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WFTU Statement on World Environment Day

The 5th of June is observed as the World Environment Day by the United Nations. The WFTU, representing more than 105 million workers in 133 countries across the world, has always been at the forefront of defending the rights of workers. We have consistently fought for better working conditions, fair wages, and social security for all workers. However, we understand that these rights and benefits cannot be separated from the health of our planet. The environmental crisis is not just an ecological issue; it is a workers’ issue; it is a human issue.

The WFTU has a long history of fighting for social progress and better standards of life. We extend this fight to include the preservation of our environment. We believe that a world free from war and social injustices includes a world free from environmental devastation.

We are living in a time when our planet is facing unprecedented environmental challenges. From climate change to deforestation, from air pollution to water scarcity, these environmental issues pose a significant threat to the livelihoods of workers around the world.

One illustrative example is that almost all the children all over the world (99%) are affected by at least one of the climates and environmental hazards, shock and stresses such as heatwaves, cyclones, riverine flooding, coastal flooding, water scarcity, vector-borne diseases, air pollution, leas pollution, while hundreds of millions of children are affected by up to 5 of the consequences of the environmental crisis according to UNICEF.

The World Federation of Trade Union and the class-oriented trade union movement have always as one of its priorities the environmental issues. On the one hand, the workers and the popular strata objectively have no material incentive or interest in the infamous exploitation of nature and the deterioration of the social and working environment, and on the other hand, the workers, the peasants, the ordinary people, and peoples are the ones who are exposed and unprotected to the various negative consequences in the environment caused by the unregulated capitalist production. The common people, the poor people, and the popular strata of every country are the ones who are poisoned and die due to polluted air, buried in the garbage, drowned in floods and hurricanes, burned in fires and heatwaves, faced with social exclusion, poverty, and miserable living and working conditions. According to the International Labor Organization, the poorest and least developed countries – that is, the countries that are less responsible for creating the problem – are more likely to face the worst effects. (ILO, International Journal of Labor Research 2010 vol 2 issue 2)

The contradiction between the owners of the means of production and the workers, as well as the unregulated and uneven development of capitalism, especially monopoly capitalism, deepen all the timeless inequalities and contradictions, while new ones appear and swell.  The unregulated capitalist economy, especially since the industrial revolution, has caused deterioration in the living and working environment of workers at all levels (labor, social, physical, and technological). Most ecosystems have been over-exploited and polluted, often irreversibly, due to the indiscriminate use of natural resources and the exploitation of labor power, with the main objective of profit and the main result being the accumulation of capital in the hands of the few.

The WFTU does not underestimate and asserts any measures that can and must be taken within capitalism to limit climate change, but at the same time puts the issue in its proper dimension and seeks the solution in the abolition of its root causes, the capitalist relations of production. The solution is not a new capitalist development on “green” terms but the liberation from the voracious model of capitalist development and the building of a society free from the profit motive in the production and exploitation of man and nature.

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