World Football Cup: When a Belgian Trade Union Discovers Brazil Through the Eyes of the Brazil YCW Print

‘Never Let the Workers Down’

By Guilherme Junior


altTo perceive similarities and potential in the struggle for dignified work was one of the objectives of the exchange between the Brazilian YCW and the Belgian trade union CSC Alimentation & Services, conducted on June 24, 2014. The action was carried out with six members of the Belgian organization who were in Brazil for the FIFA World Football Cup, plus four young workers from São Paulo, and two other young workers of other regions. The group was also given the opportunity to get to know one of the ongoing projects developed by young people linked to the YCW, The Youth Radio, based in São Vicente, a city located 70 km away from São Paulo.


In the morning, the visitors were welcomed at the national secretariat of the Brazilian YCW with a group dynamic that emphasized the union that everyone must build, even if they are physically distant. As a next step, the Brazilian YCW briefly presented its vision of training young workers through action, starting out from their own realities. In addition to presenting an overview of its actions through slides, the testimonial of a young worker that participated in the meeting, Fernanda Mara, from Fortaleza, was given via Skype. According to Fernanda, the YCW helped her to identify herself as a young worker and to understand and declare herself to be one. With the YCW’s help, she was able to realize that she shared the same reality as other young people, and that the only possible way to change this reality of exclusion and oppression is mobilization, union and organization among young workers.


In the afternoon, the group went to the city of São Vicente, on the coast of the state of São Paulo, to present the experience developed by a group of young workers associated with the YCW. But because it was Tuesday, many of the project’s members could not be present due to their studies and work responsibilities. Nonetheless, it was possible to set up a radio transmission structure inside the “Bom Jesus dos Navegantes” church, a place very frequented by the locals of Vila Margarida and Mexico 70, two poor neighborhoods of the city. The young radio broadcaster Fabio Piovam reported his experience with the project, from the first transmissions, the approach with the youth, the creation of radio programs, as well as the political aspects, such as the protest over the bus fare, an action which gave visibility to the radio. The radio is currently backing an action of reconstruction of the headquarters of the Sociedade Melhoramentos do Saquaré, a neighborhood near Vila Margarida and the future place where the transmission studio will be installed. The expectation with this action is to be nearer to the local community in order to make the project useful for the people and have it become a tool to express demands, claims, opinions, as well as to provide services to the neighborhood.


The priest Jean Claude Griveau, rector of the church which housed the meeting, greeted the visitors, speaking in French, his mother language. He briefly went through the history of the struggle conducted in the region since its settling in the 1970s.



The Belgian visitors gave their perceptions about the travel. Worker Laurent Laviolette said that even though he had come to Brazil for the World Cup, he got impressed by the people’s diversity, noting that they were open to interact with outsiders, although they were living in poor conditions.  Trade unionist Dirk de Vos pointed that his perspective was more to see the conditions and the social reality of the Brasilia workers than to see the World Cup. Some similarities and possibilities were pointed out. Unionist Michel Demanet said that one hundred years ago, Belgium was in the same conditions as Brazil. And these conditions were changed through the working class struggles. He believed that Brazil has the conditions to change too, but it will take time, it is not an overnight process.


In the São Vicente meeting, the Belgian group was able to explain their method of organization. The entity is the biggest trade union in Belgium, with 1.7 million members. Although they started their activities with the food sector workers, today they are connected with other sectors, including agriculture, tobacco, catering, building sector, cleaning, security, tourism and services, among others. Their action is mainly in collective representation and bargaining with the government and employers, putting forward the workers’ claims. There is an individual action too, called first line services (legal system, health, etc.). They also manage social resources that permit the maintenance of the social security system and the end of year allowance. Furthermore they produce informative material and act in the training process of workers, not only for the work aspect but also for the organizational aspect. For Dirk, the main similarity perceived between his organization and the Brazilian YCW is the effort by both organizations to stick with the workers, to never give up on them, keeping up the fight for better living and working conditions.


At the end, a point which could not be forgotten, Fabio brought out the critical aspects that came with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, such as the removals, overpriced works, repressing of demonstrations by government forces. Nevertheless, he underlined that the possibility to have an exchange with people from other countries and to present their reality was a positive point of the event that took place in Brazil.

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