«Today’s priorities of the labor movement and the role of the ILO»


Dear colleagues, brothers and sisters,

I am glad to see you all again strong, healthy and with a militant spirit.

I know that you are experienced trade unionists and that you are successfully setting priorities in your countries for the workers of your homeland and for your trade union movement.

At the same time, you know that the big picture, the global picture, has a major impact on the situation in each country individually.

Marxist philosophy leads us to study the whole and the part. Because one affects the other. Much more so in the modern world.

In order to discuss what our priorities should be as an international class-oriented trade union movement, the first condition is to know what the situation is today. What is the reality for ordinary people. So what is the picture today?

First: The situation for workers in terms of labour, wages and social security is getting worse all over the planet.

The capitalist economy is in crisis. In the economic, political, social, environmental, democratic and social rights, workers and pensioners are suffering losses.

The consequence of this situation is that the rate of exploitation is increasing at the expense of the working class and at the same time the stolen surplus value is increasing the profits of the monopolies and the multinationals.

Second: Democratic rights, trade union rights, trade union freedoms, are under serious attack throughout the capitalist world. Methodical and targeted attacks are also being made against the sacred right to strike.

Third: Millions of economic migrants and refugees are treated like modern-day slaves. They are subjected to racist and xenophobic attacks. The imperialist wars, armed conflicts everywhere increase poverty and misery for the peoples.

Fourth: In Europe in particular, but also everywhere, neo-fascist and reactionary forces are appearing; they are being used by employers and governments to divide the struggles of workers, to slander trade unions, to spread hatred among ordinary people.

Fifth: We highlight the dirty role of the mass media owned by monopolies and multinationals that slander and undermine the struggles of the working class. They sow confusion and frustration.



This is the dark side of the period we are all living in.

But there is also the other side, the bright, hopeful side.

It is the struggles of the workers who are resisting the governments’ anti-worker policies. It is the trade unions that are confronting the plans of the multinationals, it is the millions who are condemning the political and strategic choices of the European Union, NATO, the USA and their allies.

I will not mention countries by name, but you all know the mass struggles developed by the militant trade unions in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and the Arab world. These struggles are our assets. These struggles are our dignity and pride.

These struggles have protected and defended the rights of the people’s families. Without these struggles, workers would have lost more rights, things would have gotten worse for the trade union movement. Those who argue that struggles do not bring results are wrong. Even when the harvest has a time distance from the sowing.

Moreover, it is very important for all of us that in these struggles the WFTU affiliates and friends were in the front line. Up front, uniting all workers in the class struggle.

Another central question is the situation of the international organizations.

Unfortunately things are very bad and to our detriment.

I strongly believe that the situation in international organizations changed dramatically and rapidly in the period 1989-1991, when with the overthrow of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in Europe, the balance of power changed dramatically. Whatever one thinks of the Soviet Union, whether one agrees or disagrees, the overthrow of the correlations helped the international bourgeoisie, helped the opponents of the workers. We must not forget.

We must not be ungrateful and unthankful. The balance that existed before 1991 and our struggles, the struggles of all of us, brought great achievements and important rights.

All these rights and achievements that step by step the international bourgeoisie is taking back in every country. Bourgeois class is taking revenge at the expense of the workers.

The words decent work, equality, mutual respect, skills, lifelong learning are nice phrases. But the central issue is what is the practical result. Practice counts, life certainly teaches and debunks.

– How many resolutions on the creation of an independent Palestinian state has the UN passed? Dozens. The result is zero.
– How many UN decisions to stop the blockade against Cuba? Dozens. The result is zero.
– How many times has the UN called for an end to the NATO-Russia war in Ukraine? Result zero.
– Every year the FAO admits the constant revaluations of foodstuffs. Result? Prices for consumers are going up.
– UNESCO’s recommendations on the need for children to go to school rather than work seem like a joke.

The picture is the same at the ILO. Proportional representation is absent. There is undemocratic discrimination against the WFTU. ITUC monopoly. Particularly in regional structures of the ILO, we are talking about “branches” of the ITUC. We remind you that the former ITUC General Secretary was elected Director General of the ILO by “capitalizing” his previous “offer”.

We as the WFTU have decided to come here with no false hopes and no illusions. Bearing in mind that the situation changed against us in 1991 with the overthrow of the international status quo.

Today words like capitalism, exploitation, imperialism, monopolies, are words forbidden in the ILO.

We come and we will keep coming and we will shout loudly the truth and we will put our hand on the table, we will promote the alternative world, without exploitation of man by man, we will strengthen the struggle for the change of the negative international correlations that I believe temporarily prevail nowadays. When the international correlation changes in favor of the working class, then the character of the ILO will also be affected.

In view of this global and general picture, our priorities as militant unions should focus on the following key axes:

– Democratic and trade union rights and trade union freedoms. Defense and extension of the right to strike.
– Guaranteeing for all access to free public health care, education, and the right to adequate housing and clean drinking water.
– Equality of working women at all levels and the shaping of a secure future for younger generations.
– Support of the unemployed, migrants and refugees.
– Ensuring health and safety conditions in the workplace and protection against occupational diseases.
– Continuous trade union training and trade union education for young people.
– Strengthening, reinforcing and massification of trade union organizations and International Solidarity.

To sum up, the list of priorities is long. There are many modern needs of workers. They are not limited to what we have briefly mentioned. Developments in technology are also bringing us forward to new tasks, such as in relation to Artificial Intelligence and the ever greater use of technology in the production process. Let’s have no illusions. Artificial intelligence will be used by monopolies and governments against workers. I personally believe that the technological possibilities are pushing us to begin to put in place the 4-day working week, full-time and steady work with an improvement in pay at the same time.

I sum up by saying to our comrades, WFTU members and friends who come here from Africa, Asia, South America and think that they are fighting a class struggle here, that they are wrong. Here they can only develop bilateral contacts and international relations. Class struggles can only happen in their countries and sectors.

We, the international class-oriented trade union movement, have an obligation to open new paths for the benefit of the workers. It was the WFTU, since 1945, that opened new paths for all workers’ demands. This is what we have been doing since 1945, this is what we are doing today. Until the final victory which is the emancipation of the working class and the abolition of capitalist exploitation.

I call you to steadily implement the 18th Congress central slogan:


“United we continue, We continue in a militant way!”


Thank you.


George Mavrikos, WFTU Honorary President

(Speech in the framework of the WFTU event in the 111th ILC, Geneva, 13/6/2023 )