DOWN WITH THE REACTIONARY, ANTI-WORKER AND ANTI-UNION REFORMS ON LABOR AND PENSIONS
Off with unions’ bureaucracy. For a working-class direction of unions and the construction of workers and socialist parties.
While the consequences of the world capitalist crisis deepen in Latin America, the governments and monopolies try to burden the working masses with the crisis' costs.
The national bourgeoisies, e.g. Nicaragua and Argentina, run to the IMF begging for loans, in the face of the debt crisis with the imperialist banking system - fraudulent and usurious debts which constitute mechanisms of spoliation and national submission of our peoples.
But the loans from the IMF and imperialist banks are tied to strong clauses which deepen the semi-colonial character of each republic and attack the living conditions of the working class and the exploited masses. The pacts with the IMF are conditioned to governments imposing adjustments, taxes rises against consumption, massive privatizations even in health and education, fares and services rises, alienation of the natural and strategic resources , labor and pension reforms against workers and pensioners of each country.
The passage from center-left and nationalist contention regimes to a direct offensive against the working class inaugurated a convulsive period in Latin America, which conditions working class struggle acutely, turning the dilemma in unions into an urgent matter : submission to the State acting as a tool of blockage to mass struggle or revolutionary directions to organize them and put the working class forward as an alternative of power.
Anti working-class labor reforms
The first ones to "carry the can” were salaries and the workers' conquests. It is not only monetary devaluations that make the salaries fall back in contrast with fast growing prices. Capitalists' goal is to modify the working conditions of the proletariat structurally, in order to increase the exploitation rate, drilling the value of labor force more and more. To do that they are implementing new reactionary, anti-worker and anti-union labor reforms. The 8 hour work day - a struggle that was launched by the foundational congress of the II international in 1888, who attained to impose it through the workers' struggle in the whole world - is practically abolished. Numerous legislations have passed daily working hours extensions up to 9 (Peru), 10 (Colombia, Chile) and even 12 (Brazil). The compensation regimes for workers –layoff, labor accidents, etc. – have suffered very strong cuts in almost every country. Only with the last reform on salubrity and working accidents implemented by Macri with the collaboration of the unions’ Peronist bureaucracy, the argentine bosses “saved” $ 17.6 billion ARS, while accidents increased. This argentine experience shows the necessity to eliminate the ART (private insurance for accidents); you cannot turn into a financial business the life and security of workers. Labor security must be under direct control of workers, with elected commissions which must have the right to veto the bosses' measures considered to put at risk workers' health. Bosses pretend to directly eliminate the compensation for dismissal, eliminating like this the indefinite time contract, which turns the worker into a hostage of the bosses’ arbitrariness.
In Brazil, Temer's government passed amendment 95 which freezes health, education and social expenses budget for 20 years. And together with this war declaration against social expenses it poses the elimination of public contests for public jobs, it fosters temporary labor contracts, outsourcing, and labor precarization. It becomes a necessity not only to support the workers' and Brazilian people’s struggle to nullify this anti-popular amendment, but also to encourage struggle against precarization, for the relocation to permanent positions of all temporary workers.
The same is true for CCTs (Collective Labor Agreements), in which ultra-activity clauses are eliminated (these used to prevent workers from being robbed of an agreed conquest) while company, section, and even individual-based agreements are advancing. Bolsonaro announced that he pretends to impose the ‘verde-amarela’ card (green and yellow as the country’s colours), for bosses to turn proletarians into freelance workers without a contractual relationship with the employer. The CCT is one of the basic conquests of working-class unionism: it prevents bosses from being able to contract workers by establishing salary and labor conditions in an individual form. They are obliged to respect the minimum wage agreed for each category. One of the strongest attacks as regards labor reforms has been the one voted under Temer's government in Brazil which practically deregulates almost all workers defenses (CCT, annulment of women workers' conquests and insalubrity, no extra hours payment, rejection of years of service, outsourcing, etc.). In the Argentina before Macri, Cristina Kirchner’s one, labor outsourcing advanced in reality and in legislation (Civil Code) and in that struggle our comrade Mariano Ferreyra was murdered by a railway union bureaucracy gang - today Mariano is a symbol of socialist struggle for the young and the working class vanguard.
The ‘Temer reform’ has been taken as a model by the neighboring bourgeoisies. In Argentina, the assemblies of the chambers of commerce have claimed a similar reform. “We are out of place in the economic competition” they say. In Uruguay a bosses’ leader has claimed that if such a reform is not carried on, they will take their factories to Paraguay where the workers' conquests are fewer and the workers’ salaries lower. Paraguay allows employers to ‘hook off’ their factories from CCTs if they have market or production ‘difficulties’. And then they tell us about fatherland! Cynics. Argentine capitalists have their headquarters and associates in Brazil and vice versa. The Fiat, Ford, Volkswagen cars and others are manufactured and assembled both sides of the Mercosur borders, receiving all kind of subsidies from their governments (which are ultimately paid by the working people), while they pretend to build an ‘integration’ which is in fact the integration of monopolies in order to despoil the peoples. By threatening to relocate their companies to the country that has the lesser salaries and labor conquests, capitalists pretend to blackmail us and to introduce a competition among workers in order to accept the lessening of our labor conditions. The Mercosur, today under intensive cares, the enterprise of the bourgeoisies’ associates to the imperialists’ monopolies, has not been the tool of the ‘large motherland’, but a platform of common attack on working class conquests. The industrial crisis under development is used by bosses to blackmail workers with the purpose of introducing a salaries' reduction or laying them off. The unions’ bureaucracies intend to build a common block with bosses and justify they do so in order to ‘defend’ the ‘national’ industry (though in most cases they are in fact imperialist companies) and to prevent dismissals. No dismissals: distribution of the working hours, without reducing salaries. We must organize the unity between working class organizations and workers of all the nations which are being forced to compete with each other downwards in order to break this purpose.
In Argentina, in the face of the working class rebellion during the voting of the laws against pensions last December, the government has delayed the labor reform. Now it pretends to impose it one trade at a time: nurses are not recognized as professionals and they witness their conquests and salaries being reduced; there is a big offensive against aeronautical workers' conquests and the government has not complied with the ‘trigger clause’ which posed salary indexation according to inflation. But the major deregulation enterprise is the petrol industry agreement, which produced thousands of layoffs in the conventional petrol industry, five workers deaths in the current year and it is the basis for new investments in fracking in the area of the great international gas deposit of Vaca Muerta. Similar agreements have been imposed in the milk industry, railways and others. The attack on salaries and labor conditions is not a closed chapter but an open end reality in Argentina as the grand struggles show, e.g. the great university teachers’ strike which mobilized half a million teachers and students; aeronautical workers, “Luz y Fuerza” union (electricity) from Cordoba province, teachers from the province of Neuquén and, in these days, thousands of nurses. The CGT official union bureaucracy, as the opposition bureaucracy linked to Kirchnerism are subsidiaries of labor deregulation and “governability”. Their slogan is that Macri should finish his mandate, relegating workers' struggle to second place in order to serve the electoral campaign “there is 2019”, as Lula and the PT posed “there is 2018”.
The ‘Temer reform’ was voted by the Brazilian parliament because the working class central (CUT) leaded by the PT and Lula had blocked all workers' and masses' real mobilizations. It subordinated the struggle against labor reform to the 2018 elections promising the triumph of the PT and Lula, whose government would reverse all measures. What they attained is to demoralize and atomize the strength of the working class and its organizations and to ease the electoral triumph of the fascist Bolsonaro. He has promised to double his attacks on the living conditions of workers (he threats to eliminate bonuses, etc. ) with civil war methods and military intervention – all this foreshadows a semi-Bonapartist government with military-police taking the republican institutions.
Against this policy of the IMF, the imperialist financial capital, the Latin American governments and capitalists; we should oppose to the competition among the exploited, the international unity of workers: down with the anti working class and anti union labor reforms; defense of ultra-activity – holding down all conquests; defense of the CCTs; free bosses-workers negotiations without intervention of the state powers which intercede for the bosses; no salary limits; minimum wage equal to the basic family budget indexed monthly according to inflation; dismissals ban: distribution of working hours without reducing salaries; legislation in favour of women rights (right to abortion, better salary and environmental conditions for motherhood, etc.).
They victimize the retired worker
Capitalists consider the retired worker as a superfluous expense: he is no longer in condition to produce surplus and profits. Capitalists are obliged to sustain the health of active workers and their children because they need that labor force fit to produce in their factories.
Lagarde, from the IMF, declared that ‘old people’ are living too much. Being the retired worker an ‘unproductive’ expense for Capital, the boss considers abusive that he goes on living and that he should be paid a deffered salary, which is the real nature of pensions. That is why the capitalist tendency in trend is to increase the age of retirement for the active worker and to diminish the payment , thus transforming the retirement in an assistance pension for the elderly with no relation whatsoever with the salary correspondent to the activity. In Argentina, Macri issued a law to be voted by Congress which poses the ‘right’ to ‘volunteer’ retirement at the age of 70. But the ongoing pensions’ reform plans, pretend to go from the voluntary regime to a compulsory one. The average life expectancy is 76 years old. This reform compels the worker to contribute a whole work life so that retirement is reduced to just a few years. The current amount that pensioners receive at the moment of retiring is around 60% of an active worker's salary ( 75% of pensioners are paid the minimum pension) and the pensions average is around 40% of the average salary.
The pensions’ reform that was passed –after harsh masses' clashes against the government – which diminished the calculus for updating pensions in a hundred billion pesos in 2018, results insufficient. They are in for more. Temer, who couldn’t impose the pensions reform has gathered with Bolsonaro and announced he will try again before his succesor takes power next January. In all Latin America there have been important mobilizations and uprisings against the pensions’ reform. In Nicaragua, where the discounts on salary and pensions for social security were raised, a popular uprising took place with the support of a portion of the burgeoisie which was repressed by the nationalist government utilizing “Bolsonarist” methods - something we have already seen Perón do in Argentina in the 70s.
At the request of the IMF, governments claim that pensions’ expenses make the functioning of the retirement pension system impossible because of the lack of sufficient funds, and that they sink national budgets. But those are the same governments which time and again exempt bosses from paying contributions to the pensions system, which produces the lack of funding. The excuse is that in this way more job positions will be created because of the lesser expenses on the part of capitalists, but this has been proven to be a total fallacy: the accounts lower their funds, but what keeps increasing is unemployment and/or illegal and precarious employment. Under these conditions the lack of funding for pensions becomes more and more dramatic.
In Argentina, from Menem's presidency onwards there has been a colossal transference of resources from the pensions' funds to the bosses' pockets, which Macri has deepen since late last year. At the same time they sack the pensions’ funds to pay the usurious interests of the public debt, fattening the banks pocket. The Guarantee Fund of the Argentine ANSES (Social Security) has a 70% of its resources ‘invested’ in the government’s worse titles. There are strong governmental and media campaigns -which respond directly to the grand capital - in order to impose in the ‘public opinion’ the idea that pensions are fundamentally responsible for the unbalanced expenses in public budgets. What they pretend is to sweep away the pensions system as we know it, to reduce to the minimum the bosses’ expense and to impose an elemental state’s subsidy to the ‘old age’.
Plans for imposing a “private pensions” system are back in the agenda: this would act as a complement of the old age subsidy for the portion with better incomes. Bolsonaro has declared this as one of his objectives and one of his first international journeys will be to Chile in order to see how the ‘successful’ private model of the AFP (Pension Administration Fund)is applied there. But Chile is already on the turn: last year there was a million people demonstration in Santiago, claiming for the derogation of private pensions, the nationalization of the system and the reintroduction and rise of the bosses’ contribution. In Uruguay, the 2014 electoral campaign, the Frente Amplio (Broad Front), today in government, announced in its platform, a plan to extend the minimum age needed to retire. A strong working-class and popular rejection stopped them from applying this anti-working-class reform, but now they are measuring the moment to apply these adjusting ‘reforms’. The great Uruguayan teachers’ strike compelled the government to suspend the anti-strike legislation (declaration of essential services) decreed in order to break the struggle against adjustment (in all Latin America teachers are in front of the struggle against the privatizing education reforms: we exhort the students movement to come together and unite this national struggle of the teaching workers).
Against the socio-economic genocide on retired workers we must face all together the struggle to reject the reactionary and anti-working-class labor reforms.
The bureaucratic union leads, politically dependent on governments and center-left and nationalist bourgeois (populist) formations has let this worsening of the living conditions of the retired workers advance and will surely ‘turn the other cheek’ to come to terms with the IMF plans. With no struggle plan, with no general strike, it won’t b possible to stop this retirements’ massacre. Let’s recall that the pension regimes were imposed by the XXth century workers struggle against the bosses and the bourgeois governments (1924 general strike in Argentina, etc.). It was the struggle the one that drove their creation and it will be the struggle the one that will defend them.
No to private pensions: statization, without compensation, of the existing pension private funds, under the direction and control of the workers. Pension systems' burden on employers: the pension is a deferred part of the salary and must include the totality of the income of the worker in activity and with automatic indexation with salaries rises. Defense of all special retirement regimes (teachers, health, etc.): they are not privileges, they are workers conquests. Retirement funds to be directed by workers with proportional elections and revocable mandates. Health system to be directed by workers in activity and retired , with universal, integral, public and free health care.
Unity of the workers…
To face these struggles for workers living conditions it is fundamental to recover our mass organizations. The duty of expelling union bureaucracies dependent on the state and the employers' parties is irreplaceable. In order to do so, powerful working class union organizations must be built. The ongoing capitalist attack against historical workers' conquests which is taking place at a world scale, was being unfolded by the nationalist and center-left governments in Latin America – a fact which paved the way for the Macris and Bolsonaros or the turn towards Bolsonarist methods as Ortega in Nicaragua. This proves the exhaustion of bourgeois nationalism and the union bureaucracies tied to it; although they present themselves as a (pseudo) alternative against right wing governments. A working-class exit to the crisis that capitalists pin on the working class, demands a complete independence from both nationalism and bureaucracy, and the development of revolutionary parties and currents to collaborate with this perspective. Unity among workers in activity, the unemployed and the ones that are retired is absolutely necessary. The Argentine picketeer movement of long tradition, protagonist of the 2001 popular rebellion, constitutes a reference in Latin America. The Polo Obrero (the organization of unemployed workers led by the Partido Obrero) currently centers its development in the combat against the integration to the State of the traditional organizations of the unemployed and struggles to organize in a politically independent way the hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers together with the working class and for a new working-class direction in the workers movement as a whole. The struggle for the autonomy of the working class organizations is indissoluble form the struggle for the political independence of the working class and the struggle for a new classist unions’ direction is indivisible from the struggle for the construction of a class political party and the struggle for the workers' government.
The question of the general strike is at the day's order in the struggle to defeat the adjustment plans in all our countries, a question which must be adjusted according to the maturing of the workers. The battle for Workers Congresses of Direct Representatives of all unions to make demands viable and to remove the obstacles of the unions bureaucracy, does not only constitute a tool for the unions' democracy, to oxygen the struggle of our class, but it is an integral part of a transitional approach of the working class towards an organization with the perspective of struggling for political power.
For a fighting plan against the ongoing pensions and labor reforms. Let’s coordinate forces in all Latin America. Down with the IMF plans: for workers governments in each one of our countries. For the Socialist Unity of Latin America.
We call for a denouncement and mobilization campaign against the reactionary labor and pension reforms. In case they attempt to pass the pensions reform in Brazil, we call to organize mobilizations over the Brazilian embassies in every country and to repudiate such a measure. The same if it is effective in Argentina. The parties and groups intervening in the Latin American Conference compromise ourselves to send denounces and notes about the attempts of advance and the resistance of the masses to be published and spread in every one of our party presses.
(Voted for by the Plenary of the Latin American Conference)