RENGO 10th ANNIVERSARY
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON
“TRADE UNION CHALLENGE
UNDER THE GLOBAL MARKET”
The global economy has become wealthier over the last 20 years, but
as the RENGO discussion paper shows:
- 4/5’s of the world population remains detached from this
growth in wealth;
The central causes of these shocking features is not globalisation as such
but rather the ideology of excessive deregulation and market regulation
which has accompanied globalisation. The central issue is therefore to
work to put in place the necessary policy framework at international level
to control globalisation and make sure that global markets are properly
regulated and work in the public interest.
- Inequality has increased between countries - the gap in incomes between
the poorest fifth of the world's population and the richest fifth widened
from 30-to-one in 1960 to 60-to-one in 1990 and to 74-to-one in 1995;
- Relative poverty and inequality has increased in OECD countries;
- Since the Asian crisis insecurity has increased and many workers
have been pushed back into poverty and unemployment.
I have been asked to talk of the European experience as an example of
a concrete response to globalisation. It is relevant because unlike other
regions in the world European intergovernmental political and economic
institutions are more developed and therefore give greater opportunities
for governing markets.
This is still however a source of strong differences. For many conservative
politicians and some parts of business, European integration is purely
about extending deregulated market forces in a more extreme form. For trade
unions and the centre- left it is about establishing accountable and democratic
institutions at European level which can govern markets and protect social
goals. But some on the extremes of the political spectrum would like to
return to purely nationalist responses or to produce a "fortress Europe"
isolated from the outside world.
Trade Union Priorities in European Integration.
I would mention four priorities for developing European Integration
into an effective response to globalisation.
I - Europe has to play a more active and positive role
in international economic co-operation. One part of the US experience over
the last seven years is that is that growth oriented economic policy
works. There is now a crucial choice as to whether European Economic and
Monetary Union and the policies of the European Central Bank will be used
to develop a high growth, high employment policy or to repeat the restrictive
policies of the past. There is now a debate over stance of policy and institutions.
At the same time Europe has to be a positive force for re-regulating international
financial markets. We have to “throw some sand in the wheels of finance”.
This will require a full democratic participation because bankers will
always say no to regulation of markets.
II - There is much talk of a European Social Model. I don't much
like the term because we need a socially acceptable model of competitiveness,
which doesn't just apply to Europe.
The following elements of this model are key. The understanding that:-
- Low pay is not the solution to unemployment but part of
the same problem;
In all these areas unions have got a central role and obligation. Empowerment
is also essential at the local level.
- Lifelong learning - education, training, recurrent education,
certification requires union support;
- Non-hierarchical work organisation - rights and security are
necessary in the firms;
- We need to modernise but not individualise the welfare state;
- The Public Sector still represents 40% on average of GNP in
OECD countries - can’t just be transfer payments or behaving the same on
the private sector - performance of economies depends crucially on governance.
III - A third priority is to develop an effective response to
multinational enterprises. In Europe legislation is now in force
that obliges companies with more than 1000 employees to establish European
Works Councils made up of worker representatives in the countries where
the company operates. This is giving an opportunity to the International
Trade Secretariats and European Trade Union Committees to develop international
agreements with multinationals. We also have to harness the new agenda
of the "social accountability" of business reflected in the fact that the
stock market value of businesses is highly vulnerable to the reputation
and public image of the company. In the OECD TUAC is currently pressing
for the revision of the Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises to include
an effective implementation procedure.
IV - Europe must also work to guarantee core labour standards.
Much said in Asia about imposition of Western values but trade has gone
beyond frontiers. Rules exist to guarantee investors’ or intellectual property
rights - Why not then to guarantee workers’ rights; these issues will come
to the fore in the WTO Ministerial in Seattle, in November. It is also
said in Asia that this would be protectionist. This is not the European
union interest where less than 1% of GDP is traded with low-income countries.
The RENGO paper poses the correct questions how to make the trade union
response more concrete. Strategically I believe should be we should focus
on what we can and should change and not be distracted by what we cannot
or what is not desirable to change.
The central issue is therefore the policy response to globalisation.
People want two things:
- Economies which work and create good jobs;
One won’t work without the other - whether global or not.
- Societies, which are fair - do not exclude large parts of