Trade Union Forum of the Americas, Panama, 10 and 11 April 2015

The Trade Union Forum of the Americas, convened by the TUCA with the support of the Panamanian trade union centres, was held in Panama, during the week of the Summit of the Americas, on 10 and 11 April 2015.

The Forum was attended by Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, the former foreign minister of Uruguay, diplomat Luis Almagro, Secretary General Elect of the OAS, the Minister of Employment and Labour Development of Panama, Luis Ernesto Carles, and the Executive Secretariat of the TUCA.

Rafael Freire, Economic Policy and Sustainable Development Secretary of the TUCA, said that the Trade Union Summit of the Americas constitutes “a clear message to the heads of state and a counterpoint to the Business Forum, because we are defending a model of sustainable development centred on employment, income distribution and the fight against extreme poverty”.

Luis Ernesto Carles, Minister of Employment and Labour Development of Panama, also underlined the importance of the trade union movement in the construction of a development alternative for the region, and said: “Trade unions have been fundamental to the common good, especially through their specific contribution to respect for workers’ rights. An example of this is the creation of the Development Platform for the Americas (PLADA), as there can be no sustainable development without political democracy.”

Luis Almagro, former foreign minister of Uruguay and Secretary General Elect of the OAS, underlined the importance of protecting labour rights for sustainable development and democracy: “When we talk of ever greater rights we must especially take into account workers’ rights, because the creation of employment and decent pay are fundamental to the redistribution of wealth. There can be no strong democracy anywhere in the Americas without a strong trade union movement.”

The Forum’s final declaration stressed the importance of the PLADA and development cooperation as instruments for change in the region. Here are a few extracts from the final declaration:

“Within the framework of the Seventh Summit of the Americas, we place the PLADA before our governments and express our intention to move in the direction that allows us to be agents of the changes needed in our region. As development actors, we are ready for the challenge of building the Americas we want, with inclusion, social justice, equality, decent work and greater democracy.”

“We defend development and cooperation as state policies, resting on a human-rights based approach. We reject the promotion of the private sector as a leading development actor, in replacement of state responsibility, particularly within the framework of the current global discussions on the Post-2015 agenda and development financing. All development banks, whichever they may be, must dialogue with the trade union movement and society as a whole. It is inadmissible that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has not yet established a structure for dialogue with the regional trade union movement or adopted labour clauses as conditions for their loans, as other international financial institutions have done.”