|The International Council and its Relevance to the Future of the World of Work|
by Andy Predicala
The International Council of the International Young Christian Workers was a timely event organized by its activists every 4 years to identify where the movement is today, and how it will go forward. Our fast-evolving world has generated closer interaction among people but it has created different situations in every country and continent. These developments have had consequences and impact in the world of work, affecting thousands of workers, and young workers in particular.
The three-week activity started on September 21 and ended on October 9, 2016. It began with the exchange program hosted by YCW Germany, YCW Wallonia and YCW Flanders in 5 key cities in Europe, namely Brussels, Liege, Aachen, Munster and Wurzburg. 27 national movements took part in it, interacting and interchanging information about different realities of the young workers today: precarious work, temporary workers, migrants, refugees, unemployed, informal workers and gender discrimination at work.
With the exchange and exposure program, the delegates identified that “Just Work” is one of the most often violated rights as many workers are not protected by labor laws and have no access to social protection. There is a high number of young workers who have precarious jobs or are unemployed, and likewise a high tendency to work in the informal economy. Job opportunities are lacking in the market, thus creating youth migration and strong competition among the labor force, leading to more job insecurity, low wages, long working hours and a lack of freedom of association. All these situations deprive young people of their dignity as workers and as human beings.
Technological advances are replacing people by machines and robots, and the production processes and workers are designed to serve the capitalists’ insatiable greed to produce more than what the market needs. Many transnational corporations determine the objectives of production and consumption. Their aim is the total economic domination of the world. These TNCs have great capacity to influence governments and some states no longer have control over economic regulations, for instance in the existing free-trade zones of Central America and Asia.
The Culture of Consumption and Individualism
Many young people’s lives today are marked by individualism and exclusivism and they are moving away from collective and solidarity practices. Money becomes the center and measurement of life, and the mass media put pressure on young people to compete with each other and encourage consumerism.
This new trend seeks to eliminate the working-class identity. It inspires a new identification as consumers, professionals or citizens of the world. It loses the perspective of the future, increasing the desire to get things “now”. Satisfaction and enjoyment is imposed as a lifestyle.
The Young Workers and the Class Struggle for a New Society
Notwithstanding the strong repression and many challenges, young workers and the YCW continue to resist this neoliberal exploitation at the workplaces, in the base groups, at national and international levels. Though the YCW has weakened in some countries, it continues to exist and this gives us hope. We have seen resistance and strikes with the action of YCW Indonesia, YCW Philippines, YCW Gabon, YCW Wallonia, YCW Flanders, YCW Germany, YCW Venezuela, YCW Peru and many other national movements fighting against job precariousness and unemployment, calling for Just Work and better working and living conditions.
The Continuous Commitment of the IYCW International Council
The IYCW has never stopped believing that young workers should not neither be replaced by machines nor be afraid of violence caused by money or the lack of money. Young workers are worth more than money and more than all the gold in the world. Human beings must be the focus and center of the development and production, not profit. Money should not be an instrument to measure the dignity of life.
Equality among human beings regardless of gender, race, nation or color must be promoted and protected. The YCW must give more hope and call all young workers wherever they are to build a new society, which is more humane and with more dignity. The need for changes in the reality and the world system is urgent. Each young worker should take responsibility and be part of the solution.
Our Action and Way Forward
The International Council agreed to keep working on the following key issues:
a) Precarious work
b) Flexibility and outsourcing
c) Informal work
d) Youth unemployment
e) Youth migration and refugees
f) Just Work (minimum wages, occupational health and safety, freedom of association)
g) Gender equality.
With the continuous commitment of the grassroots activists, with reinforced coordination at national, continental and international levels, we will spare no effort to raise awareness among all young workers and to train them. Our base groups’ action will guarantee change in the young workers’ living and working conditions and will develop a commitment for structural change in the society and for total human development.
To coordinate our actions at different levels, we elected the following activists to compose the International Team:
International President: Sarah Prenger (YCW Germany)
Secretary General: Orlando Machado (YCW Venezuela)
International Treasurer: Andy Predicala (YCW Philippines)
International Chaplain: Fr. Pedro Norman Soriano MJ (YCW Philippines)
IYCW Asia Pacific: Nanang Ibrahim (YCW Indonesia)
Ravi Jayaprakash (YCW India)
Leizyl Salem (YCW Philippines)
IYCW Americas: Luis Vargas (YCW Venezuela)
Antonio Adrian Zena (YCW Paraguay)
IYCW Africa: Basma Louis (YCW Egypt)
Doriabelle Yongala (YCW Gabon)
The IYCW together with various social and people’s movements and trade unions must regain its autonomy as a new building power to counter the capitalistic domination in society.
We will continue to cry out: “We are young, we are workers, we fight for our rights”. We shall never rest until the victory is at hand.