Trade Union Forum

12-th BRICS Trade Union Forum. Durban (South Africa). September 26-27, 2023

The 12-th BRICS Trade Union Forum was held in Durban under the chairmanship of four national trade union centres of South Africa  - COSATU, FEDUSA, NACTU and SAFTU

 "BRICS Trade Union Forum Cooperation for Fair and Inclusive Development for all Peoples of the World - Advancing Social Justice, Peace and Dignity Together!" was the motto of the 12th BRICS Trade Union Forum held in Durban.  The Presidents of four national trade union centres of South Africa - Ms. Zingiswa Losi of COSATU, Mr. Godfrey Selematsela of FEDUSA, Mr. Pat Mphela of NACTU and Ms. Ruth Ntlokotse of SAFTU - addressed the participants with a welcoming speech at the opening ceremony of the Forum.

Mr. Gerald Twala, the Overall Convener of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) delivered a message of support. In his speech, he stressed the importance of social dialogue, which has become a reliable tool for regulating labour relations and promoting economic development.

Mr. Thembelani Nxesi, Minister of Employment and Labour of South Africa, noted that economic development and the achievement of Decent work parameters are unthinkable without constructive interaction between the government, trade unions and employers to increase productivity and improve working conditions.

Messages of solidarity were delivered by special guests: Mr. Michael Makwayiba, President of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), and Mr. Luc Triangle, Acting General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), both of whom took part in the Forum events for the first time.

In accordance with the established practice, each delegation presented national reports to the Forum delegates over the period since the previous Forum held in Beijing in July 2022. The reports touched upon the internal state of affairs, and also reflected the trade union opinions on "The current structure of the global economy and how it reinforces inequalities, underdevelopment and instability", which South African trade unions chose for discussion at the opening session of the Forum.

" Partnership of BRICS and Africa for inclusive development, jobs and skills for workers: an African perspective" was the title of the second panel, the speakers of which represented African regional organisations: Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC), Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA), East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC), and Central Trade Union Organisation of Kenya (COTU-K).

The third topic "ILO and BRICS on advancing the future of Decent work inclusive development and social justice" caused a lively discussion, during which the delegates shared their views on how to improve BRICS unions' effectiveness at the ILO in Geneva, while employers, teaming up with government representatives, receive a qualified majority to promote ideas that are inconsistent with the interests of workers.

The speakers in the third session included Dr. Joni Musabayana, Director of the ILO Decent Work Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, and another special guest, Mr. Arezki Mezhoud, Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).

An equally lively exchange of views took place in the fourth session on "New Development Bank (NDB), the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) and BRICS as platforms for industrialisation, development and economic participation in changing of dominant of Global Financial Architecture model."

A review report was delivered by Dr. Rob Davis, former Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, who noted the growing role of the NDB in the global arena of major financial players, and also commented on the prospects for creating new settlement mechanisms between the BRICS countries based on their national currencies.

The panellists expressed critical views both on the substance of the Bank's work, which, according to them, has turned into yet another investment bank operating under the old system of financial relations based upon the dominance of the US dollar, and on the pace of creating new instruments of mutual settlement between BRICS countries without using US banks as intermediaries.

The final discussion of the plenary session focused around "Reflections on the BRICS Trade Union Forum experiences in taking forward the previously agreed commitments." It dealt with the issues of the Forum coordination mechanism, joint research and policy capacity development, communication and information tools for exchanges, development of a joint platform on the ILO and social dialogue processes, as well as strategies to build and strengthen trade unions.

Russian trade unions representing the country that will assume BRICS presidency in 2024, have committed to work out new information tools for the Forum and to explore the subject of research work carried out by BRICS trade unions.

An important issue to be resolved by the Russian Presidency concerns the expansion of the membership of the Trade Union Forum to include new countries joining the BRICS on January 1, 2024. Relevant proposals were made in that regard.

Following the adoption by consensus of the Declaration of the BRICS Trade Union Forum, a ceremony was held to transfer the presidency to Russian trade unions. In his closing remarks, Mr. Mikhail Shmakov, the FNPR President, thanked the unions of South African for excellent organisation of the 12th Trade Union Forum and assured them that Russian trade unions will make every effort, to hold meetings of the next Forum in Russia at the highest level.