NEWS 1999



In this section you will find TUAC policy statements, evaluations of the outcome of major OECD meetings, comments on OECD policy recommendations and OECD reports and press releases. 


2005  2004| 2003| 2002 

Trade Unions Criticise Outcome of Hong Kong WTO Ministerial

The global unions have condemned the WTO ministerial for failing to progress a real development agenda and in any way to address the issue of decent work. The General Secretary of the ICFTU, Guy Ryder stated that “the industrialized countries have manipulated their way to a deal that betrays development and yet again does not address the key issue of decent work”. To read the statement click here.

Trade unions call for employment issues
to be taken on board by the WTO

John Evans from TUAC and many TUAC affiliates are part of the trade union delegation in Hong Kong that have called on governments attending the WTO Ministerial Conference  to introduce employment impact assessments into the trade negotiations on services and market access. The trade unions, coordinated by the ICFTU have issued a summary trade union proposals on this and other issues including the need for coherence of WTO actions with the core labour standards of the ILO, the need  to give developing countries space in their trade policy to develop their infant industries and stop moves to compulsion on services liberalisation. The trade union group is also concerned at the lack of progress by the EU and the US to make a firm commitment on dates to remove different forms of export subsidisation.  To read an additional statement by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) that supports these objectives click here.

Globalization fails to create new, quality jobs and to reduce poverty according to a new ILO report

According to a new report issued by the International Labour Office (ILO) on 9 December 2005 in Geneva, global economic growth is increasingly failing to translate into new and better jobs that lead to a reduction in poverty. Within this global trend, however, different regions show mixed results in terms of job creation, productivity results, wage improvements and poverty reduction.

Taking a global view, based on the forthcoming 4th Edition of the ILO’s Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM), the study finds that while in some areas of Asia economic expansion is fostering solid growth in jobs and improvements in living conditions, other areas such as Africa and parts of Latin America are seeing increasing numbers of people working in less favorable conditions, especially in the agricultural sector. Moreover, for millions of workers, new jobs often provide barely enough income to lift them above the poverty line, or are far below any adequate measure of satisfying and productive work. The total number of working women and men living on less than $2 a day has not fallen over the past decade although at 1.38 billion it is a smaller share of global employment at just below 50 per cent, a decline from 57 per cent in 1994.

The report emphasizes that in many developing economies the problem is mainly a lack of decent and productive work opportunities rather than outright unemployment. Women and men are working long and hard for very little because their only alternative is to have no income at all.

It is obvious that there is a gap between the rhetoric on Globalization and the related reality. Globalization has so far not led to the creation of sufficient and sustainable decent work opportunities around the world. In order to change that, the creation of new and better jobs, providing an appropriate income for the world's workers and fulfilling requirements of decent work, must be made a priority in policy-making. The new ILO report must be used as a tool for promoting that objective.

To read more about the new ILO report, click here:  

U.I. & International Trade Unions Call for Strong Climate Change Targets for Kyoto's 2nd Period

The United Steelworkers Union has pledged a campaign with other US unions to persuade the American Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Speaking at yesterday's COP11 news briefing, USWA Vice-President Jim Pannell said: "Failure to ratify Kyoto puts US workers at a massive disadvantage. We will work with Trade Unions from the United States and the rest of the world and to help build support for the Kyoto Protocol with strong targets for its second commitment period after 2008-2012."

See more:  

Unions call for Agricultural workforce to be taken into account at consultations with the OECD Agriculture Committee

(5  December 2005)

For agriculture and rural development to become truly sustainable and for global food security to be increased, the women and men who work daily to produce the world's food have to play even greater and more participative roles. The role of farmers in sustainable development is well recognized, however, in the processes of sustainable agricultural development and improvement of world food security, both the needs and the contributions of the 450 million waged agricultural workers have been virtually overlooked to date. They are a huge and, in most regions of the world, a growing group of workers who account for over 40 per cent of the total agricultural labour force.

This was the main message of Sue Lawley of the IUF and John Evans of TUAC who addressed the OECD Agriculture Committee consultations with civil society organisations on 5 December. To read the full submission click here.

Largest-Ever Trade Union Delegation Attends World Climate Change Meeting

(Paris, November 29, 2005)

The largest ever trade union delegation at a climate change meeting is participating in the world conference on climate change that opened on 28 November in Montreal. Nearly 60 trade union representatives from fourteen countries are pressing national governments for support of a few key principles that they say will make a significant difference to the success of implementing the climate change provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Global Unions have released their written submission to government delegations that will be in Montreal for the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP11) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The trade union Climate Change submission is available at: .

“Because of very positive initiatives over the last few years between certain trade union bodies and the Governments of Argentina, Belgium, E.U., Germany, Spain and the U.K, trade unions at COP11 will advance specific proposals to strengthen the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, through national frameworks for social dialogue & consensus building.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) along with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) as well as TUAC are together coordinating the delegation at COP11.

Employment & Social Transition is a Top Priority

The trade union bodies say they want governments to promote joint ‘Trade Union-Employer’ workplace actions for CO2 reduction, energy conservation and the promotion of alternatives that support worker participation and ILO Core Labour Standards.
The trade unionists want governments to place “employment & social transition” as a central feature of climate implementation. They will promote better research to predict and address the employment and social impacts, in the face of growing fears that climate change will disrupt the livelihood of large segments of the world’s population.
Their submission calls for a strengthening of worker involvement in community actions & decision-making and for support of worker capacity-building, through training & education.
They call on climate change negotiators to design concrete provisions for social & employment issues within the Kyoto’s Flexible Mechanisms, as well as for worker participation and employer accountability.

New COP11 Country-By-Country Profiles Released

At COP11 “we will make contact with each and every government delegation”, said their introductory note to them. A copy of each county’s ‘Climate & Energy Profile’ will be hand-delivered to the government delegations showing where they stand on certain climate indicators.
The new country-by-country Profiles for all countries are now available at.

Side-Event Planned: “National Frameworks
 For the World of Work”

The trade unions expect to host a special side-event at COP11 from 1-3 pm on Wednesday 07 December in Room 1. Environment Ministers from Belgium and Spain will underscore the value of landmark agreements with trade unions in those countries. See the provisional programme for the side-event at .

TUAC Plenary Discusses OECD and TUAC Future Role and Prepares for Upcoming WTO Ministerial

(Paris, 3-4 November)

The TUAC Plenary Session, meeting in Paris on 3-4 November focussed on the future vocation of the OECD. In a discussion with OECD Ambassadors a delegation led by TUAC and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney delivered a paper entitled “Governing the global economy – what role for the OECD?” This called for the OECD to be at the centre of a debate on the need for sensible rules and regulations that can help re-link economic development and social progress. However it was pointed out that the OECD’s image is often one of an organisation promoting a deregulation of markets - a cheer-leader for globalisation, taking little account of social cost. Following the consultations it was agreed to step up the consultation processes between TUAC and the different OECD bodies and to reinforce in particular consultation on employment issues, the enforcement of the OECD Guidelines, Corporate Governance and work of the organisation with China.

The meeting also discussed the future global environment facing trade unions with Robert Taylor former labour editor of the Financial Times as a background to an initial discussion of TUAC’s role in the international trade union architecture following the unification of the ICFTU and WCL in 2006. They re-elected John Evans as general secretary for a further term of four years.

The Plenary Session also met for an informal discussion with the Director General of the World Trade Organisation – Pascal Lamy and discussed both the trade union input to the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong and future coherence between trade, social development and employment.

To read a summary of trade union positions on the WTO Ministerial, prepared by the ICFTU, click here

TUAC/PSI delegation takes part in OECD Ministerial discussions on how to restore trust in government

 A TUAC delegation composed of Mike Waghorne of the Public Services International and John Evans of TUAC took part in the OECD Ministerial meeting in Rotterdam on  28 November 2005 on “Strengthening Trust in Government: What Role for Government in the 21st Century?” The meeting recognized that over the past several decades, most OECD countries have been implementing public sector reforms yet public confidence is perceived to be declining. It also raises questions as to how governments can strengthen public trust and boost performance. A keynote address from the journalist William Pfaff echoed many of the points in the TUAC statement presented to the meeting – namely that public trust cannot be restored by top down communication but rather requires effective policies to allay public concerns on issues such as globalization. The TUAC statement also argued for more effective institution building and strengthened representative democracy rather than relying e-government to reconnect citizens and government. In the TUAC interventions and in an article published by Mike Waghorne in the OECD Observer the unions emphasized the essential differences between providing public services to citizens and private services to customers. Too often reforms had lost sight of this fact and with it the public sector ethos.

TUAC and the PSI will follow up the conclusions of the meeting with the OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development and the Public Governance Committee. To read the conclusions of the Ministerial meeting click here  

  TUAC supports Australian Trade Unions in efforts to defend workers rights in Australia

TUAC strongly supports the campaign of ACTU, Australia, against the introduction by the Australian government of legislation on workplace relations that would:-

-          Replace collective bargaining in the workplace by the negotiation of individual contracts;
-          Remove protection for employees and their families;
-          Severely constrain trade union representation of employees;
-          Violate democratic principles of freedom of association and the right to organise.

The TUAC Plenary Session called on affiliates to support the ACTU campaign, and in particular to convey that support and concern to representatives of the Australian government throughout the OECD countries.

TUAC supports calls for broader access
 to post-school education and training

TUAC has welcomed the OECD’s call to governments to do more to foster education and training at all stages of people’s lives. Despite the broad agreement on education and training as the key to participation in the global economy of the 21st century, the gap between educational policy rhetoric and reality has not been bridged sufficiently; many governments have failed to provide the necessary resources required to build and maintain high quality education systems and to tackle issues regarding inequality of access to education and training. This has been revealed by the 2005 issue of “Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators”, which look at who participates in education, what is spent on it and how, education systems operate, and the results achieved.

To read more, please click here  

Guidelines National Contact Points not functioning correctly,
charges TUAC

 (Paris 14-15 June 2005)

Governments have now had five years to establish National Contact Points to ensure the respect and follow-up of procedures implementing the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  But, according to the latest TUAC report on the subject, a number of NCPs are not functioning properly for two main reasons.  First, they are not held accountable regarding monitoring procedures, and also there is inadequate peer pressure on the way cases are dealt with.

The Committee considers that National Governments are making insufficient efforts to make the Guidelines well known.   Since the revision of the Guidelines in 2000, about 60 cases of corporate malpractice have been raised with NCPs by trade unions, but less than half of these have been concluded.  In fact, the survey reports that only one trade union was satisfied with the NCP’s handling of cases submitted  to it.

The NCPs of Japan, Korea and the US are particularly criticised for failing to offer a forum for discussion, and also failing to offer efficient and timely assistance to interested parties when dealing with cases.  Italy had no NCP until 2004, while Ireland and Spain were examples of NCPs that remained passive in terms of promoting and implementing the Guidelines.

The TUAC assessment draws three main conclusions:

1     -- Increased efforts are needed to make the Guidelines better known in countries;

2    -- Treatment of cases is handicapped by many shortcomings, e.g. delays, lack of transparency, failure to provide a forum for discussion;

3    -- Improved functioning of NCPs, in TUAC’s judgement, depends on governments being made accountable, which would warrant the introduction of peer reviews of adhering governments’ implementation record.

Click here for full TUAC submission :             

Click here for list of cases :                                     



UN Summit outcome – running to stand still

Trade unions and partners in the Global Campaign Against Poverty had hoped that when the leaders of nations met at the UN Summit in New York on 14-16 September they would act on poverty in the world, building on the progress that seemed to have been made at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles. From the time they met at the UN 5 years ago – in the year 2000 – a great consensus had emerged, bringing together governments, the international community, civil society, including the trade unions, business, development organizations, and well-known personalities. That consensus called for increasing aid resources, forgiving or restructuring debt and agreeing to fair trade. The focus for this consensus has been the vision contained in 8 clearly stated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Instead, the new Ambassador to the UN, Robert Bolton, told the representatives of 190 other countries to set aside their work, and focus instead on US demands for UN reform. The summit turned into a salvage operation to keep a focus on poverty reduction. The Global Union movement has described the summit outcome as “extremely mixed”. On the up-side, Member States did after much pressure reaffirm the importance of the MDGs, the decent work agenda and respect for workers’ rights as poverty-reducing strategies, the Peace-Building Commission, gender equality, and universal education. However, they failed to agree on other equally important priorities such as setting up a Human Rights Council, and a Security Council capable of delivering on peace and security. More generally as commented by OXFAM after the summit that “We are left clawing our way back to commitments made three years ago. When we start defining progress as simply standing still, that’s a terrible situation to be in.” Global Unions will continue their campaigning for anti-poverty strategies in the months ahead and in particular be taking the demands for decent work to be integrated into the broader policy agenda to the WTO Ministerial Council in December.

To read the evaluation of the summit outcome prepared by the ICFTU’s New York Office click here   

Outcome of the Gleneagles G8 Summit
Evaluation by the TUAC secretariat

(6-8 July 2005)

Heads of States and of Governments from G8 countries met at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland from 6-8 July, together with leaders from African countries, from China, Brazil, India, and Mexico as well as with representatives of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, UN and the International Energy Agency (IEA), to discuss policies fostering sustainable development in Africa, in particular the eradication of poverty by implementing debt relief and strengthening institutions and governance. A second major item on the Gleneagles agenda focused on the urgent need to raise the profile of climate change as a matter deserving the urgent attention in the G8 and outside it. The objective was to promote an international consensus on the need for further action to control emissions of greenhouse gasses. The UK government, hosting and chairing the summit, had suggested three broad aims for climate change in the G8 in 2005: to set out a clear direction for policy, based on scientific consensus; to agree a package of practical measures, focusing on technology; and to work in partnership with the major emerging economies to agree on how to deal with the challenge in the future. In addition to the main themes of Africa and Climate Change, the summit also discussed: the fight against terrorism; restricting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and the promotion of stability in the “Broader Middle East and North Africa”.

To read more about the run up to the summit, the input provided by national trade union centres from G8 countries and international union organizations, the outcome of the of the summit as well as an assessment, click here…

G8: International Trade Unions Welcome Aid Commitment,
 Regret Inaction on Climate Change

Brussels 8 July 2005 (ICFTU OnLine)

The ICFTU and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) today welcomed the announcement by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair of a commitment made by the G8 leaders to increase development aid by up to US$ 50bn, but expressed regret at the lack of progress on climate change.

Coupled with pledges by industrialised countries to write off the debts of the 18 poorest countries, the union bodies describe the aid commitment as a step forward in tackling poverty, while recognising that the new pledge still falls short of what is needed.  Welcoming commitments by African leaders to democracy made this week, the trade union bodies nevertheless voiced their concern that only countries which accept stringent IMF/World Bank conditionality will be eligible for debt relief.  Debt relief and additional aid must not be used simply to push developing countries to boost private sector development and attract foreign investment, but also to meet urgent social and infrastructure needs. 

The ICFTU and its Global Unions partners are part of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), which is seeking concrete and decisive progress on aid, debt relief and justice in the world trade system.

While the outcome concerning climate change is disappointing, the fact that there is now a public recognition that it is a serious problem at least provides some hope that progress may be made in the future.

The global trade union movement and its allies in the GCAP will continue pushing the anti-poverty agenda, including at two further major international events in 2005 – the UN review of the Millennium Development Goals, and the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong in December.  Creating decent jobs for all, as the best way to end poverty, will be at the centre of the trade union campaign.

OECD Employment Outlook 2005 points to a "whole of government" response to trade and adjustment 

Growth and employment prospects in the OECD area are alarming. According to the 2005 OECD Employment Outlook, to be released today, unemployment rates are expected to decline slowly from 6.7% OECD average in 2004 to 6.4% in 2005, representing over 36 million unemployed. Unemployment rates are likely to rise in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and New Zealand and will remain high in continental and Eastern Europe. Only in the US and in the Nordic countries is decline in unemployment rate expected.

The OECD report also predicts moderate real wage growth to be outpaced by labour productivity gains for 2005-2006. Accordingly, a decline in the pace of growth per unit labour costs is expected, especially in Europe. The 2005 Employment Outlook report has put in doubt the notion that decreasing labour costs means stronger employment growth or that high unemployment is associated with ‘excessive’ labour costs.

Sluggish growth is a real concern in many OECD countries particularly in the Euro area. Those economies are driven by external demand, not by robust domestic demand. Structural reform policies have severely restricted household consumption and thus overall demand. However, household consumption is also tempered by the acceleration of international offshoring and the relocation of industrial and service sector activities. These have heightened job insecurity, and thus consumption behaviours of many groups of workers and their families. The OECD claims that past trade and investment liberalisation processes prove those concerns to be unfounded. On the contrary job losses and unemployment are more serious than the Report suggests. It fails to provide compelling evidence that new employment opportunities for trade-displaced workers will be created. Trade-displaced workers tend to experience long unemployment spells before being re-employed. They also face substantial wage cuts upon re-employment. These would be contributing factors to the OECD’s conclusion that “growing trade with low wage countries has played some role in increasing wage inequality in many OECD countries”.

In addition to the “temporary” winners and losers of the current adjustment to trade taking place on a global scale, there will also be “permanent losers”, should current policies continue to make displaced workers and their families pay for the adjustment process. The right response to deindustrialisation and to relocation must aim beyond targeted “activation” and other adjustment measures. What is needed is a “whole of government” response to employment consequences of globalisation, including active labour market policy, industrial, innovation and regional policies. Governments and international organisations must work hand in hand to guarantee core workers’ rights globally. The proliferation of labour rights abuses in export processing zones and in key emerging countries must also be stopped, notably in China.

At the company and sector level, OECD governments must encourage dialogue and negotiations between trade unions and business. They must also support targeted regional and industrial policies along with active labour market policies.

Les Perspectives de l’emploi de l’OCDE 2005 annoncent des plans d’action interministériels pour répondre
 aux coûts d’ajustement liés aux échanges

Les perspectives de croissance et d’emploi dans la zone OCDE sont préoccupantes. Selon les Perspectives de l’emploi 2005, que l’OCDE vient de publier, les taux de chômage ne devraient baisser que lentement dans les pays de l’OCDE d’une moyenne de 6,7% en 2004 à 6,4% en 2005, ce qui représente plus de 36 millions de chômeurs. Les taux de chômage vont probablement augmenter au Royaume-Uni, aux Pays-Bas et en Nouvelle-Zélande et resteront élevés dans les pays d’Europe occidentale et orientale. Seuls, les Etats-Unis et les pays nordiques devraient connaître une baisse des taux de chômage.

Le rapport de l’OCDE prévoit également une hausse modérée des salaires réels qui devrait rester en deçà des gains de productivité pour la période 2005-2006. De ce fait, le rythme de croissance des coûts unitaires de main-d’oeuvre devrait ralentir, surtout en Europe. Ce numéro des Perspectives de l’emploi rend discutable la notion selon laquelle une baisse des coûts salariaux signifie une plus forte croissance de l’emploi ou qu’un chômage élevé est le résultat de coûts du travail ‘excessifs’.

La croissance atone dans de nombreux pays de l’OCDE et en particulier dans la zone Euro est un vrai problème. Ces économies dépendent de la demande extérieure, et non d’une demande intérieure solide. Les réformes structurelles ont sévèrement restreint la consommation des ménages et de ce fait la demande globale. Cependant, la consommation des ménages est aussi affectée par l’accélération des délocalisations internationales et la relocalisation des activités industrielles et du secteur des services. Ces transferts ont aggravé l’insécurité de l’emploi, et modifié en conséquence les comportements de consommation des travailleurs et leurs familles. L’OCDE déclare que les processus passés de libéralisation des échanges et des investissements prouvent que ces préoccupations sont infondées. Les pertes d’emploi et le chômage sont au contraire plus graves que ne le suggère le rapport. Ce dernier ne parvient pas à mettre en évidence les nouveaux emplois qui seraient créés pour les travailleurs victimes de suppressions d’emplois dues à la concurrence internationale. Ces travailleurs ont tendance à vivre de longues périodes de chômage avant de réintégrer le marché du travail. Ils subissent également des réductions substantielles de salaires. Ces éléments seraient des facteurs contribuant à la conclusion du rapport de l’OCDE selon laquelle « l’expansion des échanges avec des pays à bas salaires a contribué dans une certaine mesure à accentuer les inégalités salariales dans de nombreux pays de l’OCDE ».

Outre les gagnants et les perdants "temporaires" de l'ajustement lié aux échanges qui s'opère actuellement à l'échelle mondiale, il y aura aussi des "perdants permanents" si les politiques en cours qui consistent à faire payer le prix de l'ajustement aux travailleurs victimes des suppressions d'emplois et à leurs familles devaient se poursuivre. La réponse attendue aux phénomènes de désindustrialisation et de relocalisation doit viser au-delà de programmes « d'activation » et autres mesures d'ajustement. Il faut mettre en place des plans d'action interministériels pour répondre à l'impact de la mondialisation sur l'emploi, notamment des politiques actives du marché du travail, des politiques industrielles, d'innovation et régionales. Les gouvernements et les organisations internationales doivent agir de concert pour garantir les droits fondamentaux du travail à l'échelle mondiale. La multiplication d'abus de droits sociaux dans les zones franches d'exportation ainsi que dans les principaux pays émergents, dont la Chine, doit cesser.

Au niveau de l'entreprise et au niveau sectoriel, les gouvernements de l'OCDE doivent encourager le dialogue et la négociation entre syndicats et patronat. Ils doivent également soutenir des politiques régionales et industrielles ciblées et accompagnées de politiques actives du marché du travail.

 Offshoring has moved high up the union policy agenda

Offshoring of jobs, with its threat to labour standards, is high on the TUAC agenda for the plenary afternoon session to be held at OECD on Monday November 22.  A number of OECD ambassadors will participate with trade unionists in the discussion which is expected to cover a range of topics that include the undermining of labour standards, the non-respect of labour rights, regulation of multinationals and socially acceptable adjustment policies. 

The topic is assuming increasing importance with the expansion worldwide of Export Processus Zones (EPZs), often favoured by multinationals that do not hesitate to operate in conditions which flout  legislative and industrial norms that are widely respected in the world of work at large.   Union leaders are keen to hammer out a strategy to counter such policies. 

To read the TUAC discussion paper click here 

TUAC internal analysis of cases raised by trade unions
 under OECD
Guidelines for MNEs now available

A detailed analysis of the cases so far raised by trade unions with National Contact Points (NCPs) on grounds of transgressing the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises is now available from TUAC in Paris. Since the OECD's set of expectations of corporate good conduct came into force in 2000, Unions have raised more than 50 cases  with NCPs. Half of them were still unresolved as at end-February 2005.

The TUAC report is an instructive and useful guide to procedures and practice in bringing cases of malpractice to account and on ways of informing a wider audience. Further information can be obtained on request from Ms Veronica Nilsson at TUAC Paris.

Global Unions urge world leaders to stay firm on the Millenium Development Goals

When the leaders of nations meet at the UN in New York next week, they must act on poverty in the world. From the time they met at the UN 5 years ago – in the year 2000 – a great consensus has emerged, bringing together governments, the international community, leading economists and thinkers and civil society, including the trade unions, business, development organizations, and well-known personalities. That consensus calls for increasing aid resources, forgiving or restructuring debt and agreeing to fair trade. The focus for this consensus has been the vision contained in 8 clearly stated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Now, however, all that is under threat. The US Administration has chosen in these last days to reject the worldwide consensus act on poverty, rejecting a vision of clear goals and measurable indicators of progress. Instead, the new Ambassador to the UN appointed recently by President Bush has told the representatives of 190 other countries to set aside their work, and focus instead on US demands for UN reform.

The trade union movement also wants a more effective UN. The trade union movement wants a better response to violation of human rights, and in particular the rights of exploited men and women. The trade union movement wants more effective action on terror and security – for ordinary working people are most often the victims.

But throwing out the MDGs will achieve none of these things. This assessment has caused trade union leaders to express their concerns regarding the policy stance of the US administration on how to act on poverty in an open letter to the heads of states and governments.

To read more about trade union concerns , click here 

G8 must deliver real benefits not fine words,
say world trade unions

(London 28 June 2005)

Global unions will be redoubling their efforts between now and the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland to persuade world leaders that decent work is the only way to combine solutions to poverty in Africa and climate change, and make a real impact on people's lives.

After meeting G8 host and British Prime Minister Tony Blair today (Tuesday), union leaders will be pressing their governments to:

*       recognise the role of unions in ensuring good governance and strong civil societies and preventing corruption in Africa;

*       provide a key role for the public sector in education and health provision in Africa;

*      set up a permanent HIV-AIDS working group of the G8 (a demand which is also endorsed by the International Organisation of Employers);

*       involve unions in the process of managing industrial adjustment to meet the challenge of climate change;

*       protect labour standards in trade agreements and the globalised economy; and

*       create coherence between international institutions, such as the WTO and the ILO.

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO (US), who chairs the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and led the delegation of union leaders to meet Prime Minister Blair, said: "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals and mitigating climate change are the greatest challenges that the developed world faces. We are backing action by the G8 on relieving debt and increasing aid and we are encouraged that Prime Minister Blair recognised that we should be part of the solution to the problems of global unemployment, poverty and climate change. Unions are the only sustainable defence for working people against the global free market and the G8 must recognise the contribution we could make."

The delegation met the Prime Minister at Number 10 Downing Street on Tuesday 28 June, wearing special trade union white wristbands saying 'Make Poverty History: respect workers' rights'.

Click here to read the TUAC submission to the G8 

Le G8 doit produire des résultats concrets, pas seulement prononcer de belles paroles, déclarent les syndicats mondiaux


Les syndicats mondiaux vont redoubler leurs efforts d’ici le Sommet du G8 à Gleneagles, en Écosse, pour persuader les dirigeants du monde que le travail décent est le seul moyen pour apporter des solutions tant à la pauvreté en Afrique qu’au changement climatique et pour avoir une incidence réelle sur la vie des gens.


Après leur rencontre avec l’hôte du G8, le Premier ministre britannique Tony Blair aujourd’hui (mardi), les dirigeants syndicaux vont faire pression sur leurs gouvernements pour :

*       reconnaître le rôle des syndicats pour veiller à la bonne gouvernance et à la mise en place de sociétés civiles solides et pour empêcher la corruption en Afrique ;


*       donner un rôle essentiel au secteur public dans le domaine de l’éducation et des services de santé, en Afrique ;


*       créer un groupe de travail permanent du G8 sur le VIH-SIDA (une demande qui est aussi appuyée par l’Organisation internationale des Employeurs) ;


*        faire participer les syndicats au processus de gestion de l’ajustement industriel afin de relever le défi du changement climatique ;


*       protéger les normes du travail dans les accords commerciaux et l’économie mondialisée ; et


*       instaurer une cohérence entre les institutions internationales telles que l’OMC et l’OIT.


John Sweeney, Président de l’AFL-CIO (États-Unis), qui préside la Commission syndicale consultative auprès de l’OCDE et conduisait la délégation de dirigeants syndicaux pour la rencontre avec le Premier ministre Tony Blair, a déclaré : « Atteindre les Objectifs de développement du millénaire et atténuer les effets du changement climatique sont les plus grands défis auxquels le monde développé est confronté. Nous soutenons l’action du G8 à propos de l’allègement de la dette et de l’accroissement de l’aide et nous sommes encouragés par le fait que le Premier ministre Tony Blair a reconnu que nous devrions faire partie de la solution à apporter aux problèmes de chômage mondial, de pauvreté et de changement climatique. Les syndicats constituent le seul moyen de défense durable des travailleurs contre le marché libre mondial et le G8 doit reconnaître la contribution que nous pourrions apporter. »


Les membres de la délégation qui ont rencontré le Premier ministre au 10 Downing Street, le mardi 28 juin, portaient des bandeaux de poignet syndicaux spéciaux blancs avec l’inscription : « Faites de la pauvreté une histoire du passé : respectez les droits des travailleurs. »


Pour lire la déclaration du TUAC au G8, cliquez  ici

G8  trade union leaders to meet UK Premier Blair, call  for global action on jobs, poverty  and climate change

(Paris, 24 June 2005)

A group of trade union leaders from G8 countries, headed by TUAC President John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO, is to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on 28 June, two weeks prior to the Gleneagles G8 July summit.    Union leaders are expected to press the need for a “whole of government” policy response to the employment impact of globalisation, the need to reinforce workers’ core rights and the strengthening of corporate accountability

Union delegates will emphasise the need to increase development finance, to put poverty at the centre of the G8 agenda to meet Millennium Development Goals, and urge the implementation of policies to tackle climate change as a serious priority for G8 and all other nations. 

On upgrading global governance, delegates will stress the need to:

-         Place decent work and quality employment at the heart of an agenda combating the unemployment, poverty, and economic insecurity that hit workers;

-         Build a global economy that works for working people;

-         Press governments to deliver on past commitments, including higher flows of aid to developing countries through a mix of front-loaded financing instruments and meeting the UN ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNP;

-         Improve access to education and health, and create a G8 working group to monitor action to defeat AIDS;

-         Better integrate employment and workplace programmes into the heart of balanced energy policies for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Union leaders will emphasise that global warming is now a reality that needs to be addressed immediately.  They will urge that G8 deliver a clear and convincing action plan with identifiable targets and measurable implementation.

Click here to read the TUAC submission to the G8 

Rencontre des responsables syndicaux du G8 avec le Premier Ministre britannique Tony Blair, Appel à une action mondiale sur l’emploi, la pauvreté et le changement climatique

(Paris, 24 Juin 2005)

Une délégation de responsables syndicaux des pays du G8, conduite par le Président du TUAC, John Sweeney de l’AFL-CIO, va rencontrer le Premier Ministre britannique Tony Blair, le 28 juin à Londres, deux semaines avec le Sommet du G8 de Gleneagles. Les dirigeants syndicaux devraient insister sur la nécessité de plans d’action interministériels pour répondre à l’impact de la mondialisation sur l’emploi, la nécessité de renforcer les droits fondamentaux du travail et la responsabilité des entreprises.

Les délégués mettront l’accent sur la nécessité d’améliorer le financement du développement, de placer la pauvreté au cœur de l’action du G8 pour parvenir aux objectifs de développement du millénaire, et de mettre en œuvre rapidement des politiques s’attaquant au problème du changement climatique en tant que grande priorité pour le G8 et pour toutes les autres nations.

En ce qui concerne l’amélioration de la gouvernance mondiale, les délégués insisteront sur les impératifs suivants :

-        Placer le travail décent et l’emploi de qualité au cœur de l’action pour lutter contre le chômage, la pauvreté et l’insécurité économique qui frappent les travailleurs ;

-        Développer une économie mondiale favorable au monde du travail ;

-        Presser les gouvernements d’honorer leurs engagements précédents, notamment augmenter les flux d’aide publique aux pays en développement via des mesures de financement à effet immédiat et atteindre l’objectif des Nations Unies d’une APD à 0,7% du PNB ;

-        Améliorer l’accès à l’éducation et à la santé et créer un groupe de travail du G8 sur le suivi des mesures de lutte contre le SIDA ;

-        Mieux incorporer au centre de politiques énergétiques équilibrées et de mesures d’atténuation du changement climatique et d’adaptation des programmes d’emploi sur le lieu de travail.

Les responsables syndicaux souligneront que le réchauffement climatique est maintenant une réalité qu’il faut immédiatement affronter. Ils feront pression pour que le G8 lance un plan d’action clair et convaincant comportant des objectifs identifiables et mesurables.

Pour lire la déclaration du TUAC au G8, Cliquer  

Trade unions welcome G8 action and call for extended debt relief

(Paris, 15 June 2005)

TUAC, together with the ICFTU[1], today welcomed the announcement of debt cancellation by G8 finance ministers.

Following a 2 day meeting in London (10-11 June), Ministers announced a package which will mean that 18 countries will have 100% of debts cancelled which they currently owe to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank. The ICFTU has called for debt cancellation for low-income indebted countries for over a decade and earlier this year joined the world's largest ever anti-poverty coalition, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), which is campaigning for debt cancellation, more and better aid, and trade justice.

In hailing the development as a "significant step", the ICFTU also recalled that the 18 countries that would benefit from the plan - provided it is approved at next September's annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank -- constitute less than one-third of the low-income countries with an unsustainable debt burden.

For example, Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Americas, is not among the 18. In January 2005, the almost-bankrupt government of Haiti was obliged to reimburse $52.6 million to the World Bank in order to become eligible for renewed World Bank lending. Therefore, last weekend's debt cancellation plan must be a first step towards further debt relief for an increased of heavily indebted countries.

The G8 plan requires that countries must abide by the terms of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) programme, which includes a requirement to observe the structural adjustment programmes designed by the IMF and World Bank. Such programmes include conditions such as privatisation of public services and rigid ceilings on government expenditures, regardless of the social costs.  These conditions, imposed on poor countries on the doubtful premise that they enhance growth, frequently reduce services to the poor and will impede achievement of the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The ICFTU and TUAC therefore call on industrialised countries to extend full debt cancellation to all low-income countries respecting human rights that have a shortfall of resources to meet the MDGs. The debt write-off should not be dependent on structural adjustment conditionality and should not reduce the aid they receive from multilateral donors or other sources. Furthermore, debt relief must be accompanied by the adoption of new mechanisms to increase financial flows to developing countries, for example through international taxation such as a Tobin tax.  All these proposals were highlighted in the trade union statement to the G8 Summit, which an international trade union delegation will be discussing at an upcoming meeting on 28 June in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, host of the 2005 G8 Summit.

[1] The ICFTU represents 145 million workers in 233 affiliated organizations in 154 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a partner in Global Unions:

Unions question validity of OECD deregulation study

The OECD issued on 7 June a study claiming that removal of product market regulation (PMR) - specifically state ownership and regulation of enterprises, barriers to competition, barriers to FDI and tariff and non-tariff trade barriers - would permanently raise output in the OECD by between 1 1/4 and 3%. These results are calculated in a simulation exercise in which all forms of regulation in these areas are reduced to the minimum level prevailing in the least-regulated OECD country. The OECD claims that workers would gain a full year’s income over their working lives if barriers were reduced. Few workers would turn down such an offer if it were true. The question is: is it true?

Three key points need to be made regarding this study. 

First, the OECD analysis does not cover possible positive effects of regulation. While no-one would deny that certain regulations distort competition, is it really the case that each and every government regulation in the areas listed merely imposes costs on economic growth? Have OECD governments in the past really been so stupid? Even if these regulations really do impose costs on growth, is it not far more likely that they also have other socially desirable effects that would also be lost if they were abolished? A balanced assessment of such a study would require that an attempt be made to describe the nature and size of these effects. Policy-makers would then be able to weigh the costs and benefits of regulatory reform.

Secondly, the alleged benefits are hypothetical. They are calculations based on econometric simulations. Policymakers would be well-advised, especially given the scale of the reforms, to require detailed study of the assumptions and methodology used to generate such results. Such caution is especially warranted given the fact that, as the OECD itself notes, member countries have in recent years already initiated a large-scale programme of liberalisation and deregulation. Past liberalisation efforts have been preceded by similar studies claiming positive effects from reforms. Particularly sobering is that, during this period, productivity in the European Union has fallen by half, whereas rising productivity is key to reaping the promised output increases. At the sectoral level, the impact of privatisation and liberalisation has been mixed, at best. In the light of such evidence it is surprising that the OECD expresses such confidence in its predictions: a more in-depth assessment of the impact of past liberalisations is an urgent requirement.

Thirdly, the dimensions of the envisaged reforms must be made apparent: because the 'benchmark' country is different for each regulation, the result would be an OECD area in which every single country is far more deregulated than any one OECD country is at present. Given the massive scale of such reforms, the postulated benefits are very limited, even if they were to materialise.

At a time when the OECD has taken a strong position on the need for a more expansionary macroeconomic policy, especially in Europe, and has increasingly taken a more nuanced view on the costs and benefits of labour market regulations, it is disappointing that the Secretariat has published a study that appears to reflect a simplistic view of the virtues of 'markets' and 'competition'. The trade union movement is not opposed to reforms of product markets. It recognises that there is scope to remove inefficiencies and distortions. However, it rejects a blanket attempt, as in this study, to suggest to policymakers that the abolition of all forms of product market regulation constitutes a viable path forward for higher growth.

International Union Organisations mobilise for Action against Poverty in the run-up to G8 Summit

TUAC, Global unions and the ICFTU are keeping up their combined efforts to intensify the fight against world poverty in the run-up to the G8 Gleneagles Summit in July. Three special action days  have been set aside to bring home the message on fighting poverty: July 1, and then in connection with the Gleneagles G8 summit due to be held on July 6 to 8.

The first of these occasions, organised by the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) on July 1, is intended as a widespread day of action around the world with national union organisations putting on events to raise public awareness about poverty and the absolute necessity of acting to combat it by putting pressure on governments to alleviate the issue through strong action in a spirit of widespread solidarity.  

The GCAP initiative was launched at Porto Alegre and Davos in January 2005.  It is closely linked to unions' efforts to raise public consciousness about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Regarding the actions being taken on July 6 - 8 in connection with the G8 Gleneagles summit, TUAC has prepared the annual Trade Union Statement to the G8 leaders which puts a combined focus on accelerating development, particularly in Africa, and on stopping further deterioration in climate change.  Trade unions are key actors in building funding support for actions on these two fronts. The Statement will be presented to the host of the Summit, Prime Minister Tony Blair at the meeting of G8 trade union leaders organised by the TUC in London on 28 June.

Click here to read TUAC G8 Summit statement prepared for Gleneagles.        

Trade Unions Support OECD Call for Interest Rate Cut in Europe

(24 May 2005)

TUAC and the European trade Union Confederation (ETUC) have supported the call in the OECD Economic Outlook published on 24 May for a cut in European interest rates against the background of falling growth forecasts in Europe.

To read the ETUC Press release Click here :

TUAC welcomes governance and social responsibility requirements included in the new OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance
 of State-Owned Enterprises

Statement by the TUAC Secretariat

Paris, 4 May 2005

A new set of Guidelines on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises was released by the OECD on 28 April 2005 (see ). They are intended for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that are separate from public administration and have a commercial activity. In contrast with the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance (the general standard of the OECD, revised in 2004), they include considerable improvements as regards corporate governance and responsibility.  These concern notably :

Explicit compliance with the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, the leading OECD instrument for social responsibility of businesses;

Recognition of the role of democratically elected board level employee representatives, particularly for the independence of the board of directors;

Clear requirement of separation of CEO and Chair of the board.

TUAC took an active part in the negotiation process that led to agreement on these Guidelines. Apart from the above, TUAC participation also ensured that the Guidelines focus on public and corporate governance matters, while remaining neutral on broader economic policy choices:

They leave total freedom for governments to engage SOEs in active industrial policies;

They do not call for, nor do they address the question of privatisation;

They call for elected parliament bodies’ oversight of SOE activities.

As regards the public services that some SOEs are required to fulfil, while not meeting all TUAC’s  expectations, the Guidelines nevertheless include several safeguard clauses.

Overall, these new Guidelines should contribute to better governance and more accountability. TUAC calls for the OECD to commit itself to work with trade unions on the implementation of these Guidelines, within and beyond the OECD. They have a role to play in countries where SOEs represent a large proportion of the economy, such as in China and in Russia.

Contact in the TUAC Secretariat: Pierre Habbard -

Outcome of the Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial level

(Paris, 3-4 May 2005)

In evaluating the outcome of the OECD Ministerial Council TUAC welcomed the fact that the Ministerial included a debate about “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable policies” in the globalisation discussion. Overall however the conclusions of the meeting are criticised for being excessively bland, giving little indication of the substantive policy line that the OECD will be taking on key issues other than keep the status quo.

At the consultations with the Ministers, TUAC had called for employment to be centre stage in the discussions and said that trade unions would judge the effectiveness of the Ministers by the progress they made in promoting good employment in five key policy areas: - economic policy coordination; offshoring and structural adjustment; development assistance; investing in people; and energy and climate change. Against this benchmark the Ministers’ conclusions fall short on key issues.

To read the TUAC evaluation Click here :

TUAC delegation to OECD Ministerial Meeting presses for OECD action on jobs and poverty

(Paris 3 May 2005)

John Sweeney headed a TUAC delegation in a session of consultations on May 3 with a panel of OECD Ministers at the start of the Paris-based organisation’s annual Council Ministerial and Forum sessions.     Using the opportunity to press trade union concerns about the current worldwide social and economic picture, the TUAC President made the following points:

Decent work and quality employment must be at the heart of an agenda to reduce economic insecurity for working families whose jobs are increasingly threatened by globalization;

Any real commitment to cut global poverty will have job creation at the core of creating sustainable livelihoods, which will be a key element in meeting the Millennium goals.

The TUAC delegation attending the three days of OECD Ministerial and Forum debates pointed out that after three years of so-called “recovery” there were 36 million workers unemployed in the OECD countries.   In his remarks Sweeney noted that “Growth remains imbalanced and fragile, and unemployment has started to increase in some countries.   Europe is on the edge of moving back into recession unless more expansionary policies are taken.  Worldwide, more than a billion men and women are unemployed or under-employed, while 535 million are working in extreme poverty on less than a dollar a day.”

“To overcome the forces of reaction and turn back the rising tide of resentment, we must have a clear and compelling answer on how to make this global economy work for working people,” he said, promising that trade unions would judge OECD Ministers’ effectiveness by the progress made in five key policy areas.  These are:

(i) Economic policy coordination to raise job growth; (ii) government policy responses to counter the negative employment impacts of off-shoring and bring about a restoration of workers’ rights;  (iii) putting decent work at the core of national plans to meet the Millennium Development Goals through improved development assistance; (iv) investing in people by achieving improved access to education and health care; (v) integrating employment programmes at the centre of balanced energy policies and climate change mitigation.

At the same time as the Ministerial meeting nine trade unionists took part as panel discussants in the OECD Forum, whose main theme this year was “Fuelling the Future – security, stability and development”, while in all some 40 trade unionists attended Forum discussions. These meetings took place back to back with the TUAC main annual plenary session.

To read the TUAC statement to the Ministerial meeting click here :

Helsinki Process arouses interest at OECD Forum   

Among the sessions to arouse substantial interest among participants at the OECD Forum held in Paris on 2-3 May was one devoted to the subject of "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals" in which a mix of civic society specialists (including the TUAC's General Secretary John Evans) assessed where the Helsinki Process stood at this point.

Created at the initiative of the Finnish Government in co-operation with the Tanzanian Government at a conference in Helsinki on the problems of global governance and the future of North-South relations, the Helsinki Process was launched in December 2002.    Known in full as the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy, the process looks for novel and empowering solutions to the dilemmas of global governance and offers a forum for discussion among major stakeholders.  It is due to issue its first major report this summer. 

The Forum session offered some encouragement in regard to reporting on the quality of the group's discussions since its inception three years ago, but there were also some more sombre impressions suggesting that a great deal remains to be done, notably evidence that supporting countries are putting not yet all following their words with actions.   One of the civic society discussants referred to a "coherence and compliance deficit", with Western countries holding back on delivery of promised help, while a Tanzanian speaker said that the private sector's role in the process was "absolutely crucial" at the same time expressing his concern that "Africa has been the missing link of the globalisation chain."   He said "In the North companies are getting bigger and bigger while in the South they are becoming weaker and weaker."

Evans said people all over the world had feared that globalisation would get rid of their jobs.  It was now quite clear that workers from the North and the South belonged on the same side of the negotiating table, and one immediate target they shared was to ensure that governments kept their promises of putting extra resources into development.    Clearly discernible in the discussions  too was the undercurrent of concern felt by many participants at the aggressive entry of  China in world markets , a factor which was far from reassuring given the non-respect for core labour rights especially after the ending of the textile agreements.

TUAC Statement to  OECD Ministerial Council

(Paris, 03 May 2005)

The Trade Union Advisory Committee to OECD (TUAC) has called on OECD Governments to implement a coordinated package of measures to create employment and reduce economic insecurity for workers whose jobs are threatened by globalisation.

In a statement issued on the eve of the annual meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial level (3-4 May 2005), the trade unions’ representative body also identified other issues on which it called for Governments to take action. These included:

-        Higher sustainable growth built upon domestic demand in most developing countries;

-        The WTO negotiating process in Hong Kong to show that structural change is not a zero sum game and change in firms, industries, regions and labour markets can be managed in socially equitable ways;

-        The employment consequences of offshoring make it essential to introduce more effective international rules to shape globalisation and its social input through government guarantees of core workers’ rights plus increased agreements between trade unions and business and a framework of active labour market policies;

-        Significant improvement needed in government implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, as well as the creation of an effective programme to raise compliance with the OECD Principles on Corporate Governance, and re-engage trade unions in their follow-up;

-        In the development field, action is urgently required in a number of areas, notably meeting the Millennium goals, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as on debt relief, post-tsunami reconstruction, trade union participation in the African NEPAD agreement, and action to tackle the unfolding problems related to employment and climate change.

The TUAC statement recalls that even after nearly four years of “recovery”, 36 million OECD workers are still out of work, while worldwide more than one billion workers are unemployed or underemployed, and a further 535 million are working in conditions of extreme poverty on less than a dollar a day.

Globalisation reflected in the offshoring of jobs is only one among many factors responsible for the absence of job growth and/or job losses in some OECD countries. Moreover, threats by employers of relocating activities to other countries, plus hype by many commentators about the scale of changes actually taking place is destroying confidence in the long-term relationship between companies and their employees, with the danger that it will provoke a backlash against more open economies.

The OECD has called 2005 the “year of accountability for delivering on international development assistance”. The cycle of meetings that begins with the OECD Ministerial gathering, and continues with the G8 Gleneagles summit, the UN Millennium “plus five” summit, and concludes with the WTO Ministerial Council in December, must show that governments are prepared to deliver on development assistance and at the same time put in place the framework and policies that create the decent jobs that the world urgently needs.

 To read the full statement click here 

WTO report "a disgrace"

TUAC General Secretary John Evans reflected widespread indignation among trade unionists when he recently denounced as "a disgrace" a World Trade Organisation report which described trade unions as "one of the main obstacles to adjustment" to international trade.

The statement was made in the WTO's 2004 World Trade Report, prefaced by WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi.  Addressing an ICFTU event at the WTO's 2005 annual public symposium held in its Geneva headquarters, John Evans commented: "God help us if that is all the WTO can come up with in analysing the social adjustment problems created by globalisation.  The ICFTU seminar focused on the huge job losses caused by the end of quotas on textile and apparel trade at the beginning of the current year.

Neil Kearny, general secretary of the global union for textile workers, said "The poorest countries have been hit hardest".   He added "The WTO created the problem; it must now do something to help clear it up".  Trade unionists from Bangladesh, Cambodia and South Africa described the plight of textile workers in their countries, and warned that the same fate awaited other industries if uncontrolled trade liberalisation in goods and services was further boosted in the current round of WTO trade negotiations.

At the conference, unions also expressed concern at the rapid growth of Export Processing Zones which now number more than 5 000, compared with only a few hundred in 1980.   Some 50 million people work in EPZs but many of the zones refuse to allow normal widely accepted labour rights and social protection provisions.

Privatization no magic bullet for the provision of social protection, according to OECD Forum at Social Affairs ministers meeting

During the meeting of OECD social affairs ministers in Paris on March 31 a special forum debated the issue of whether social protection should be provided only by government. Neil Gilbert, Professor of Social Welfare, University of Berkeley, California, was the keynote speaker focusing on ‘The Enabling State. From public to private responsibility for social protection: Pathways and pitfalls.’ He outlined five different routes on how to increase the private contribution to social protection, namely:

·        encouraging voluntary private financing through tax incentives;

·        requiring private financing via charging partial fees for subsidized services;

·        mandating private financing through regulatory legislation;

·        providing public benefits in the form of cash or vouchers;

·       advancing private production and delivery of social provisions directly through purchase of-service arrangements.

These pathways were presumed to offer certain advantages over public provision by reducing costs through competition and innovation, improving quality of services and promoting consumer choice, but, he said, they would require critical examination as some outcomes of private provision were less beneficial than claimed.   

The subsequent debate showed it was appropriate to be cautious about many assertions made about economy-wide effects resulting from a greater reliance on the private sector in financing and delivering social protection. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that increased use of private provision has led to major cost savings and to efficiency gains. Thus, one can seriously dispute the assertion that outsourcing services to private producers will boost efficiency.

Moreover, the distributional effects of private provision are increasingly a cause of concern. This applies in particular to policies encouraging take-up of private health insurance and private pensions based on tax relief, which clearly work to the disadvantage of low-income groups. According to an intervention at the Forum by the Secretary General of the International Social Security Association (ISSA), D. Hoskins, there is doubt whether citizens really want as broad a range of choice on social security provision as is generally assumed by many policymakers and representatives of for-profit providers. In everyday life, it seems that high information costs and information asymmetry prevent consumers from being able to choose between different options available.

The debate also indicated that some champions of privatization may talk about increasing choices, offering vouchers and contracting out, but are pursuing a totally different objective. They are trying to gain support for wholesale government disengagement from providing services. These advocates tend to look at the economy in zero-sum terms, where more government spending means less economic growth in the private sector. However, this picture is not accurate. A number of countries that have high government spending have also high growth rates regarding productivity, employment and GDP; especially among the Nordic countries. Moreover, public spending often represents investment in human capital and other intangibles that are not quantified in any budget. Despite the ongoing hype about private markets, we still rely on government for economic stability and for intervention when necessary.

TUAC delegates, attending the forum, did not argue the case that there is no role for private provision of social protection. It may play a role when agreed by the social partners. But they emphasized the need to consider its various forms carefully, as there is no single remedy for problems related to the provision of social protection. We face not a simple choice between public or private provision, but one between an extensive variety of options in organizational forms and modes of ownership, control, and finance.

To read the TUAC report and evaluation of the Social Policy Ministers meeting click here.

TUAC delegation to OECD Social Ministers Meeting to call for
 a new agenda for social policy

(Paris 30 March 2005)

A TUAC delegation, led by Lodewijk de Waal, president of the Dutch trade union confederation FNV, will be holding consultations on 30 March with the Bureau of the OECD Social Policy Ministers meeting. The delegation will emphasize that public social security and welfare state commitments, based on the principles of social justice and equity, are a basis for productivity and economic competitiveness. Furthermore, the delegation will point out that welfare regimes are also required to provide protection against social risks that private insurance cannot adequately cover. With regard to the urgent need to reinforce social policy and to draw up a new agenda, delegates will emphasize in particular that

-          activation policies will only work if quality jobs are available. New links between employment and social policies must be established. The creation of jobs, growth that is socially and environmentally sustainable, leading to a high-wage, high-skill society, is a prerequisite for activation policies;

-          in order to overcome labour market segregation and to increase employment rates of older workers and women, particular attention must be given to the quality and security of jobs;

-          providing a better work-life balance, focusing not only on mothers but on parents is a prerequisite for increasing job satisfaction, productivity and employment;

-          the fight to abolish child poverty and to overcome inherited social disadvantage cannot be based exclusively on benefits. It must be linked to the promotion of employment, job security and decent wages as well as to improvements in education, particularly in teaching and learning;

-          providing a better work-life balance, focusing not only on mothers but on parents is a prerequisite for increasing job satisfaction, productivity and employment.

Trade union representatives will also be taking part in the OECD Forum on “Does Social Protection have to be provided only by government?” to be held in Paris on 31 March. A key message to be conveyed and outlined in more detail will be that privatizing the provision of social protection is not an option to produce substantial cost savings or strengthen social cohesion and social justice.

 To read the TUAC statement on social policy issues click here 

G8 Labour and Employment Ministers Discuss with Unions and Business the Policy Mix to Face Challenge of Demographic Change

Labour and Employment Ministers from G8 countries and the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities met in London on March 10-11, together with ILO and OECD representatives to discuss the theme “Meeting the Challenge of Demographic Change”. The Conference was part of this year’s cycle of G8 meetings chaired by the UK leading up to the G8 Gleneagles Summit in July. Trade union and business delegations coordinated by TUAC and BIAC took part in the first afternoon session of the conference and submitted written statements.

The Chair’s conclusions of the meeting focus primarily on the how to extend the effective age of retirement for older workers against the background of an ageing workforce. The trade union delegation indicated that they would have more confidence in this discussion if Ministers also recognised the value of retirement at the legally recognised age on a decent income. However, more positively in paragraphs 4 and 5 the Ministers do call for a comprehensive approach to policies for increasing opportunities for older workers. This represents an improvement in the traditional approach to increasing labour market flexibility. They also call for effective partnerships between Government, employers and trade unions.

The issue of youth unemployment in developing countries is to be raised in the context of the International Labour Conference. However it is disturbing that the agenda did not include follow up to the 2003 G8 Employment Ministers’ Conference in Stuttgart that included positive conclusions on action to build the social dimension of globalisation. These conclusions still wait to be acted upon. We will be discussing opportunities for follow-up both at international and national level in the run-up to the Gleneagles G8 summit in July at the TUAC Plenary Session in May and in conjunction with our Global Union Partners.

To read the full TUAC evaluation click here. 

Trade Union Input to G8 Employment Ministers London Meeting

(London 10-11 March 2005)

G8 Labour and Employment ministers are to meet in London on 10-11 March to discuss the employment implications of demographic change.   The session takes place as part of the preparations for discussions of OECD Social Affairs Ministers in Paris on March 31-April 1, as well as for the annual OECD Ministerial Council meeting and OECD Forum sessions being held on May 3-4.    The outcome of the discussions will also be fed into the preparations for the G8 summit to be held in July this year at Gleneagles in Scotland, UK. 

TUAC's and BIAC, along with representatives of the UK Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry, have been invited by Alan Johnson, the UK's Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to a special meeting of the social partners and G8 Ministers to be held on the afternoon of March 10 at Lancaster House in London. 

The meeting will concentrate on the challenge of an ageing society with a diminishing working age population, an issue which faces all the G8 countries. Trade unions will argue that when account is taken of workers’ preferences for retirement and  rates of economic growth in the future, most OECD countries will be able to provide very robust pay-as-you-go publicly administered pensions payable at age 65 with wage indexing. The maintenance of these systems is crucial if large portions of the workforce are to have any real choice about whether to work or retire 

 Discussions will also focus on the situation in the developing world, which is where most of the growth in population takes place over the coming 30 years, and where one of the greatest challenges is the very high level of youth unemployment. Representatives of the African trade unions will argue for comprehensive strategy to tackle youth unemployment in Africa.

To read the trade union statement click here  

TUAC internal analysis of cases raised by trade unions
 under OECD
Guidelines for MNEs now available

A detailed analysis of the cases so far raised by trade unions with National Contact Points (NCPs) on grounds of transgressing the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises is now available from TUAC in Paris. Since the OECD's set of expectations of corporate good conduct came into force in 2000, Unions have raised more than 50 cases  with NCPs. Half of them were still unresolved as at end-February 2005.

The TUAC report is an instructive and useful guide to procedures and practice in bringing cases of malpractice to account and on ways of informing a wider audience. Further information can be obtained on request from Ms Veronica Nilsson at TUAC Paris.

TUAC Evaluation of the 2004 Review of the OECD Principles of corporate governance

First agreed in 1999, the 2002 OECD Council meeting at Ministerial level agreed to revise the OECD Principles of Corporate governance. TUAC, our affiliates and partners participated actively in the Review. The process which began in March 2003 resulted in a revised set of Principles being adopted at the May 2004 meeting of the OECD Ministerial Council. Overall the newly revised Principles should be seen as part of the continuing effort to reform corporate governance so as to ensure more accountable corporations. The improvements in the stakeholders chapter give trade unions a platform to take forward the debate to help ensure that they and the workforce have a voice in the corporate decision making process. However in other areas much more needs to be done beyond this Review.

To read the TUAC evaluation of both the negotiating process and the outcome of the exercise click here


Davos/Porto Alegre: Poverty number one priority

Global issues of concern to international trade union organisations were emphasised in the closing phase of the World Economic Forum, held in the Swiss resort of Davos and the World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil.    Trade unionists, who participated in the two-pronged approach to tackling global problems of poverty, came away from the two sessions with the feeling that some progress had been made in seriously addressing the major problems facing the hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken people in the world.

The consensus among global unions’ representatives active in the two forums was that the eradication of poverty was now the number one task for world development and relief organisations whose efforts on behalf of the world’s poor have been dramatically thrown into sharp relief by the tragic loss of life and enormous devastation caused by the tsunami disaster.  Union leaders have emphasised that poverty-eradication must now be an integrated part of the policy and not just an element of corporate philanthropy according to fluctuating fortunes and passing needs. 

In the words of the TUAC’s John Evans, quoted by Guardian economics correspondent Larry Elliott, “The (Davos) agenda has changed; some of the traditional business narcissism seems to have given way to the idea that if we don’t get back on track for delivering the UN Millennium Development goals, a major opportunity would be lost.”    Elliott comments that the British Government, which is chairing this year’s G8 and EU gatherings, sees Davos as a valuable occasion to drum up support for the twin themes of Britain’s G8 Presidency: Africa and climate change.

Ten years ago, when trade union leaders and NGO’s were not allowed through the door, the Davos agenda focused solely on making money.  This year, a global town hall session of Davos participants identified the following six priorities: poverty, equitable globalisation, climate change, education, the Middle East and global governance.   Observers have been struck by this display of how views can change.  They hope that this results in some lasting change in the development agenda.  

 Trade Unions in Davos:
 "Dangerous Fragility in Global Economy"

(Davos, 27 January 2005)

      International trade union leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum Annual Meeting this week are warning governments and industry leaders of dangerous fragility in the global economy.  With a ballooning US budget deficit, precipitous decline in value of the US dollar, persistently high oil prices, and the increasing shift of global production to China, the livelihoods of tens of millions of workers in developing and industrial countries around the world are under threat.

      With this year's Davos theme of "Tough Choices", the trade union leaders are calling for new measures to bring coherence and accountability into global decision making, and urgent steps to put social concerns at the centre of international trade and financial policy.  The end of the quota system for trade in textiles and garments is yet another example of how millions of working people and their families face ruin as a result of unbalanced and incoherent global decision-making.  Several developing countries, such as Bangladesh, Mauritius, Cambodia and others, face catastrophic loss of textile sector exports as companies move to China, to take advantage low-wage exploitative production based on severe repression of basic workers' rights by the Chinese authorities.

      "Global leaders can only make the right choices if they are working on the basis of multilateral decision-making, which takes proper account of the interests and concerns of working people, upon whom global development and prosperity depends", said Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and of the ICFTU, adding that "working people all over the world face growing insecurity, which politicians and business leaders ignore at their peril".  

      Burrow is one of the delegations of 17 international trade union leaders at the Davos event. "The international trade union movement has embarked on a major process of consolidation, with the unification of the ICFTU and the World Confederation of Labour.  We know that we must work together to meet the challenges of globalisation.  We believe that the global institutions and their member governments must also look at their own coherence and work together much more effectively in the future," she said.

      The union delegation is also highlighting 'Wal-Martisation' in the way some companies are now doing business.  "Some in the business community hold Wal-Mart up as a positive example, but the reality for that company's employees is one of intolerance and exploitation.  They face poverty wages, discrimination, poor or no health care and other violations of their fundamental rights.  If other companies follow this example in a race to the bottom, then the future for the workers concerned, and their families, will be very bleak indeed" said Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI, the Global Union Federation of workers in the finance, commerce and service sectors.  Jennings also pointed to "double standards" in some global corporations which, while treating their workers fairly in their home country, take advantage of poor labour legislation and inspection to exploit workers elsewhere.

      The role of the United States in the world economy is of particular concern, and the union leaders are calling on the US Administration to put the world's major economic power back onto the 'right track', moving away from its deficit-driven policy, re-engaging fully with the multilateral institutions which set the global policy framework, and ensuring full respect for international labour standards in the US itself.

      With 2005 seen as a "make or break" year for the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the international trade union movement is intensifying its action to tackle global poverty.  The World Economic Forum's Global Governance Initiative has recently estimated that governments, business and civil society are only putting about one-third of the effort needed to achieve the MDGs.  "Urgent and comprehensive action is needed, and we will be pushing hard for this in 2005 through the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.  The United Kingdom, which has strongly committed itself to the MDGs, is chairing both the G8 and the European Union this year, so this issue will stay on the international agenda.  The challenge is to turn the promises into reality", said John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD.

      The union delegation in Davos will also be holding talks with key leaders on reconstruction in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami, again emphasising that the aid pledges made by governments must be translated into actual funding, which has not always been the case in previous disaster responses.  The unions will be arguing for stable and long-term commitment to the reconstruction, with employment creation and skills training in the affected areas at the centre of efforts.  The findings of a recent international trade union mission to tsunami affected areas will also be the subject of talks with government, business and NGO representatives at the World Economic Forum.

To read the full statement click here: 

Tsunami disaster: Global Unions launch reconstruction initiative, OECD DAC informal meeting on reconstruction phase.

Along side the UN donor co-ordination meeting in Geneva on 11 January 2005, the ICFTU and its Global Unions partners launched an International Trade Union Initiative  to channel funding to sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the areas affected by the disaster. The initiative, in which TUAC will actively participate, will identify reconstruction work where trade unions have a specific role to play and where union expertise is most needed, including rebuilding social infrastructure, and will help ensure maximum cohesion in the trade union movement's reconstruction activities.

The following day, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)  held an informal meeting to “take stock of the implications of the humanitarian crisis for the bilateral donor community, without duplicating the established international channels for co-ordinating humanitarian action”. Discussions revolved around how to best position the DAC within the broader international humanitarian effort and the work of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Several issues were raised by OECD member states, including: improving aid effectiveness & linking relief with rehabilitation programmes, developing regional preparedness & early warning systems, ensuring transparency and reliable statistics, linking ODA with private sector and civil society initiatives, preventing risks of aid diversion from other humanitarian initiatives, engaging wider reflection on lessons to be learnt and guidance on humanitarian relief operations.