Rosa Pavanelli’s speech at the 23rd Congress of the UGTT in Tunisia

23 January 2017
Rosa Pavanelli
Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International (PSI) made the following speech at the 23rd Congress of the Tunisian trade union centre, the Union générale tunisienne du travail (UGTT), held in Tunis on 22-23 January 2017.

Rosa Pavanelli's speech

Dear Comrades, it as an honour to bring you greetings of solidarity from the 20 million public service workers that the PSI represents in the world.

Every day, increasing violence and conflict and the effects of climate change displace millions of people and drive them to migrate in order to survive.

Racism, xenophobia, populism and the various kinds of fundamentalism are not the way to respond to these phenomena. On the contrary, they are a virus that we trade unionists must combat because they are aimed at the weakest and poorest, they divide workers and worsen working conditions to the advantage of capital and multinational companies.

An unprecedentedly voracious economic and financial system is the real global power in the world today and it is capable of influencing all governments in order to protect its interests.

This is the cause of the violent attacks on working conditions that are taking place throughout the world. Workers' rights, including their right to collective bargaining, are threatened, while the right to organise in a trade union and the right to strike are increasingly criminalised.

We must respond to this attack by strengthening the unions, making them more representative and recognising their role as social actors. This response must be coordinated at the national and global levels because the challenge is global.

In order to ensure the social cohesion and justice necessary to improve the lives of most people in the world, it is essential to fight for tax justice and against the privatisation of public services, public-private partnerships and free trade treaties that perpetuate the colonial economy. In brief, it is only the solidarity of workers organised in autonomous, independent and democratic trade unions that can challenge the powerful enemies that want to strip us of our dignity.

The UGTT has shown the world that we can achieve this and that the role of the social partners and civil society is crucial to the defence of democracy and justice.

And the Nobel Prize 2015 was well deserved.

Thank you colleague Abassi and thank you UGTT for all you have done.

But, with respect, there will be no social justice and no genuine democracy until women are able to share in all aspects of society on an equal basis to men. On Saturday, thousands of women in Washington and other cities joined protests against President Trump, who symbolises the threat to their dignity.

I hope that today the UGTT will take the first steps towards including women at all levels of the organisation and that you will know how to make further progress down that road in the near future.

I am certain that the trade union that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and that has defended Tunisian democracy is not afraid of gender equality.

Long live the UGTT,

Long live solidarity,

Long live the workers of the world.

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