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Détermination, solidarité et internationalisme

Par Sofia Trevino Dernière modification 08/11/2021 18:40
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Determination, solidarity and internationalism:

La Centrale Generale FGTB (CAGS) fights for workers in Belgium and elsewhere


We start our year with the featured photo for the month of January: it is the winning submission from the FGTB general union of Belgium, and it was taken on November 28, 2019, during a strike. It was part of a series of actions to demand better wages in the service vouchers sector, which is a sectoral agreement that encourages demand in the sector by providing subsidized costs. We met Yasmine Sanpo, secretary of the FGTB's Europe and international unit to find out more about her career and the work of the union. 

Yasmine Sanpo has always known that she has an affinity with social movements and union work, a place that allows her to live out her values. Her father was a former laborer, who took her from an early age into protests and actions. When she joined the general union in Belgium, the FGTB, in 2003, it was such a logical turning point in her life and things naturally fell into place: The general union defends workers' rights in more than 40 sectors , including that of domestic workers. This mission was in line with Yasmine's values. It now works as an intermediary with the European federation and its global equivalent.

The FGTB has been affiliated with the International Federation of Domestic Workers (FITD) for a year now and hopes to establish multiple sectoral links in order to sensitize its own members to the situation their colleagues face in the Global South. In Belgium, the situation is quite unique and incomparable to other countries for informal work, as the country has set up a system of service vouchers to declare work that takes place in the service sector, including workers. domestic workers. However, this does not mean that workers in Europe live without struggle. Although they are employed in Belgium, having a job is not a guarantee against poverty, because most often the minimum wage is insufficient to ensure a decent income for the person and the household.

The strike to increase workers' wages was therefore a very important step in a series of actions. Employers paid meager amounts of money for these services and were uncooperative at first. Eventually, the unions managed to strike a deal that included a pay rise, after multiple strikes and lobbying and advocacy efforts. The importance of such an effort is still validated on a daily basis, as we reaffirm the urgent need to increase the wages of low-paid workers. “It is important for us that domestic work is recognized and does not take place in the dark, so that workers are not isolated,” says Sanpo. “They are now represented within the union,

A social agreement was finally reached for the 140,000 workers in the service voucher sector after more than a year of negotiations. "This agreement is above all a symbol for the workers in the sector who fought with great determination and succeeded in raising public awareness on working conditions and wages which command respect." A year of union action in the service sector has passed, and the struggle continues.

Working for decent work and social protection is not a lonely endeavor. The struggle is unfolding on multiple fronts: countering the interests of neoliberalism, resisting the competing interests of multinational corporations and powerful international elites, addressing unequal access to health and services, etc. All this requires unions to adopt an internationalist approach and to bind together in solidarity: “Our union, the general union FGTB, is an integral part of the struggle for social justice, the redistribution of wealth and social security. well developed. These are the basic principles that we stand for, ”says Sanpo. International solidarity also finds its place. “The globalized world leaves us no another choice than international solidarity, where unions can collectively create a future where decent work is a reality ”. It is the common thread among allinternational solidarity projects led by the general union, which are of particular importance today with the impact of the pandemic on millions of workers. The general union FGTB led a campaign to denounce the working conditions of domestic workers as well as the lack of their recognition by collecting a series of testimonies. He found intolerable working conditions, increased workloads, insufficient protective frameworks, lack of political recognition and lack of provision of personal protective equipment by employers, among other needs.

The pandemic is not limited in its geographic scope, it is not confined within borders, it is rather global, and the fight against it must be too. The FGTB general union sees itself as an agent of change. With great humility, Sanpo explains that in the fight against the virus, we are only a small link in the chain. Focusing on the disruptions in the supply chains of medicines, food and other essentials that have been exacerbated by the public health crisis, the union is pushing for a transformative recovery, where social justice, ecological and economic is at the center of the change.

With his union, Sanpo envisions a future of prosperity for all, a future where international solidarity is based on equality and collaboration, where democracy is real and non-ceremonial, and where social protection is universal. There are ways to make this vision a reality, provided there is the political will to do so: they are solutions modeled after the voices of the workers themselves. A progressive tax system, a universal and fair minimum wage developed in collective consultation, a universal social protection fund, a working environment and a world free from sexism, racism and xenophobia are all pieces of the puzzle. Thanks to international solidarity, progressive voices unite for a good that is not only common to the 1% of


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Story Type: Update

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