On January 19, the 4th IWI Webinar was successfully held, with the participation of 54 trade unionists from all continents.
The main topic of the seminar was : “Conclusions from the corruption cases of yellow trade union leaders in the European Union”.
Below you can see the following materials of the Seminar:
1. Introduction to the Seminar (Quim Boix – General Secretary of the TUI Pensioners & Retirees of the WFTU)
2. Key note speech (Pierpaolo Leonardi, Coordinator of the European Office (EUROF) of the WFTU, USB-Italy cadre and member of the WFTU Presidential Council)
3. Speech of Markos Bekris (PAME-Greece cadre, President of the Regional Trade Union Center of the port of Piraeus).
4th IWI Webinar | 19 January 2023
Introduction (Quim Boix – TUI P&R Secretary General)
Good morning, afternoon or evening, comrades, depending on where on the planet you are connected.
We are about to begin the Fourth Session of the Webinars organized by the International Workers’ Institute, a session that will give continuity to the three very interesting previous sessions, which have demonstrated the success in convening international, ideologically formative reflections, with the participation of class unionists from all continents.
Pierpaolo Leonardi will be the comrade, a veteran Italian trade unionist, who will make the presentation today.
As you know, the title of the webinar is: “Conclusions from the corruption cases of yellow trade union leaders in the European Union”.
Pierpaolo Leonardi is a member of the WFTU Presidential Council, the collective body with the maximum decision-making capacity of the WFTU between Congresses; leader of USB Italy (the union that successfully secured the organization of the 18th WFTU Congress); a union that has grown significantly in recent years, giving serious battles against yellow unionism; at the same time, he is the current Coordinator of the European Regional Office of the WFTU, a very important office given the increasingly negative policy of the European Union, obedient to the International Monetary Fund and the interests of the large multinationals of the Planet.
No one better than he could introduce us to today’s debate.
As a veteran Italian trade union leader, always in class-oriented positions, he knows in depth the reality of yellow unionism in his country. In his country, the leaders of the CGIL progressively transformed class-oriented unions into unions subject to the interests of the bosses; this happened not only in Italy, but also in France, in Spain and in other European countries.
The Eurocommunism promoted by Carrillo, Berlinguer and Marchais, in the 80s of the last century, as leaders of Communist Parties that ended up being social democrats, seriously influenced the leaderships of unions with a long history of struggle and class victories, such as the aforementioned CGIL, the CGT in France and the Workers’ Commissions in the Spanish state.
I am going to advance some data from today’s debate, and for this I will cite the reality that I have had to live, since the late 70s, as leader of CCOO. I had the opportunity to tell Marcelino Camacho publicly (in the top leadership body of CCOO) that it was a serious mistake to trust trade unionists like Antonio Gutierrez and José María Fidalgo. Camacho himself admitted it to me 10 years later, but the damage to Spanish class unionism was already done.
The trade unionists mentioned succeeded Camacho in the General Secretariat of CCOO. The first ended up as a deputy of the social democracy approving, one after another, anti-worker laws, and the second continues as an advisor to the Foundation of Studies that helps the Popular Party (party that brings together the Francoists and fascists turned into bourgeois democrats).
But it is not a problem of isolated leaders; the betrayal against the working class has penetrated all levels of the former class unionism practiced by CCOO and which allowed great victories in collective agreements and labor rights.
Precisely because the reformist unionism of Social Peace, of pacts which are not discussed in the assemblies, neither of the company, nor of the sector or territory, precisely because the struggle of the working class has not been organized, there have been the collective agreements signed by CCOO (together with the always yellow UGT union). To cite just last year’s recent data, we have been led to an average wage increase across the state in 2022, of only 3.5%, when the cost of living has increased by more than 10%.
On the other hand, in the Spanish state, the Pensioners and Retirees, who have been on the streets every week, in more than 300 towns, have just achieved an increase, still insufficient, but more than double than that of the agreements of active workers, exactly 8.5%. And this happened despite the fact that we, pensioners, can no longer go on production strikes.
To understand this reality it must be known that our class enemy (both the governments that defend capitalism and the employers) has known how to corrupt many leaders (at all levels of the CCOO structure). I could give specific names of leaders, at the lowest level, that of the company, which 30 years ago already received 50,000 pesetas (the currency of that time) per month as an illegal bonus to sign what the company proposed and in order to deceive their representatives.
But what is, even more, demonstrative of the sale to the bosses and the betrayal of their class, are the Pacts such as the one signed, 12 years ago, by the social democratic government with the top leaders of CCOO and UGT; a pact which delayed the retirement age from 65 to 67 years, reducing in turn the amount of what was collected in the first pension.
I say this today, when in France there has been a great General Strike to prevent the delay of retirement from 62 to 64 years of age from being approved.
Another reality, in the Spanish state, which shows the betrayal of the yellow unions, are the hundreds of labor trials in which CCOO leaders go as witnesses for the employers, so that the judge approves the dismissal or sanction of workers who have protested and organized in class unions.
I provide another fact, similar to that of corruption in the European Parliament: this is the amount of trials in which CCOO leaders have been convicted of corruption, including the one referring to credit cards (they used them to try to steal with impunity) in which Rodrigo Rato, who was president of the International Monetary Fund, was also implicated.
To finish this reference to my country, I have to tell you that in recent years CCOO has not called a single general strike, they have only pretended that they were struggling, calling in an almost theatrical way (because it was a real simulation that they were struggling) concentrations in the streets, which the bourgeois media presented as great actions, but which are nothing more than a miserable presence of people who are charged by the union to carry the banners.
This reality is increasingly clear to the employees and progressively CCOO, like UGT, are losing representation and this is being gained by the unions affiliated to the WFTU.
I now give the floor to Comrade Pierpaolo Leonardi.
Key note speech
“Conclusions from the corruption cases of yellow trade union leaders in the European Union” (Pierpaolo Leonardi, WFTU EUROF Coordinator)
Thank you for participating in this webinar organised by the International Worker’s Institute.
The Qatar gate scandal, which has been filling the pages of the main international media for about a month now, involves the current secretary general of the ITUC, who until a few months ago was secretary general of the ETUC, Luca Visentini. An influential member, therefore, of that international trade union that has publicly supported the capitalist system both in Europe and worldwide since its inception.
Visentini received, from Qatar through another former CGIL trade unionist and former member of the European Parliament, the Italian Antonio Panzeri, two envelopes full of euro, more than 50.000 euro, to ensure that the European Trade Union Confederation would not take a position condemning the treatment of workers employed in the construction of stadiums for the World Cup in Qatar.
The hush money achieved exactly that. In no communiqué, in no document, did the ETUC and ITUC express condemnation of a country that, in order to ensure the success of the world event and the profits that this event was supposed to secure, sacrificed the lives of at least 6,500 workers, from many countries, mainly Asian, who died of fatigue or as a result of very serious accidents. The lives of the world championship workers are worth, for the leader of the international yellow union, as much as EUR 7.69 each!
The UITBB, the construction workers’ union of the WFTU, had long since sounded the alarm about the living and working conditions of those working on the World Cup construction sites and launched a strong international campaign “Don’t build stadiums on workers’ blood”; all over the world the construction unions affiliated to the WFTU condemned and mobilised against the bestial exploitation carried out on the World Cup construction sites. The yellow ETUC/ITUC union, on the other hand, received money to keep quiet and put its head in the sand.
The main suspects in the scandal of the bribes paid by Qatar so that the European Union would shut its eyes, ears and mouth about what was happening in the World Cup stadiums are Italians, members of the Italian Democratic Party and the Socialists and Democrats group in European Parliament, joined by the Greek Pasok party’s Kaili.
All of them are expressions of that political and trade union class that works to promote class cooperation and social peace, trade unionists who have never measured themselves against the real condition of the class but who have made careers in the service of the class adversary’s bodies as the European Commission and the European Parliament certainly are.
Luca Visentini comes from a trade union, Uil, which arose in the 1950s with political support and economic funding from the United States government, which was interested in weakening the class union in Italy. At the basis of the birth of this union was the split of the WFTU operated by the unions of United States AFL CIO and the British TUC with the aim of curbing the impressive worldwide growth of the WFTU born in Paris in 1945. The split gave birth to the ICFTU International, the anti-communist trade union totally in accord with the processes of curbing the growth of class unionism in Europe and the world. Spindly funding, corruption of leaders, collusion with governments subordinated to the imperialist processes of the USA allowed the splinter trade unions around the world to organise to try to act as a check on the growth of class and anti-imperialist trade unionism.
Its nature as a yellow organisation in the pay of the bosses emerged with great force as early as 7 July 1962 when in Turin, during a general workers’ strike in support of the fight at FIAT against redundancies and restructuring, thousands of workers attacked the headquarters of the UIL, which had signed a surrender agreement with the bosses of the car factory that night. The clashes with the police, deployed in defence of the yellow union headquarters, lasted two days and over 1,000 workers were arrested, mostly young people from southern Italy, who had emigrated to Turin to work at Fiat.
Antonio Panzeri, the main defendant, has a long history as a leader trade unionist in the CGIL, the Italian trade union that in 1945 was among the founders of the WFTU, which was led by Giuseppe di Vittorio himself for many years from 1949. The CGIL, however, then left the WFTU in the 1970s to also join the yellow trade union ITUC. These trade unions, among the largest in Italy, are the only ones accredited by the Italian government to have relations with the European Union and represent the main framework of the ETUC, which is the only social interlocutor of the EU and which is lavishly financed by the European Commission either directly or through its research institute ETUI, or through NGOs close to the ETUC. Precisely one NGO “Fight Impunity”, directed by Antonio Panzeri, acted as a go-between between the Qatari government and the ETUC. This NGO has on its board important personalities from the international and European reactionary scene, such as the Italian Emma Bonino, pro-Zionist member of the European Parliament of the Italian Radical Party, the former Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, later High Commissioner for International Affairs, Dimitri Avramoupolos former European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship and others. On his website one can read speeches on Qatar in which, in addition to supporting Biden’s decision to consider the Gulf country as the USA’s main non-NATO partner, he downplays that country’s responsibilities in the management of the construction of the 2022 World Cup stadiums and gives a real endorsement to the new Qatari labour minister who, it is now known, is among those involved in the corruption of Panzeri, Visentini, Kaili, etc.
Visentini together with Panzeri went to Qatar on an extra-luxury trip paid for by the Qatari government, apparently with families in tow, to go, under the pretext of viewing stadiums, probably to agree on the price of silence. The money agreed on that occasion was then delivered to Visentini via Panzeri, who handed it to him in three Christmas envelopes. When Visentini was arrested, he stated that the money had been given to him by Panzeri’s NGO as a contribution to the ETUC and that it would be used to help trade unionists in need and to finance his candidature for ITUC general secretary to which he was then actually elected at the Congress in Melbourne, Australia, last November. Thus, the ITUC general secretary himself confirms that it is the practice in that international union to give money to trade unionists from various countries in order to gain their votes for election as general secretary. In other contexts, a statement like the one made by Visentini has on several occasions led to arrests for corruption and bribery of those who were complicit in it. But on the basis of this unacceptable motivation for any trade unionist, the Belgian magistrate released Visentini until the outcome of the trial. In short, the complicit trade union, which helps the EU to make European workers digest any measure, which subscribes to all EU directives, even the most unacceptable ones such as women’s night work in the name of an inverted gender equality, must not be challenged in any way. This story is very similar to what happened in Italy when a monstrous judicial enquiry against political corruption dismantled the party system at the time, stopping, however, at the threshold of the trade unions, which were also largely inside the corrupt system of bribes.
The ETUC cannot even be called a trade union organisation, it is just a useful mechanism in the EU machine, an instrument of the EU capitalist war against the working class.
The EU was born and consolidated in a context of inter-imperialist competition, with the intention of playing a major power role on the international chessboard in favour of the European bourgeoisies. A veritable committee of affairs, with pharaonic apparatuses and dizzying costs, the European Parliament has two seats, one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg with as many as 705 deputies constantly moving between one seat and the other with enormous waste of money. In the European Union there is a tripartite committee known as the Social Dialogue Committee, made up of government representatives, workers’ representatives and business representatives; a real consociative body in which the European Commission gets the green light for all decisions concerning labour. It is the governments of the associated states that identify the trade union organisations to be admitted to the consociative table, and no other organisation has access to it. Similarly, the relationship between the European Commission and the trade union organisations is strictly reserved for the ETUC. Through substantial funding to the ETUC and its articulations such as the ETUI study centre, the EU secures its consent to any anti-labour measures, social peace in European countries.
Qatar-gate, which has further revealed the nature of the EU as a bourgeoisie business committee and the total inwardness of the yellow ETUC trade union to the corruption that drives business in the capitalist system, makes it all the more necessary to mount a strong campaign to extend the weight of the WFTU in Fortress Europe by strengthening the work of the EUROF to affiliate new trade union organisations and to encourage the return to the WFTU of those that have left it in past decades, being convinced that there was no other horizon than the one offered by capitalism, as the Brussels scandal shows once again, is deeply rotten and in the pay of the bosses and capitalist governments.
Speech by Markos Bekris (PAME – Greece cadre)
On behalf of PAME we would like to thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to participate,
The speech by comrade Pierpaolo comes shortly after the revelations of bribery of trade unionists by Qatar. The international and domestic media present it as the big scandal, since the Greek MEP of PASOK Eva Kaili is involved, and on the one hand they regret that “the image of the European Parliament is being tarnished”, on the other hand they also leave spikes for the trade union movement.
Neither is a new phenomenon: monopolies systematically make deals – above and below the table – to increase their profits, with politicians and ‘trade unionists’. Rot and corruption are in the DNA of the EU and ‘grow’ in the soil of the complex relations that business groups develop with their political representatives and the institutions of the imperialist Union.
As president of the Regional Trade Union Center of Piraeus, which has all the seafarers’ unions in the country as members, I could mention the ITUC member, the transport sector organization the ITF, which is the dirtiest and most sold-out organization in the world. With corrupt yellow leaders living off the wealth from the stolen sweat of seafarers around the world. Such organizations are many in the ITUC but the champions are the ITF leadership, the ship-owners nurses.
We say: Workers’ struggles have nothing to do with the filth of the ITUC- ETUC, just as these organizations have nothing to do with the working class. The recent arrest of Luca Visentini , the General Secretary of the ITUC, International Trade Union Confederation, and until hours before the arrest also the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation – ETUC, has come to bring to the fore again the multifarious interference of the monopolies and the imperialists in order to control the trade union movement.
The difference is that ITUC-ETUC cannot be described as trade union organizations, as their aims, their functioning, their activity and even the pay of their leaders have nothing to do with the life and interests of the working class.
Really, what is the biggest scandal? International “trade union” taking bribes under the table from Qatar with 6,500 dead workers in the World Cup projects or ITUC and ETUC being funded over the table by organizations and institutes to promote anti-worker policies and measures and even justify wars, interventions and blockades with millions of workers killed?
On the question of “class struggle” or “class cooperation” ITUC-ETUC unequivocally reject the first and promote the second in every way. Their basic mission is to promote the logic of class cooperation, of “social dialogues”, of the integration and subordination of the workers to the plans and aspirations of the monopoly groups.
ETUC in the period of the great struggles of the workers of Greece against the Memoranda, held with the leadership of the GSEE in Greece seminars on “Crisis Management” and in the Referendum for the 3rd Memorandum they supported the YES vote in favor of the Memorandum.
For these services they are richly rewarded, for example by their participation in the so-called European Social and Economic Committee to promote the logics of “social peace” and “class cooperation”.
We do not forget that ITUC-ETUC had called on the Greek authorities to take repressive measures against trade union organizations that expressed their disagreement with the GSEE leadership in the infamous congresses of riot police and repression.
They even spoke of “violent, Stalinist minorities, of the minority group PAME”. This, of course, did not stop them from repeatedly “stealing” images and videos from PAME rallies in order to decorate their texts with them. And the list does not end…
Against the aspirations of them and their bosses, workers around the world, young people, women, immigrants, are coming back into contact with the unions. They are mobilizing, struggling, striking. This is why governments, monopolies, imperialist organizations are trying to cultivate frustration, isolation, defeatism. With lies and slander, with intimidations and threats, with money and other means they have tried and will continue to try to strike the workers’ struggles.
They will not succeed! The working class has experience. It has the values of solidarity, of selfless service, of internationalism, of the conflict between the working class and the capitalists. We expose the crimes of imperialism in Qatar, Palestine, Ukraine, in our own country. Guided by the values or the working class, we march forward, we meet with militant unions in other countries, we coordinate our action. We strengthen the struggle for a society without exploitation, poverty and wars.