I am incredibly honoured and extremely privileged to be elected as General Secretary of the ITUC. The ITUC is without question the pre-eminent voice for the rights of working people, for justice, peace and democracy. I am humbled to have your support and your trust.
You have debated and determined a strong mandate this week; a mandate that is framed by seven priorities which will drive the ITUC’s strategy for global justice.
You have reminded us all that we have special responsibilities for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the workforce, many of them young workers or women, and called attention to the needs of migrant workers and those in the informal economy.
We must begin by building a stronger and truly inclusive trade union movement, trade unions that can respond to the unfulfilled needs of a massive and growing number of workers in a range of different circumstances who need representation.
Congress recognises that the ITUC’s constitutional commitment to the maintenance and strengthening of peace is closely related to the achievement of social justice. It deplores the existence of conflicts that continue to take the lives of many and to blight those of workers and their families.
We will work with unions and civil society in all conflict zones and we will begin by stepping up our pressure for peace for Palestine and Israeli workers by taking a mission to Palestine as soon as possible.
You know, I am a warrior for woman and we still have work to ensure the inclusion of women in the workplace and in our unions. The struggles for women are multiple – too often within their families for independence, then in the workplace for rights and equal opportunity, in our unions for access and representation and then as union leaders. But the investment in and participation of women is not only a moral mandate it is an investment in democracy and a bulwark against fundamentalism and oppression. Organising woman is and must continue to be a priority for the ITUC.
I am an organiser and I have spent many, many years organising workers, campaigning with, bargaining on behalf of workers for their rights and for improvements to their working lives.
I grew up in a family with a history in labour struggles in Australia and I am extraordinarily lucky to be supported by my husband Peter and my two children and their partners, all who share our values and passion for rights, equality and social justice.
There is no greater a privilege than to work for and with working people and union men and women who choose to stand up every day in the quest for rights, freedom and justice. These are people, you are the people I am proud to work with.
Let me pay tribute to Guy Ryder. You have already acknowledged him as a great union leader. His vision, tenacity and sheer hard work has resulted in the magnificent unity and strength of purpose we have felt this week. But he has done so much more – zones of conflict, trade unionists in trouble, government advocacy, the G20, the UN, the IMF and World Bank, Global Union Federations, mobilisations, training and development plans – Guy has been there guiding, supporting and representing us.
Wise, gracious, passionate about justice – this man has our undying gratitude but also our heart. I can tell you, we are not losing him, but rather, gaining his leadership as the Deputy Director General of the ILO. This is a great honour for Guy but indeed for us as well.
To Mamamata Cisse, a proud trade union woman we say thank you, for your dedication, your sisterhood, and your proud advocacy of trade union work. Again we are pleased to continue to have your support as an ILO official in Africa.
Colleagues, we must never forget those who have paid the ultimate price and given their lives for the ambitions we share and indeed we will not give up on those incarcerated for their place in trade union, peace and democratic struggles.
Corporate greed has no place in global justice. Oppression of workers and their unions has no place in national or global governance. Indeed, the right to work, decent work, is a fundamental human right and freedom of association, organising and collective bargaining are the rights that underpin and tools to drive a fairer globalisation.
Now the people . . . from crisis to global justice. This is not only our Congress theme, this is our work.