John Sweeney, President of TUAC
to G-8 Heads of Government
(Genoa, July 19, 2001)
Prime Minister Berlusconi,
Thank you for affording us this opportunity to present the views of
the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and the International Confederation
of Free Trade Unions to the Genoa Summit of the G-8 heads of state.
The Genoa meetings convene at a time when workers across the world are
threatened by a slowing economy. Growth has come to a standstill in the
United States. Europe is losing momentum sharply. Japan has been unable
to reverse a decade of decline.
The chill felt in the advanced countries translates into pneumonia in
the developing world -- where too many workers go without decent work even
in the best of times.
It is vital that the governments convening in Genoa acknowledge that
they are responsible for the global economy. And it is imperative that
immediate steps be taken to get the world economy moving again. This requires
lower interest rates in Europe and the U.S., and a lower dollar, as well
as increased public investment in infrastructure, education and other vital
In Japan, bold steps must be taken to reverse crippling deflation. For
too long, the G-8 fixated on the supposed threat of inflation. This battle
against a phantom enemy must come to an end. As Alan Greenspan told the
United States Senate yesterday, inflation is nowhere in sight. It is crucial
that the focus return to full employment, and to generating the growth
needed to put people to work.
This immediate danger should not blind us to the longer term, deepening
crisis of the global system: the social crisis of growing inequality within
and between countries, the erosion of social protections, the rising deficit
in decent work and the spread of absolute poverty.
Accompanying this social crisis is an environmental crisis that is no
longer simply a nuisance, but a threat. The G-8 nations must also provide
decisive leadership on environmental questions. Our daughters and sons
will not, and should not, forgive us if we once again substitute words
And alongside these is the growing crisis of democracy: the global system
remains opaque, remote and unaccountable. It is a system increasingly viewed
as an illegitimate imposition by powerful private interests that undermines
the common good.
These crises are generating a rising tide of protest. The new trade
negotiating round has been frustrated since Seattle. In my country, administrations
from both parties find it impossible to get authority to negotiate trading
accords without guarantees for worker rights and environmental protections
alongside the many protections for business interests. In Europe, citizens
are demanding a social clause, and new rules for the global economy. All
across the globe, the call for debt forgiveness and for limiting destabilizing
speculation is growing louder.
People across the world are calling for a new internationalism, one
that protects the common good, not the private interests. One that empowers
workers, not corporations and financiers. One that protects global concerns
and holds corporations accountable, not one that frees up global corporations
and lays waste to the environment.
It will be easy at Genoa for the heads of state to issue a declaration
filled with words of concern and understanding. But the time for action
In the industrialized countries, action is needed to invest in lifelong
learning, not simply talk about it. Action is needed to close the deficit
of decent work -- providing jobs with adequate pay, protecting workers’
rights and safety, ensuring basic health care and retirement security.
A new development agenda is vital -- or we should stop mocking the poorer
nations by calling them "developing." The new agenda must be founded
on poverty alleviation and investment in basic needs.
As a first step, the debt relief initiative must be extended to more
countries and to more debt, and it must move faster. As a second
step, all of the G-8 countries should commit themselves to increase aid
to poor countries, beginning with a massive effort to combat the AIDS epidemic
that is the most devastating crisis in the history of human health. Since
my country has regrettably failed to lead in this effort, it is vital that
the new Europe lead a strong commitment by G-8 governments for the United
Nations Global AIDS fund.
These steps should be accompanied by building new rules in the global
marketplace, rules to ensure that global corporations are held accountable
for upholding core workers’ rights, and for environmental protections.
As the Director General of the ILO has suggested, free trade zones should
be showcases of decent work, not back alleys of exploitation.
Before any attempt is made to begin a new round of trade negotiations,
this G-8 session should launch path-breaking negotiations on the social
dimension of globalization. We urge you to take steps to establish an international
commission – including representatives of major global institutions, from
trade unions, from business and from non-governmental organizations. The
commission should be tasked with detailing the new rules that are vital
to making this economy work for working people. The global trade union
movement is ready to take part in this effort.
One thing should be clear at this summit. This is no time for
business as usual, for pacifying platitudes and the diplomacy of delay.
The slowing economy, increasing unemployment and mushrooming misery magnify
the need and the demand for a new direction. This G-8 summit would be well
advised to hear that call and stake out that direction.
And let me end by returning to the crucial question of growth. The leaders
assembled in Genoa must agree to pursue aggressive policies at home, and
agree to coordinate their policies in a fashion that does not lead to trade
distorting currency imbalances. There cannot be a single locomotive, as
the recent slowdown in the U.S. underscores. We must all grow together,
not at each others’ expense.