திங்கள், 17 பிப்ரவரி, 2014

 TUI P & R Congress of WFTU in Barcelona on 5/6-2-2014 
Brief Report
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Congress of Trade Union International of Pensioners and Retirees (TUI P & R) under the auspices of World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) was held on 5th & 6th February 2014 in a hill rural town called ORRIUS near Barcelona (Spain).  The venue belongs to a Lawyers Association and they have given it at free of cost.  The climate was very cool and the environment was very pleasant.  All the delegates were taken by bus from the hotel which was about 40 Kms away from the venue.  After the session, all of them were dropped in the hotel in the same way.  

Earlier on 4/12/14 there was an open session in Barcelona in which we could not participate because we reached late.  Despite invitation to the media, nobody attended and not reported also.

The Congress started at 1030 hours on 5thCom QUIM BOIX, President of the Preparatory Committee spoke for 50 minutes.  He explained in detail in Spanish language about the task given to him by WFTU to organize this congress with the help of other comrades.  He thanked all of them.  He said that the main objective of the Congress is to achieve a dignified life for everyone in the world who are above the age of 60. 

He said that compared to pensioners in Europe, pensioners in Bolivia are better placed.  Under pressure from Trade Unions, Bolivia has reduced the retirement age from 60 to 55.  In case of women who have three or more children the retirement age is 49 with a bonus of 2 years for every new born.  But in Spain the retirement age was raised from 65 to 67.  The Ecuador Government headed by President Lucio Gutierrez decided to cut the public pension by 50%.  Pensioners and Retirees Trade Unions fought against this in 2004.  They organized a hunger strike in which 20 pensioners have lost their life and forced the Government to withdraw that decision. 

He said that they have opened a Bank account for mobilizing the financial resources for this congress.  They have received generous contributions from several Pensioners and Retirees organisations as well as from individuals.  We shall place the accounts in the next meeting for every single penny we have spent on preparations.  The venue of this Congress is a property belonging to “Lawyers Collective Team” in defense of workers’ rights called Col-lectiu Ronda.  This venue was given at free of cost by them. 

After retirement, most of the workers think that the Trade Union’s assistance is no longer required.  That is a big mistake.  But some class conscious Pensioners remain as members of  their trade unions helping others with their experience and even taking new responsibilities.  We are veterans and former workers.  We will always continue, side by side with our class, fighting for our rights. A capitalist is having the wealth equal to the wealth of 40 million people.  This information may be astonishing but it was provided by the capitalist class in a recent meeting held in Davos. 

If we work with dedication, we can organize millions of Retirees.  For instance there are 9 million Pensioners in Spain which constitutes 20% of population and 30% of voters.  He also said that delegates from various countries like Belarus, Romania, Italy, Venezula, Pakistan etc. could not attend due to the reasons like non-availability of Visa, Forex etc.  He welcomed all the delegates who were present.  His speech was applauded very much.  It was really thought provoking.

Com Gilda (lady of Cuban origin) of WFTU greeted the congress for 13 minutes.

Com DIMOS KOMPOURIS, Vice-president, Preparatory Committee spoke for 17 minutes about the document to be approved by the Congress and asked the delegates to debate. 

Delegates from Cyprus, Congo, France, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Croatia, Columbia, Canari Island (Spain), India, Nepal, Australia, United Kingdom, Denmark and Bahrain participated in the debate.  Some important points as understood by us, is given below:-

In Cyprus, unemployment has increased in the last 5 years.  It is 18% at present and it may go to 22% shortly.  Pension was cut by 30%.   Economic crisis was created by the capitalist system.  Against this attack on pensioners there was a demonstration on 14/12/13 and another big demonstration is to be held in the 2nd week of February 14.
In Congo, Retirement age was 60 for women and 65 for men which was raised to 68 for both.  They are fighting against this and against the capitalist class.
In France the delegate said that no solidarity is coming forth from the younger generation.  It is a fight between generations.  Pension Reforms were undertaken since 1993.  One has to put 43 years of service to get full pension.  Here also unemployment has increased.  Retirement age is going to be increased to 67 (from 65) from 1/1/2015.  70% of Below Poverty Line are women.  There is a deep cut in social security.  Against there were struggles in 2010 and 2013 also.  Main Trade Unions are collaborating with new capitalist system.
In Cuba, the Government ensures social security to all.   Monthly pension is guaranteed.  Good relationship prevails between the workers and pensioners.  Ministry of Culture has created an University for senior citizens.  Education is a right there.  The delegate hoped that TUI P&R shall promote unity and solidarity. 
In Mexico, the Government is attacking the Trade Unions. 
In Argentina, the crisis is very deep.  36% of workers are not having any social security.  New kind of socialism is practiced in Cuba and Venezula. 
In Columbia, TU leaders are being killed.  In 2013 alone 23 were killed.  Held big demonstrations against this kind of attacks. 
In Canari Island (Spain), high rate of corruption exists.  Unemployment is to the tune of 30%.  Salary cut is imposed.  Working hours is 17% more compared to other parts of Spain.
Bahrain was represented by ALBA Labour Union which has one lakh membership.  He invited to hold the next meeting there and finance will not be a problem for them.  There would pleasant climate in the month of February and March.  TUI P&R headquarters should arrange for translators because there won’t be any translator for Spanish, French etc.  His invitation was accepted and there may be a meeting of TUI P&R in March 15.

Com V.A.N.Namboodiri was called to speak as a representative of CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions).  

Com D.Gopalakrishnan, our Vice-president spoke for 15 minutes (1930 to 1945 hrs on 5th).  He said that our organization has prepared a 13 page document in English.  It was translated into Spanish (50 copies) and French (20 copies).  Spanish copies were circulated today.  French copies and English copies would be supplied tomorrow because those copies were in the baggage of Com Natarajan whose luggage was not received in Barcelona Airport today.  Delegates applauded our efforts.  Pension in India for civil servants is statutorily guaranteed he said and quoted some important portions from the Nakara judgement delivered on 17/12/1982  by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India.  There are about 20 million Civil Pensioners in India.  The Minimum Pension for them is Rs.3500/- per month and maximum of Rs.45,000/- per month.  Though there are thousands of pensioners’ organisations in India only about 20% of them are members of pensioners’ organisations.  PFRDA Act 2013 was passed by Indian Parliament in July 2013.  Even before that, it was implemented from 1/1/2004.  As on 2/3/2013, there were 44.93 lakh subscribers under this scheme and there was a corpus fund of Rs.28,400 crore.  This huge amount is going to be pumped in stock market for the benefit of corporates.  As per this Act, Pension depends on stock market return and there is no guaranteed pension.  He quoted the observation made by Joseph Stiglitz who is not a communist but chief economic advisor to President Bill Clinton and nobel prize winner, in this regard.  He also quoted a renowned economist Dean Baker in this aspect.  270 million people in India are living in Below Poverty Line.  Some of them are getting a paltry sum of Rs.200/- per month as pension.  He also agreed with the observation made by many delegates that for all these ills Capitalism is the root cause.  Somebody wanted the system of socialism.  Some of the Socialist countries have adopted reforms.  Which kind of socialism we want to have?  Cuba type of socialism or Venezuela type of socialism?  We should have clarity on this aspect.  We have observed the speeches of various delegates.  Though there is a common point of ‘Attack on Pension’ there are many variations between countries and within a country itself disparity exists as quoted by Canari Island delegate.  French delegate said that there is a fight between generations and young generation is not  supporting old generation.  On the other hand Cuban delegate said that there is good relationship between workers and pensioners.   In these circumstances, what is going to be the role and approach of TUI P&R?  It has to be defined.  According to us, it can give guidance, encourage struggles, share the experiences of various countries and extend solidarity. 

By and large, delegates appreciated our document and our speech. 

Comrade George, General Secretary, WFTU sent a greeting message to the congress which was shown on the screen. 

On 6th, the Constitution of TUI P & R was approved unanimously.  With the observations of the delegates, the Document proposed by the presidium was also approved. 

Several resolutions which included demanding full social security with a decent retirement income for 60 years of age and above, public health care, proper and decent housing, culture, leisure, access to public, high quality transport system at subsidized cost, healthy environment and special care for disabled, Sahara Liberation, Solidarity with Palestenians and Mexico workers etc. were passed unanimously.  USA indulged in Human Rights Violations arresting 5 Cubans in 1998 and released in 2013 with a condition for them to stay in USA for another three years.  A resolution condemned this and demanded their immediate deportation to Cuba.  It was also informed that delegates can send the resolutions, if any, by E-mail within a week. 

Elections were held and the following were elected unanimously:-
President                      Com Dimos Koumpouris (Greece)
General Secretary                 Com Quim Boix Lluch (Spain)
2nd General Secretary           Com Jean Marie (Gabon/Africa)
Financial Secretary               Com Xose Ramon Boan (Spain)
Five Vice-Presidents (one from each contient)  For Asia Com Giri Balkrishna of Nepal.
Five Secretaries (one from each continent) For Asia one for our organization.  We told them that we shall give the name after due consultation.
Com V.A.N.Namboodiri is one of the members in Technical & Investigation commission.  Other members of the commission include representative from Argentina, Greece, Mexico, Spain & Senegal.
One representative from Cyprus, Congo(Africa) & Bahrain were elected to Financial Commission.

General Secretary and President thanked one and all.  They said that hundreds of millions of Pensioners & Retired Workers have now at their disposal a new tool in their struggle for their rights. 

Discussion with General Secretary
General Secretary Com Quim Boix Lluch spoke to us on 11th morning with the help of translator and told us that our task is to contact him through E-mail atleast once in 15 days.  Asked to give a very brief report.  He advised us to help and guide Com Giri, who is the Vice-president for Asia for organizing the pensioners in Asia.  A copy of any communication sent to Com Giri may be sent to the General Secretary.  We are advised to popularize the message of the Congress in the Region.  Emphasised for the unity of pensioners in India. 

For affiliation to WFTU, our organization should submit the form along with our organisation’s constitution and brief history about our organization.  He did not specify the affiliation fees but said that it would be nominal.

62 Delegates including 10 ladies from 20 countries/5 continents participated in the 1st Congress of TUI P&R.  There were 29 representatives from WFTU.  Total attendance - 91
Sl.No.         Continent            Country               Total No. of Delegates from each continent
 1      Africa                             Gabon-1
 2                                   Congo        -1                         2
 3      America               Argentina-1
 4                                   Brazil-2
 5                                   Columbia-1
 6                                   Cuba-1
 7                                   Ecuador-1
 8                                   Mexico       -4                         10
 9      Australia              Australia-1                    1
10     Europe                          Cyprus-1
11                                  Denmark-1
12                                  France-6
13                                  Great Britain-1
14                                  Greece-4
15                                  Spain-27
16                                  Portugal-1
17                                  Croatia       -1                         42
18     Asia                      India-3
19                                  Nepal-2                         5
20     Middle East                  Bahrain                         2

Concession to Senior Citizens
We had our own experience.  There is a tourist bus which takes the tourists around the city of Barcelona, Madrid (capital of Spain) and the fare for the day per tourist is 21 Euros.  For the senior citizens who are above 65 years of age, the fare is 10 Euros only.  In Madrid, there is a Botanical garden and the entrance fee is 3 Euros per person.  But for senior citizens above the age of 65 it is free.  We were asked to show the passport and after verifying the age, the concession was given. 

News Gathered By our Leaders
From UK, Com Tony Donaghey attended the Congress.  He is now 72.  He retired as Railway Guard in 2007 at the age of 65 after putting in 48 years of service.  During his service period 20% of salary was deducted towards National Insurance Scheme.  Now he gets 113 pounds as State Pension per week.  He gets equal amount as Railway Pension.  His total monthly pension comes to 904 pounds.  He has to pay incometax from his pension since the ceiling for incometax is 10,000 pounds per annum.  He is getting a monthly net pension of nearly 800 pounds.  Since he is living out of London, the pension is somewhat just sufficient.

From Nepal, Ex-National Servants Association, Nepal (ENSAN) President Com K.C.Mohan Bahadur and Senior Vice-President Com Giri Balkrishna attended the Congress.  This Association was formed in April 1996.  Its membership include Retired workers from Civil Service, Education, Police, Army, Private sector like Electricity, Bank, Insurance, Airlines, Telecom Etc.  The Association functions at District and National level.  It has got a membership of 55,721.  Total Pensioners in Nepal is 1,78,325.  Like India, Civil servants have two category viz. Gazetted and Non-Gazetted.  There exists a discrimination in pension between Army/Police and other NGOs.  Pension per annum for Army & Police NGOs are total salary divided by 40.  But it is less for Civil NGOs.  Police & Army retired NGOs are getting age related additional pension of 30% at 60 years, 40% at 70 years & 50% at 80 years of age.  This is not extended to Civil NGOs. 

From Australia, Com Fred Krausert, 68, participated in the Congress on behalf of Maritime Union of Australia Veterans Association.  He is the national secretary of the organization and lives in New Castle.  He worked as Chief of Ship Crew and retired at the age of 65.  Unemployment in Australia is 6% now.  He is getting about 1,000 Australian dollars per month.  Since his wife died 10 years before, he is living alone and it is just sufficient for him.  In accordance with Cost of Price Index, pension is revised twice a year on an average 27.7% is given but the Union demands for 35% increase. 

 Unity initiative even on foreign soil
Com Namboodiri, after going through our report, commented that it was a very good report and lot of information about India is given.  He also made an observation about D.Gopalakrishnan’s speech in the Congress that it was very good as usual.Both of our leaders talked to him.  We told him that he is a senior leader and he should take the initiative to unite the pensioners in India under one umbrella.  He took it in the right spirit and told us that he would consult other comrades in his organization and inform us.  We also discussed about unifying the pensioners in Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Mianmar.  Let us hope for the best.

About General Secretary of TUI P&R
Com Quim Boix Llunch is 68 now.  He retired voluntarily at the age of 65 i.e. one year before normal retirement.  He took voluntary retirement because his wife was very sick.  He has got a Doctorate.  He speaks Spanish, 4 Regional languages in Spain, French and Portugese but not English.  He worked in Information field, Metal industry, Textile industry, again Information field and finally as Municipal Engineer for 20 years. 

He helped a lot to us.  He drove his car and came to our Hotel at 0530 in the morning and dropped us in Barcelona Railway Station and again came to Railway Station at 2340 hrs to pick-up from the Railway station and dropped us in Hotel on 8/2/14.  On 11th he came with a translator, picked up from Hotel and dropped us in the Airport.

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