CGIL Centenary ( Italian General Confederation of Labour - Italy)

Milan, 01/10/2006

To be checked against delivery

Cari compagni e compagne, è un grande piacere, per me, essere qui con voi per questa importante occasione : il centenario della CGIL.

A century is an extraordinary occasion to appreciate the history of the most important Union in the World! I confess that I say that to all the girls, to all the unions especially those who have their 100th birthday.

It is rare to find, in our world, a trade union not only of such an venerable age but also one with the rich history of CGIL.

The CGIL was born in the 1st of October 1906, here in Milan, already with a strong and clear political personality based on the choice to create a great Organisation to defend and emancipate not only workers, but, at the same time, the unemployed, the poor and all those people who need help and support in society.

The roots of union greatness have always been the conviction that the workers do not have defeat as their destiny.

The aim of working towards the achievement of dignity and rights for every worker spurred us to fight, yesterday, fascist and capitalist domination; and today against the ultra liberalism and irresponsible financial power in this globalised world. This value represents an enduring ambition, to achieve a fairer and better society.

For that, your history is a history searching for freedom: freedom of action; freedom of speech; freedom of conscience and freedom of thought. Freedoms often gained with a very hard struggle.

I want to say today that your heroes are not only our heroes but they are European and world-wide heroes as well.

Those who died during the struggle against the dictatorship, clandestinely or in exile; those who died to free Italy from fascism and Nazism and took part in the Resistance's struggle; those who died like the great Placido Rizzotto standing against the Mafia; we remember too the sacrifice of Guido Rossa in the terrorism period. There are some of the deeds of your, our heroes.

CGIL has understood that freedom and social rights are two faces of the same coin.

When I saw the streets of Rome in 2003 filled with three million workers and citizens against Berlusconi Government, I understood that this infinite demonstration of all the Italian unions was essentially against crude adventurism and instead a fight for freedom.

But your history is also a history of a Union.

I have long been impressed by your choice to combine your competence to bargain with the employers and with the Government with the vision and the principle to do it, not only for your members but also for all workers.

To have constantly the idea of defending all the working people: before, during and after the work.

This great idea of confederality is based on the value of solidarity. The value to unify what the ultra liberalism and individualism divide: the young unemployed with the migrant; the precarious with the worker, the new generation with the pensioner.

This value represents a strong point of reference for us and, I think, for everywhere in the world.

For these reasons CGIL plays a fundamental role.

Your struggles for peace, starting in 1956 against Soviet invasion of Budapest when you were able to show your solidarity for the people of Hungary, your struggle against the war in Iraq, and for peace in the Middle East represents a long and indestructible coherence.

But also your vision for the European and world organisations.

Your idea to press for a stronger ETUC, with more initiative as a Union, convinced, as you are, that the national borders are no more able to defend the rights of workers.

The mobility of the enterprises without borders; the financial power aimed at obtaining only short-term results, and social dumping are your great concerns, but I want say that these are also our concerns. There are our new challenges for tomorrow and for our future in general.

As we approach our Congress in Seville next year we want to make sure that we are able to face all the difficulties, that we will reach the right level - for that, your contribution will be vital to us.

Today, we honour, remember and thank the millions and millions of your members that built the CGIL and worked for a better Italy. We take pride in our unquenchable heritage to revive our future and to win, together, our next challenges.

Grazie Cgil per i tuoi valori e la tua coerenza: sono la vostra ma anche la nostra grande richezza.