España – San Ildefonso, La Granja

Meeting of the IUF’s HRCT Professional Group

Speech by Cándido Méndez

The IUF plays an essential role


Our friend and fellow unionist, Cándido Méndez, general secretary of the General Workers’ Confederation (UGT), honored us with his presence at the meeting of the IUF’s World Committee of Hotel, Tourism, Restaurant and Catering Workers, delivering a speech at the public opening ceremony. In a pleasant and very easygoing manner, he discussed the labor challenges faced by workers in such a highly globalized industry as is the tourism sector, where inequalities are so widespread.



“I must tell you that this immensely important agenda you will be addressing through your unions -Cándido began- is similar to the agendas of all unions and of practically every sector. Naturally, in your case, you must address that agenda in a sector that is highly dynamic worldwide, a sector that is very significant socially, economically and in terms of employment, and, in addition, as our dear fellow unionists Ron (Oswald) and Norberto (Latorre) have pointed out, we are talking about a sector that is expanding globally,” he said.


“I think that on an international level we must aim to work firmly for this sector to provide an opportunity for the development of those peoples that are suffering the greatest inequalities, who are living under the worst conditions of poverty, and who are being denied their labor rights” –he continued. “In this sense, figures indicate that there will be an important increase -although still inadequate- in tourism in the most deprived continent on earth: Africa. And therefore, we need to connect labor goals with individual rights, collective rights, freedom, democracy, and the exercise of the right to strike and the right to collective bargaining; the expansion of the tourism sector must be an essential priority for this powerful international trade union organization,” the general secretary of the UGT highlighted}


He stressed that “We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that unionism cannot be confined to a single country, because of the thrust of economic globalization. It must be interpreted in global terms. And I think you play a key role in this sense.”


“For us, in Spain and in Europe -Cándido said-, tourism is of capital importance. And in this sector we must fight to achieve the equality of women and men. Here in Spain we are witnessing the emergence of a new reality for the working class. The presence of migrant workers in this sector is very evident. Diversity is a characteristic of the new global workforce.”


Cándido described a process currently underway whereby construction workers are seeking economic insertion in the hotel and restaurant industry. When Spain experienced a construction boom, many hotel and restaurant workers went to work in construction. They did so “because construction offered better pay and less severe working conditions, even when it meant working outdoors. Now a reverse movement is taking place. For all these reasons, when we speak of tourism, we are talking about a key sector that affects our current and future development,” he pointed out.

The splendor of

luxury hotels and

the splendor of

luxury restaurants cannot rest on the hardship and terrible working conditions of millions of workers


The UGT leader undertook to “fight for decent wages and good working conditions in the hotel and restaurant and tourism sectors. Wages are clearly inadequate and must be raised, and the quality of the employment generated by this activity must be improved. And we will address these challenges throughout Europe” -he stated. “Last Saturday we held a mobilization in the capital of Slovenia, with the participation of unions from around Europe. Over 35 thousand people gathered to demand wage raises for workers of every sector in Europe. As alarms start to go off again and conservative speeches from the past resurface, they’d like us to believe that the problems of economic adjustment must be endured by workers in their wages,” he denounced.


In his opinion, “Inflation and other world economy problems have nothing to do with salaries, which in Europe, over the last few years, have lost purchasing power. These problems have to do with the strong speculations in world food markets, due to the rise in the prices of basic raw materials and oil and gas –he declared. Also, because a greater number of people in China and India can now eat twice a day, and aspire to eat three times a day. Therefore, none of this has anything to do with wages. It does, however, have to do with politics –Cándido stressed. We are going to demand a raise in salaries and also a change in globalization policies. Globalization cannot be achieved at the expense of labor rights, freedom and social justice. It has to be a vehicle for the improvement of salaries, rights and jobs and for the enhancement of the quality of life of the working class worldwide.”


In Cándido’s opinion, “World political leaders are greatly responsible for the current situation. There is a crisis affecting world economy. But that crisis has to do with garbage mortgages, and it originated in the United States, in the speculative economy promoted by Mr. Bush and the former president of the federal reserve, Greenspan,” he said, clearly identifying responsibilities.


Lastly, he stressed that “The splendor of luxury hotels and the splendor of luxury restaurants cannot be sustained by the hardship and terrible working conditions of millions of workers. The splendor of luxury hotels and the splendor of luxury restaurants must be matched by decent economic and working conditions for all workers, who are a key part of this activity’s development. The IUF plays an essential role in this, and I know you will succeed,” he concluded.



From San Ildefonso, La Granja, Gerardo Iglesias


April 10, 2008





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