The national trade union federations of the Republic of South Africa, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Republic of India, the Russian Federation, and the People’s Republic of China gathered in the City of Ethekwini (Durban) in the Republic of South Africa on the 26th – 27th September 2023, constituted as the 12th BRICS Trade Union Forum (BTUF).

The theme of the 12th BTUF was BRICS Trade Union Forum cooperation for fair and Inclusive development for all peoples of the world – Advancing Social justice, Peace and Dignity TOGETHER!

This was the first in-person meeting of the BRICS Trade Union Forum (BTUF) since the emergence of the COVID 19 pandemic. It took place at a time of major turbulences and geo-political tensions in the world that are not only historic, but impacting on workers, people and society, profoundly.

1.    On the historic mission of the BTUF

The BTUF is a critical Platform for building progressive internationalism and advancing working class power in a world undergoing major re-alignments and geo-political changes. It is a worker’s quest for deeper solutions to the deeper structural problems facing humanity, economies, the environment, and society as a whole.

BTUF is built on the BRICS spirit of inclusivity, openness, and mutual respect in building partnership for effective cooperation. It upholds the values of peace, justice, and inclusive development as a basis of our shared agenda, recognising the accumulated lessons from our diverse experiences.

On the expansion and future of BRICS, the 12th BTUF welcome the expansion of BRICS and the increasing partnership with different regions of the world. Towards that end, it shall work to strengthen relations with sister unions in the countries enlisted to participate in BRICS.

The current global economy model inherently and deliberately excludes many people and workers. This points to the importance of the right to subsistence and development, which should be guaranteed, preferentially to redefine the global economy model towards inclusivity, productive investment, and sustainability. Our struggle should be guided by the premise that the current model of development has dismally failed many people and workers throughout the world.

BTUF underlines urgency in the effective implementation of the BRICS decision regarding the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) necessitated by the pressing need ending the stranglehold of the dollar dominance and the whole financial empire on our countries. This is particularly so on the right to use national and or different currencies for settlements of our transactions and those of our partners and beyond. But this must be understood exactly for what it is, a struggle for a new and fundamentally progressive economic system, not just change of currencies.

2.    Key Areas of focus for the BTUF Dialogue

Towards this end, the 12th BRICS Trade Union Forum (BTUF) commits itself to the following action areas as our strategic and practical agenda for decent work, social justice and inclusive development;

2.1.        Strengthening the BTUF Cooperation Mechanism in international forums to advance a new, just and inclusive global economy. This should place people at the centre of all efforts for the eradication of poverty, unemployment and inequalities

The previous BTUF Dialogues emphasised the importance of a Coordination Mechanism that will be effective in strengthening the work of the global workers alliance. It is for that reason that the 12th BTUF has elaborated on the forms and means to enhance our cooperation, shared agenda and improved coordination capacity to work together as a common bloc, as we build partnerships that enhance our common interests.

2.2.        Joint Investment in BTUF Policy and Research capacity to advance industrial, scientific and technological capacity that enhances workers skills and create jobs

The fast-paced global transformation processes underway are driven by major scientific breakthroughs that have changed economic and workplace skills. However, these developments leave many workers, communities and societies behind. The struggle for inclusivity, participation and shared benefit require deliberate integration, capacity and strategies.

Industrialization and development are crucial for creating jobs and attracting investments into the developing world, particularly, the African continent and the rest of the global south. The continent has vast untapped potential and abundant natural resources, making it an attractive destination for economic growth and investment opportunities, but still suffer chronic underdevelopment and exclusion from key processes of global value chains development. 

2.3.        Work towards the elimination of Income inequalities between different regions of the world and peoples. This is with special focus on women, young peoplepeople living with disabilities, workers in informal employment and platform workers.

Income inequalities persist in the different regions of the world. This is particularly the case with women, young people and people living with disabilities, workers in informal employment, platform workers and other vulnerable groups. Different country contexts were explored and further work on the measures to be taken continue to be explored by the BTUF Transition from the informal economy should be prioritised in order to promote social justice.

2.4.        Promoting the development of effective support institutions and capacity for sustainable peace, democracy and development.

Building institutions and capacity for sustainable peace and justice is crucial for fostering stability and social progress in any society. It requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that addresses both the immediate and long-term needs of the community. The BTUF Dialogue supports the continued cooperation of workers in all countries to address the fundamental causes of war, underdevelopment and sovereign integrity of all peoples.

2.5.        Universal Social Security/Protection for workers and their families.

Our work in building a comprehensive system of social policies continue for resilience during these trying times for workers, their families and communities, using our comparative different experiences and contexts. The   coverage of basic social insurance schemes should be further extended.

2.6.        Promoting Fair models of ecological management and Just Transition.

Fair models of ecological management and just transition are important in addressing environmental issues while ensuring social and economic justice for all stakeholders. These models recognize the need to transition towards more sustainable practices and mitigate the negative impacts of human activities on the environment as we balance importance of jobs, health and livelihoods.

In their relentless pursuit of profits, multinational and transnational corporations most often pay no regard to human and labour rights. In communities where they operate, the heavy chemical, fuel and mining cartels also leave a trail of environmental degradation and massive pollution of natural water streams.  BTUF commits itself to fight and fully support all struggles to ensure adherence to international human rights, labour and environmental standards.

2.7.        Advancing the work of the ILO and the transformation of multilateralism to meet the needs of our changing world.

Towards that end, we commit to concretise our practical commitments and cooperation. This shall include;

The formalisation of BRICS Trade Union Forum (BTUF Dialogue) in key social dialogue institutions. This is at both national and international levels (particularly in the ILO) to advance the common interests of the BTUF bloc and institutionalise the work of tripartite partners in each country for official support of partners.

Further, we recall that in 1986, the International Labour Conference (ILC) adopted an instrument of amendment proposing changes that affect 11 of the 40 articles within the Constitution of the ILO. The 1986 Amendment were meant to deal with 3 key areas;

a.     A formulae for an inclusive composition of the Governing Body of the ILO

b.    The Procedure for the appointment of the Director General; and

c.     Rules governing how the Constitution may be amended.

It is for that reason that the BTUF continues its engagement on the importance of assenting to the 1986th amendment. This shall enhance the process of deepening the posture of the ILO as a critical space for social justice, development rights and mutual accountability in accordance with the ILO fundamental principles at work.

The 12th BRICS Trade Unions Forum delegates extend their sincere appreciation to the South African trade union movement; COSATU, FEDUSA, SAFTU and NACTU for the warm reception and quality of organising as indicated by the forum, in both content and logistical areas. Towards that end, delegates further extended best wishes to the workers of the Russian Federation as they host the next BTUF in 2024.