ITUC: The Global Eco­nomic Model has Failed

Weekend Mirror - - CHILDREN’S CORNER - By Linda Flood

The

In­ter­na­tional Trade Union Con­fed­er­a­tion ( ITUC) has de­clared war on cli­mate change and fears that the global econ­omy is per­me­ated by greed. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Sha­ran Bur­row makes the point: – No­body can sur­vive in a world with a tem­per­a­ture in­crease of 3 or 4 de­grees.

Sha­ran Bur­row has just re­turned from a long week­end in Latin Amer­ica. In Panama she met with la­bor­ers. Out in the real world. That is where she is most at home. Where work­ing con­di­tions are poor. Con­di­tions that she has spent her life try­ing to change.

It’s Mon­day at ITUC’s of­fice in Brus­sels. A first hec­tic week af­ter the sum­mer is un­der­way. This au­tumn’s agenda is, as al­ways, the ob­vi­ous ar­eas of con­cern for the or­ga­ni­za­tion: equal­ity, mi­gra­tion, cli­mate and the erad­i­ca­tion of slave la­bor.

ITUC has launched a cam­paign that they call “war on cli­mate change”.

– When you con­sider the losses of life due to weather change and sea­son shifts, it’s al­ready a re­al­ity. Peo­ple are be­ing dis­placed.

Sha­ran Bur­row scorns the crit­i­cism that the ITUC shouldn’t be spend­ing time and money on the cli­mate.

– If you don’t have jobs – you can’t fight for wages and con­di­tions. So if jobs are at risk in the con­text of cli­mate de­struc­tion then it’s our core busi­ness.

Among ITUC plans, is to put pres­sure on the gi­ant pen­sion funds to make sure they make cli­mate smart in­vest­ments. But pres­sure and de­mands are also put on gov­ern­ments, cor­po­ra­tions and in­vestors.

ITUC is a con­fed­er­a­tion of con­fed­er­a­tions for the world’s trade unions. Sha­ran Bur­row has been Sec­re­tary Gen­eral since 2010 and both rep­re­sents and is re­spon­si­ble to 176 mil­lion mem­bers.

– Of all the in­ter­na­tional bod­ies that have an in­flu­ence in the world of work, we are rep­re­sented there.

The rel­a­tive im­por­tance of or­gans like the Davos World Eco­nomic Fo­rum or the G20 sum­mit for the global la­bor mar­kets has been down­played by some crit­ics. But Sha­ran Bur­row doesn’t pay heed to that view.

– Peo­ple say the G20 is not ef­fec­tive and we could join that cri­tique if solely in terms of im­ple­men­ta­tion, but in terms of es­tab­lish­ing an agenda the last G20 reached two very im­por­tant pieces poli­cies for us. The la­bor min­is­ters de­cided that vi­o­la­tions of la­bor rights and hu­man rights could no longer be part of the com­pe­ti­tion. And they de­cided that min­i­mum wages had to be based on dig­nity. That set a frame­work for fair com­pe­ti­tion in a global econ­omy that has lost its way.

About 94% of the global sup­ply chains are re­liant on a hid­den work­force - If you take Latin Amer­ica, 25 of the largest com­pa­nies em­ploys 70 mil­lion peo­ple but only 4 mil­lion are em­ployed di­rectly. The rest are a hid­den work­force and they are sub­ject to abused fun­da­men­tal rights and no­body takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for this

She is both vis­i­bly and au­di­bly in­censed.

– The global eco­nomic model has failed. Peo­ple are hor­ri­fied that in­equal­ity is grow­ing at such a high rate, well for us it’s not a shock, it’s built into the model.

She is refer­ing to stud­ies that show that about 94% of the global sup­ply chains are re­liant on a hid­den work­force.

– If you take Latin Amer­ica, 25 of the largest com­pa­nies em­ploys 70 mil­lion peo­ple but only 4 mil­lion are em­ployed di­rectly. The rest are a hid­den work­force and they are sub­ject to abused fun­da­men­tal rights and no­body takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for this.

ITUC’s po­si­tion is that the im­por­tance of a so­cial di­a­logue is piv­otal, and they sup­port the Global Deal ini­tia­tive launched by Swedish Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Löfven.

– Col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is un­der at­tack, min­i­mum wages are low and so­cial pro­tec­tion isn’t ex­pand­ing.

At the mo­ment six­teen coun­tries, sev­en­teen unions and seven cor­po­ra­tions are in the Global Deal part­ner­ship. Sev­eral Swedish large com­pa­nies that Ar­betet Global has spo­ken to ques­tion the in­ti­tia­tive, while em­ployer or­ga­ni­za­tions claim the ini­tia­tive may un­der­mine the ef­forts of ILO.

– That’s sim­ply an ex­cuse to take no re­spon­si­bil­ity. Where we don’t have a so­cial di­a­logue, then it it eas­ier to deny work­ers col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. We need to change the rules of the global econ­omy and Swe­den is a good model on which to start.

Sha­ran Bur­row hails the eco­nomic sys­tem and the la­bor market in Swe­den.

– Col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is the strength of your econ­omy. Why would you want to change that when you have ev­ery­thing? The rest of the world is try­ing to catch up with you.

As a warn­ing ex­am­ple she men­tions the US.

– What we see now are cities that are bar­gain­ing for higher min­i­mum wages be­cause there are work­ers who can’t live off their wages. No­body in Swe­den, no­body in Europe, no­body in the world wants a la­bor market and work­ing en­vi­ron­ment like the US.

In the fight for bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions ITUC want to see a manda­tory mon­i­tor­ing of busi­nesses, so called due dili­gence. Sha­ran Bur­row wants all com­pa­nies to make a risk anal­y­sis of the work­ing con­di­tions, in terms of po­ten­tial abuses in­volved in prod­uct safety, prod­uct place­ment or prop­erty rights.

– We want to see man­dated due dili­gence but so far France is the only coun­try to leg­is­late for due dili­gence.

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