Report of the Trade Union Conference of 10 November 2007

The meeting began with a film made during the 2007 World Social Forum which took place in Kenya. The film could not have been produced without assistance from the following trade unions: South-East Region Trade Union Congress (SERTUC), National Union of Journalists London Freelance Branch, T& GWU ACTS Central London Branch, T&GWU ACTS West London, Colchester Trades Council, Redbridge NUT as well as support from Caribbean Labour Solidarity and Columbia Solidarity. The camera man, Andile Mngxitama of the Landless Peoples’ Movement, in South Africa, was able to attend the WSF through the financial assistance he received from ACTS 524.

The purpose of the meeting was to identify some of the movements for social justice in Africa and discuss ways in which the trade unions in Britain can support them.

We were therefore privileged to have among us an economist and an experienced political organiser from Angola in the person of Francisco Filomeno V. Lopes. A frontline activist and politician of long standing in Angolan politics whose activities date back to the underground anti-colonial resistance against the Portuguese, Filomeno, a former lecturer is the founding member of the Front for Democracy (FD). His presentation dealt with the present situation in his country, the response of various groups, the challenges experienced by the trade union movement and the dangers inherent in well meaning but uninformed solidarity. He pointed out that the biggest trade union is the one linked to the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The most active union is the teachers’ union. The Maritime Workers union held a three year vigil against privatization which was brutally suppressed by the government. By the time it ended over 100 workers had died. They went all that time without salaries and received no form of compensation. In fact the Minister for Maritime Affairs was compensated and what was left over was to have been shared among the workers, who refused to accept it.

In the diamond mining sector, where there are many problems related to safety and low wages there are no trade unions. Filomeno argued that today Angola is being colonized by the multinationals and at the same time it is undergoing an internal colonisation. Therefore a new kind of international solidarity, a different concept is needed to address this problem; a solidarity that can address the serious deficiencies in the democratic countries of the North. One of the challenges that Filomeno brought to the meeting was that there is no meeting point between unions in the North and the South, given the huge economic disparities that occur when for example a carpenter in the UK moves to work for a multinational in Angola. S/he will earn a salary many more times that of their fellow Angolan carpenter that is doing the same work. This raises many difficult questions that must be answered and provides big challenges for international solidarity. In spite of this he concluded that there are many ways for us to build the struggle for social justice and work together.

A lively discussion followed and half an hour before the meeting ended with one of the young people reading out all the decisions that had been taken.

Way Forward

•A co-ordinating committee was set up to implement the decisions taken at the meeting.

•It was agreed that the trade union conference on African liberation should take place annually in November.

•It was agreed that future work should include the Africa Matters Campaign of UNITE

•It was agreed that the committee would work to build links between unions in Africa and Europe.

To obtain a copy of the WSF film contact

kilombo.education@gmail.com