ITF Africa Regional Conference - 6th of March 2024

Today I had the opportunity to address the ITF Africa Regional Conference in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

and give some insight into how my union BTB have demonstrated global solidarity in Africa by listening to the voices of transport workers and working together to combat multinational employers.

You can read my full speech below.

 

Hello comrades,

I bring you the most fraternal greetings from my union in Belgium
UBT/BTB
The Union of Belgian Transport Workers.
52,000 trade unionists affiliated to my union salute you!

And I'd like to start my speech with a joke
When I arrived in Côte d'Yvoir a few days ago
I wasn't the only Belgian visiting the Côte d'Yvoir
There was also the Queen of Belgium
who arrived to visit this country
But we weren't on the same plane
And we had other priorities
I chose to be with you.

I'm going to speak in French
I had thought of doing half and half
French/English
But that's less comfortable for the interpreters
And since we are on the Côte d'Yvoir
I'll speak in French.

I would also like to convey to you the most fraternal greetings
from the European Transport Workers' Federation.
I would like to remind you that
The ETF represents more than 5 million workers,
200 trade unions in 38 European countries.

I am here as President of the ETF,
and I am accompanied by Livia Spera, our General Secretary.
On her behalf too, I'd like to thank you for your warm welcome
for your warm welcome and hospitality.

I have to tell you that I am very happy to see so many friends in this room,
because I have friends in Africa.
They are all friends I have known for a long time.
Comrades whom I have met through working together
with many trade unions in Africa.

You should know that I've been visiting Africa
at least once a year since 2015
To visit the two projects that my union has
in that continent.

So this African affiliates conference is not a first contact for me,
nor a one-off event,
No, it's an extension and confirmation of numerous contacts with African unions.

Because my trade union organisation
the UBT/BTB, has been involved in ITF cooperation projects since 2015,
and we did so at the request of Steve Cotton, the ITF General Secretary.

And I want to tell you that for me, for us,
solidarity is not just a word
we say at our meetings.
The solidarity that I, my union and the ETF advocate,
translates into concrete action.
Some people like to talk about solidarity,
but we want to put it into practice
In collaborative projects that strengthen the unions
Involved in these projects.

That's what prompted us to respond favourably to the ITF's call.
Not because we think we should be paternalistic and come here to Africa in Côte d'Ivoire or Kenya and tell you what to do.
Quite the opposite.
If we are here, it is also to listen to you and we are convinced that by working together,
my union, the UBT and your unions,
you and we can all learn,
exchange good ideas,
share good practices, give each other ideas
and develop strategies together.

We also believe that everyone has the right to live happily
in the country where they were born.
And we believe that everyone has the right to a decent job,
a good job in the country where he or she was born.
And we also believe that everyone has the right to be respected in that job and to be able to work in good conditions
with a decent wage that pays the bills at the end of the month.

 

My brothers and sisters,
I had the opportunity to visit the ports of Mombassa in Kenya
and Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire,
I visited car parks in Kenya and Côte d'Ivoire.
I visited logistics depots in Nairobi,
I spoke to airport staff in Kenya and Côte d'Ivoire.
I spoke to port workers, lorry drivers, bus drivers and taxi drivers in various African countries.

And it's true that there are differences between the situation in Europe and that in Africa.

But I also found that the challenges facing transport workers
are not so different.
We are all faced with the same multinationals, such as Bolloré, Boluda, Kuhne&Nagel, DHL, Amazon, Uber, and so on.
We are all confronted with the exploitation of workers
and employers who do not respect workers.

We are all faced with digitalisation, artificial intelligence, automation...

We share the same problems.

So we have a choice, my brothers and sisters:
either we meet all these challenges in our own country,
or we can do it together, in the knowledge that we are stronger when we work together.
Employers and multinationals have an international strategy,
If they have one, we must have one too.

Comrades, grand speeches are all very well,
but I believe that true solidarity is measured
by what we build together in everyday life.

And I tell you, comrades, I promise you that UBT, BTB,
the ETF,
Livia and I will continue to build together with our African friends.
In the years to come, you won't just hear us talking about international solidarity. You'll see us on the ground, with concrete projects, acts of solidarity, a presence on the ground. You will see that you have friends in Europe, just as we know that we have friends in Africa.

An African trade unionist from the Kenya Dockers' Union taught me an African proverb:
if you want to walk fast, then walk alone,
but if you want to walk far, walk together.
And that's what we're going to do in the coming years.
Walk far, so walk together.
Together, we are strong!

Viva the ITF
Viva the African unions
Long live international solidarity.