December 10, 2023

International Congress of TUI (Public Services) Held in Colombia

Swadesh Dev Roye

THE 14th International Congress of Trade Union International (Public Services) took place in Bogota, Colombia, from November 21-23, 2023. The event saw the participation of 209 delegates from 87 affiliates, representing 29 countries across Arab-speaking Africa, English-speaking Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. The Congress centered around the theme slogan, 'Defend Collective Bargaining and Fight Privatization to Strengthen International Solidarity against Capitalism and Imperialism.'

Five different documents were presented and deliberated upon in successive sessions of the Congress: political overview report; organisational assessment report; strategic perspective and priorities; ideological resource document: our perspectives and credentials and 2020-2024 programme of action. 47 delegates took part in the deliberations. Apart from discussing their sectoral problems and challenges, expression of heart-rending solidarity with the people of Palestine and angry outburst against Zionist Israeli genocides and condemnation of US and European imperialist administrations for extending financial and huge weaponry support to Israel reverberated the conference venue.

Colombia's labour minister spoke at the congress and was also present during the foundation day celebrations. Swadesh Dev Roye, representing WFTU, participated and delivered the keynote address. The congress witnessed rich deliberations encompassing political, ideological, and organisational dimensions.


The assaults on collective bargaining and other longstanding rights of workers, including attacks on trade unions and the victimisation of unionists, as well as the denial of the right to form trade unions, constitute a neoliberal onslaught aimed at weakening the working class to the point of impoverishment. The sale and privatization of essential state-provided services and entities related to healthcare, education, transport, water, electricity, and energy provision directly assail not only workers who face retrenchments, deteriorating working conditions, negative pension reforms, and loss of job security, but also the general public. The public finds it challenging to access these privatized services provided on a commercial basis, consequently increasing the cost of living for them.

The destruction of quality paying jobs in the West through the relocation of manufacture in the global-south, the reactionary pension reforms that erodes the value of pensions of most workers, the austerity measures imposed by governments etc. have all combined to undermine not only the quality of jobs and wages that workers receive, but also the quality of public services that the working class must get.


The congress reiterated that women and youth bear a disproportionate impact from challenges such as unemployment, marginalization, and exploitation, evident in the prevailing statistics on unemployment, low wages, and overall social insecurity. Nevertheless, the marginalisation of both women and youth is not separate from the class paradigm. The struggles of women and youth are not distinct agendas but are inherently intertwined with the broader class struggle undertaken by the entire working class against all forms of oppression.

Our task extends beyond serving our affiliates and members; it encompasses the broader working class and its organisations. When we advocate for united struggle and solidarity work, we are not limiting ourselves to trade union battles alone. We also refer to anti-colonial struggles, women's emancipation, community fights for justice, environmental struggles, and the entirety of working class struggles aimed at securing a fulfilling life for all of humanity.

While trade union organisations traditionally defend those have jobs, social security, and pensions, it is imperative to embrace the responsibility of the working class as a whole. Our universal historical mission is to liberate humanity from all forms of oppression and exploitation, transcending our own liberation to encompass the entire exploited society. In a world where a diminishing number of people have secure employment while millions await opportunities, our concern must prioritise the billions of individuals who walk the streets without adequate opportunities.

The Congress also expressed profound concern over the escalating destructive strategies employed by US imperialism across various global regions. These tactics include war-mongering, instigating regime changes, manipulation of the international financial system under its control, and other forms of bullying aimed at preserving its dominance worldwide to benefit its monopolies and elites. The precarious political situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine are direct consequences of US imperialism. Similarly, the United States bears responsibility for the harsh blockade of Cuba and the imposition of sanctions against Venezuela and Iran, driven purely by ideological motives to assert its influence over these nations in pursuit of its narrowly self-serving interests.


As a class-oriented trade union operating under WFTU in the public and allied sectors, the responsibility of TUI extends beyond its members, affiliates, and workers in the public service sector. We are tasked with utilising sectoral struggles and demands to connect with and contribute to the broader working-class movement dedicated to the complete liberation of workers from capitalist exploitation.

In comparison to the challenges faced by previous generations of trade unionists, today's challenge revolves around our capacity to mobilise ourselves and our resources and how we approach confronting the odds before us. As a militant red trade union movement, we must refrain from placing excessive reliance on the protection granted by labour legislation and instead depend on our own mass power. Our goal is to envision an alternative society from the one we currently live in, and to achieve that, we must be adequately armed both ideologically and politically. Otherwise, our struggles risk being confined to bread-and-butter issues alone, resulting in no fundamental change in society.

In this critical period marked by signs of weakness in US imperialism, it is imperative that we go beyond merely defending our historical demands. Instead, we must organise and actively participate in new struggles to conquer fresh frontiers in our fight against capitalism. Capitalism will not spontaneously collapse due to its inherent weaknesses; its downfall will only occur when the working class and its organisations leverage those weaknesses to heighten class contradictions and crises within the system. Consistent daily militant activities and ideological work are essential to equip the working class to identify and act upon the vulnerabilities of its class enemies at all times.


The incoming leadership's primary responsibility is to expand the global presence of our TUI in all countries while also enhancing the capacity to sustain this important work in various continents and regions to improve public service. Emphasis should be placed on mobilizing resources to effectively implement the strategic perspective and priorities, serving as a compass to guide our direction.

Each upcoming year should be guided by a theme component: "Defend Collective Bargaining and Fight Privatisation to reinforce International solidarity against capitalism and imperialism." In 2024, our focus will be on Defending Collective Bargaining; in 2025, our emphasis will be on Fighting Privatisation; in 2026, the priority will be International Solidarity against capitalism and imperialism. In 2027, efforts will center on intensifying class consciousness leading up to the Mid-Term meeting to evaluate work in progress in preparing for the XV International Congress. Finally, in 2028, the primary focus will be on holding the XV International Congress.

A 28-member leadership team was unanimously elected during the conference. The outgoing officeholders, president Authur Sequeira (Portugal), general secretary Zola Saphetha (South Africa), and deputy general secretary A Sreekumar (CITU, India), were all re-elected.