that peace never has losers. And even when Ukraine will succeed in its military objectives, namely reconquering the entire Ukrainian territory, the war will not be over. Peace will only be achieved at a table. And as global trade union organisation, we will continue to work towards a solution that guarantees a long-lasting peace respecting territory and independency for Ukraine. 

Besides Ukraine, there are at least 50 more conflicts in the world where arms are used on a daily basis. Most of them are not in our news headlines anymore. The geopolitical conflicts are increasing, and we all know and see what is currently going on in the Middle East. 

Together with this, we see that democracy is globally under attack. The Stockholm based organisation IDEA published again a worrying report on the state of democracy in the world. Elections might be fair and transparent, but we see a rise of authoritarian and far-right leaders that –once in power- start to attack our democratic values such as respect for Human Rights, equality, rights for LGBTQI+, rights for woman, minorities, free press and much more. And together with that, they also attack workers’ rights and trade union rights. The reason is simple : as trade unions we are the largest global social movement defending democracy, and we are the largest opponents of these new authoritarian leaders who what to destroy democratic values. 

And democracy starts at the workplace. We need workplace trade union rights that are the foundations of the best democratic systems. That’s why we are all at your side to get union recognition and collective bargaining rights in Tesla. These type of CEO’s are also real treats for our democracy.

The ITUC has launched this year its global FOR DEMOCRACY campaign. It is a campaign to support workers in Argentina attacked by the authoritarian President Milei. It is a campaign for defending the judges in Morocco that have been banned from joining trade unions, or in support of the unions in Sri Lanka that have been removed from the national tripartite council.

But it is also a campaign to support workers and trade unions in Finland fighting for democracy and the right to strike and fighting for the so called Nordic model, and it is indeed also a campaign to support IF Metall and you all for CB in Tesla. It’s a campaign to mobilise the collective strength of the global trade union movement in defence of democracy.
The ITUC published every year its Global Rights Index. It is the global report on the state of workers’ and trade union rights in the world. Again, we will see extreme repression in countries such as Belarus, Tunisia, Guatemala and Turkey. But the steady attack on trade union rights and civil liberties is in effect in countries where we thought that democracy was safe.

Sweden has typically been regarded as one of Europe's most democratic nations. But in the V-Dem Institute Index (an American based foundation) it fell from 15th to 23rd place, reflecting the decreased influence of democratic organisations, such as trade unions.

This global, anti-democratic trend corresponds with global attacks on trade unions – tracked by the ITUC Global Rights Index over ten years. In 2023, violations reached new highs: 87 per cent of countries violated the right to strike, 79 per cent violated the right to collective bargaining.

On 12 June, we will release the 2024 Index at the International Labour Conference in Geneva. You can join us there or online for the latest analysis. I can tell you now, the situation is not getting better. In Europe, working people have seen their workplace rights crumble at a faster pace than in any other region of the world.

Your Nordic model of social democracy is being dismantled by governments and by corporations, such as Tesla here in Sweden, who refuse to respect basic rights such as collective bargaining. We know that as trade unions are weakened, there will be a parallel rise in economic inequality and insecurity, and working people and their families in Sweden will suffer.

Where countries have high rates of trade union density and collective agreement coverage, wealth and power are distributed more equitably and citizens have more trust in democracy.

But union density has declined throughout the developed world, poverty is at an all-time high and inequality is accelerating. An estimated 685 million people were living in extreme poverty by the end of 2022. Over 4 billion lack access to any form of social protection. And while 2781 billionaires have all together a fortune of 14.2 Trillion USD, almost five billion people have become poorer. 

This is happening as we witness a convergence of global crisis. Armed conflict, war and the long-ignored debt crisis means that more than 70 countries are on the brink of economic collapse. The climate emergency is accelerating, costing lives and livelihoods, while corporate power and its political allies resist a just transition. The rapid, recklessly unregulated growth in technology poses enormous social, economic and political risks.

The only way that these trends can be addressed, sustainably, is through a truly democratic movement. We are that movement. Trade unions are together the largest social movement in the world. We must take up our role as the foremost practitioners and defenders of, and fighters for, the democratic values we exercise every day. Because democracy is a worker’s project.

The ITUC For Democracy campaign will defend these foundations of democracy in three critical arenas: at work, at the national level and globally.

For Democracy at work, we assert our right to freedom of association, to organise unions and to strike. We demand collective bargaining and social dialogue, equal treatment for all workers.

For Democracy at societal and national level, we assert the right to free speech and protest. We demand true gender equality, equitable and just tax systems to fund the expansion of social protection, universal healthcare, education and quality public services.

For Democracy at global level, we demand the reform of international economic structures to create inclusive systems that prioritise public welfare, human rights and labour standards over private profit.

We can confront the different challenges of our time through democratic decision making. This is key to dealing with the rapid changes in the workplace due to digitalisation and the pressing need for environmental sustainability. We demand that the implementation of these transitions be inclusive, equitable and democratic – ensuring that no worker is left behind. We demand a Just Transition.

These transitions must improve working conditions, promote fair wages and provide training opportunities for all workers. Policymakers and industry leaders must engage with unions in dialogue and decision-making processes in decisions about digital and green transitions, ensuring that workers' voices are not only heard but acted upon.
We are For Democracy, and the ITUC and its affiliates stand united with you to defend and grow democracy in Sweden at every level. Together we can harness the collective power of trade unions to defend and rebuild democracy now and in the future.

I thank the outgoing leadership for their work and commitment to the ITUC over the last years. I am sure that we will be able to even further develop together the international work and solidarity.

On behalf of the international trade union movement, I wish you a successful Congress. Thank you and solidarity!