Texte en français


MONTREAL, 26-27 APRIL 2002




1. Labour and Employment Ministers from the G8 countries met in Montreal together with representatives of the EU Commission, the ILO and the OECD, to discuss the skill and learning challenges of the 21st Century. Based on an optimistic prediction of short and medium-term growth prospect, Ministers gave particular attention to three inter-related themes:- (i) increasing participation in the labour force and promoting an inclusive society; (ii) promoting lifelong learning; and (iii) increasing opportunity.


2. The discussions were based on a background document "The Knowledge Imperative" as well as on a presentation by the OECD and - to a lesser extent - on submissions by the ILO, BIAC and TUAC. The background paper prepared by Human Resource Development Canada (HRDC) tried to identify skills and learning policies as common priorities. In doing so, it examined and discussed key factors driving the need for learning renewal. Moreover, it suggested a broad framework within which a "strategic" learning policy response should be designed and implemented.


3. The background paper identified three imperatives considered to be calling for action now:-


- Rising skill demands;

- Shifting demographics; and

- Outdated learning systems.


However, only one of the proposed directions for a skills and learning framework was discussed by Ministers - the need to improve the skill level of the current workforce by increasing adult learning opportunities.


4. Diverting from the focus on learning, the OECD submission discussed ways to "improve job opportunities". Without giving particular attention to downside risks of the current economic situation, in particular a "jobless" recovery, the document dismissed the importance of macro policies in improving the employment performance of OECD countries. Instead it claimed that the credentials of these improvements must be given to "a reform process which has been carried out in connection with the OECD Jobs Strategy".


5. In contrast to the findings of the "Growth Study", the OECD background paper as well as the oral presentation by the OECD Secretary-General, urged Ministers to give greater priority to some Jobs Strategy recommendations and to shift to a "carrot and stick" approach in order to move welfare recipients back to work.


6. In this regard, the trade union statement submitted to the Ministerial meeting, warned against a simplistic notion of "labour market flexibility", demanding workers to give up social protection, job security and decent wages. Moreover, the statement urged Ministers to focus on functional instead of external flexibility as contradictory to the vision of the knowledge imperative.



Consultation with Ministers


7. Prior to the Ministerial meeting, in the afternoon of 25 April, joint consultations were held between almost all of the Ministers of the G8 countries and representatives of both BIAC and TUAC. The trade union delegates (list attached) expressed a broad agreement with the background paper on the knowledge imperative, that "a knowledgeable workforce is a key factor in economic growth, increased productivity and social progress". However, they also emphasised strongly whilst a focus on skills and learning is necessary, it is not a sufficient condition for achieving employment, decent work and sustainable growth.


8. Referring to the trade union statement, delegates also urged Ministers to base policies aiming to promote further training of adult workers on a broader agenda to help establish responsible corporate behaviour and socially acceptable management of change at the workplace. The call to give workers a voice in the process of managing organisational and technological change was underscored by a reference to the OECD Growth Study.


9. With regard to previously adopted charters and commitments expressed by G8 Labour Ministers, delegates urged Ministers to propose a detailed Action Plan responding to the knowledge imperative as suggest in a more detailed way by the trade union statement.


10. Moreover, a number of interventions made by trade union delegates during the consultations with Ministers also emphasised the need to use collective bargaining between unions and employers as a means to promote lifelong learning, in particular to make it more feasible in practice and to strengthen incentives for employers to invest in workforce training. It was pointed out that collective bargaining agreements on further training would substantially reduce the "poaching problem".


11. Trade union delegates also welcomed the opportunity exchanging views with Ministers and to discuss the need of policy action to make lifelong learning a reality for all. With regard to the G8 process they also emphasised the need of openness and transparency in discussing steps to set out an effective framework aimed to build the social dimension of globalisation and to contribute to improvements in global governance. In the consultations the OECD Secretary-General argued for need for a forum where Labour Ministers and Finance Ministers could meet and offered the OECD in this respect.


12. At the beginning of the Ministerial meeting leaders of both the TUAC and BIAC delegations were given the opportunity to summarise briefly the main conclusions from the consultations of the day before. TUAC drew the attention of Ministers to the following points:-


- The need at future G8’s to integrate more closely the consultations with the Social Partners in the meeting itself;

- The agreement on the priority of achieving more equity in the access to training and lifelong learning;

- The key role that unions played and could play in this process;

- The need to ensure that skills acquisition was part of a wider agenda for a "high road" to managing labour market change;

- The worsening immediate unemployment situation and the need to bring Finance Ministers as well as Labour Ministers to a discussion on employment; and

- The wider debate on the social dimension of globalisation and the need to support the ILO work in this area.



The Chair’s Conclusions


13. In close line with the background paper on the knowledge imperative, the draft conclusions are trying to address a broad set of challenges related to the need to improve training opportunities and to facilitate up-skilling of the workforce. According to the issues discussed by Ministers, the text is organised in three sections.


14. Beside the complacency expressed with regard to the current economic situation, the introductory part emphasises that more and better jobs as well as improved employability and adaptability are needed. Interaction between social partners and public authorities is seen as prerequisite to achieve these objectives and to ensure "a good balance between the flexibility of work organisation and security for workers".


15. It is also important to note that the conclusions are pointing out that the discussion on skills and learning is part of a larger debate on the opportunities, social consequences and challenges of globalisation. The very first draft of the conclusions did not make this point.


16. The section on "increasing participation ..." begins by emphasising that active labour market measures and policies to make work pay are of vital importance for bringing the unemployed back into work and for increasing participation rates. Moreover, this section also indicates the agreement on expanding access to learning in favour of groups typically disadvantaged in the labour market. In doing so, the need to enable older workers to keep and get jobs as well as to promote gender equality and participation of women by respecting a work-family balance is also expressed.


17. The conclusions however don’t take into account that the road from welfare to work is quite often bumpy and disappointing, if it comes to the quality of jobs, income and career perspectives. With regard to activation policies it must be noted that Ministers did not take into account sufficiently the need to go beyond the quantitative aspects of jobs and to create also better jobs. Activation policies must take into account:-


- The specific job characteristics (pay, hours, skill content);

- The work environment (health and safety, training opportunities, career prospects); as well as

- Subjective job satisfaction as perceived by workers.


The promotion of better jobs, in particular of quality in work, contributes to both increasing productivity and adaptability at the workplace.


18. The following section of the conclusions on "promoting lifelong learning ..." reaffirm the G8 governments’ commitment to the Cologne Charter as well as the need to make learning systems better serving the needs of workers and to maintain the motivation to learn throughout life. Following suggestions repeatedly made by business representatives, Ministers also agreed to promote innovations in learning, such as e-learning.


19. In contrast to an earlier draft of the conclusions, the final version states "that the scope of lifelong learning is much broader than government responsibility alone". It is for this reason, that Ministers agreed on an effective and concerted partnership, including beside governments also organised labour, business, local authorities and training institutions as well as families and individuals in order to ensure access to, and quality of education and training.



Overall Conclusion


20. The Ministers’ meeting began with a very narrow agenda on skills. The final conclusions cover a broader agenda in part due to the arguments made by the trade union delegation. The general tone is not a radical move towards labour market deregulation and in that sense is more balanced than some other developments in G8 countries. This may prove of use in national debates. Key questions remain with regard to:-


- Follow-up of the recommendations;

- The link to the Kananaskis Summit;

- The integration of consultations into future G8 meetings;

- The link to the 2003 OECD Labour Ministers’ meeting; and

- The proposal of the OECD Secretary-General to use the OECD as a forum for joint Finance and Labour Ministers discussion.


























Montreal, 25-27 April 2002



Provisional list of participants:




Canadian Labour Congress - CLC



Mr. Stephen BENEDICT

National Director International


Canadian Labour Congress - CLC





Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux - CSN



Mr. Vincent DAGENAIS

Adjoint à l'Exécutif

Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux - CSN



Mr. Louis BIBEAU


Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux - CSN



Mr. Richard LANGLOIS

Responsable des Relations internationales

Centrale des Syndicats du Québec - CSQ



Mr. Henri MASSE


Fédération des Travailleurs et Travailleurs du Québec - FTQ




Executive Board Member

German Confederation of Trade Unions - DGB




International Department

Confédération Générale Italienne du

Travail - CGIL



Mr. Giovanni PRINCIPE

Co-ordinator - Active Labour Policy Department

Confédération Générale Italienne du

Travail - CGIL




International Department

Confédération Italienne des Syndicats

des Travailleurs - CISL



Mr. Mikhail V. SHMAKOV


Federation of Independent Trade

Unions of Russia - FNPR



Mr. Evgeny A. SIDOROV

International Secretary

Federation of Independent Trade

Unions of Russia - FNPR



Mr. Thomas PALLEY

Assistant Director - Public Policy


American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations - AFL-CIO



Ms. Maria Helena ANDRE

Confederal Secretary

European Trade Union Confederation - ETUC



Mr. Peter BAKVIS

Director - Washington Office

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - ICFTU


Mr. Normand PEPIN

Responsable du Service de la Recherche

Confédération Mondiale du Travail - CMT


Mr. John EVANS

General Secretary




Chair TUAC Working Group on Education, Training & Employment Policy

Consultant - Education International - EI




Senior Policy Adviser






    Back to top