CARIBBEAN CONGRESS OF LABOUR (CCL) SOLIDARITY MESSAGE ON THE OCCASION OF INTERNATIONAL WORKERS DAY 2016
April 27, 2016
The Caribbean Congress of Labour conveys fraternal greetings and salutes your organisation on the occasion of International Workers’ Day 2016. It is with a deep sense of profound solidarity that we salute the workers of our region and indeed all workers of the world on this very special day when we reflect on our struggles, challenges and victories over the centuries.
This year, International Workers’ Day comes against the backdrop of the continued crisis of International monopoly capital and the sustained fallout from the 2008 financial crash triggered by the greed of capital and its finance magnates. International capital continues to widen the inequality gap, increasing unemployment, expanding national debt, ballooning trade imbalances and in some economies in our region growth stagnation, as well as recession. According to the ILO in its economic and social report on Latin American and the Caribbean:
“Economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) continued to decelerate, with Brazil – the largest economy in the region – entering a severe recession. The region registered sustained growth in the 2000s, and relatively strong growth at the onset of the crisis, but economic growth began to slow in mid-2011 and the economic outlook has been repeatedly adjusted downwards in receipt year (IMF, 2015d). In 2015, GDP growth in LAC is estimated at 0.3 percent, the second lowest rate worldwide (after Eastern Europe).”
Our region has been particularly hard hit and only recently the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago announced that the country was heading into recession. While there has been some modest improvement of GDP of a few CARICOM countries, unemployment remains high. In fact, the overwhelming number of CARICOM States has rates of unemployment in double digits. The continued loss of jobs is still a worrying feature of the economies of the region. In Venezuela the economic situation has deteriorated dramatically impacted by hostile eternal manipulation; the collapse of oil prices and aggravated by the severe drought has led the State to implement severe economic measures; only this week it was announced that the work week of State sector employees would be cut from 5 days to 2 days in an attempt to deal with the crisis. The implications for Venezuela must and will have serious and negative implications for CARICOM given that several countries are positive beneficiaries of the progressive, economic and solidarity programme of PetroCaribe and other programmes in medicine and other technical assistance programmes conceived by the late President Hugo Chavez.
In four of the five largest economies within CARICOM, there is severe economic stress. In Suriname hundreds of workers have been thrown on the breadline with the closure of bauxite plants, while in Trinidad the economic slowdown has forced the Government to significantly contract spending. In Jamaica the IMF programme has placed constraints on the ability of the State to tackle poverty and has presented serious challenges to trade unions in their fight for wage increases and maintaining the standard of living of the working class and working people.
In Barbados the economic situation continues to be acute. According to the EXECUTIVE BRIEFING of SCOTIABANK “the outlook remains constrained by ongoing fiscal retrenchment and elevated unemployment at around 11 1/3%…expected GDP [increase] 1.5% in 2016 and 2% in 2017, up from ½% in 2015. Government debt reached 106.8% of GDP in 2015- double its 2007 level.”
In the face of this situation, the workers struggles have intensified and affiliates are under severe pressure. This situation is repeating itself throughout the region. The CCL’s response to the regional situation is to intensify its reorganization and hasten its programme of institutional strengthening of the organised Labour Movement by working closer with affiliates. In this process the assistance of the ILO Regional Office is of strategic importance and vitally indispensable. For the first time the CCL is working with sister trade Unions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and has begun to resuscitate its relationships with sister unions in Caribbean Dutch territories.
On a positive note, the CCL notes and welcomes the nascent steps of President Barack Obama of the USA to improve relations with the Republic of Cuba. No doubt these and other normalization steps in the relationship will help to improve the economic and social conditions of Cuban workers. We call for the full and complete elimination of the economic blockade against Cuba and respect for its sovereignty. The Cuban workers and people can expect to receive the continued solidarity and support of workers of the region and the CCL.
The CCL also extends its solidarity to the workers of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and calls for a mature and peaceful resolution of its internal problems free from external interference and with respect for its sovereignty. Thus, the declaration that Venezuela presents a threat to the national security of the United States should be withdrawn and the offer of CARICOM to facilitate a resolution of differences should be pursued.
In facing our numerous regional challenges, the Caribbean Congress of Labour emphasizes the central strategic importance of unity and consolidation of the Organised Labour Movement.
CCL SALUTES THE WORKERS OF THE REGION. Please accept CCL’s profound best wishes and expressions of solidarity with the working class and the trade Union Movement.
Chester Humphrey (Sen. Hon),
Caribbean Congress of Labour