Texte en français



Montreal, 26-27 April 2002


1. The world community set itself ambitious Millennium Development Goals to reduce the number of people in poverty. Key to achieving these is to provide decent work for all within a framework of equity, security and human dignity. To draw people out of poverty, sustained growth, job creation and the achievement of full employment is fundamental. Yet the present reality reveals regrettably that the world community is further away from realising the ambitious targets set out at the opening of the 21st Century.

2. The simultaneous downturn of the G8 economies, starting long before the tragic events of September 11, the bust of the "new economy", the Enron collapse, spreading bankruptcies of large corporations, rising unemployment and stalled development in major regions of the world show that the global economy is facing one of the most serious crises since the 1970’s oil shocks.

3. Although the world has changed dramatically since G8 Labour and Employment Ministers met in Turin in 2000, the challenges for G8 leadership identified in Turin still need to be addressed:- restoring job creation; implementing commitments to introduce lifelong learning for all; establishing a socially acceptable path for managing change, and building a credible social framework to govern globalisation based on the recognition of fundamental rights at work. Labour Ministers have to show that they can deliver action in these areas.

4. Trade unions welcome the recognition at the Montreal G8 meeting of the need to put knowledge and skills high on the agenda of the G8 policy debate. We agree with the Labour and Employment Ministers’ Discussion Paper that "a knowledgeable workforce is a key factor in economic growth, increased productivity, global competitiveness and social progress". Increased training can help remove bottlenecks to job creation in the short term. In the medium term the development of knowledge is a major factor driving productivity growth, and raising skill levels can be a key contribution to "decent work". However whilst the concentration on skills is necessary it is not a sufficient condition for achieving employment, decent work and sustainable growth. We call on Ministers to put forward an action plan to implement their objectives, but such an action plan must be part of the wider policy response to the challenges of employment, decent work, sustained growth and globalisation as set out in the ILO’s Global Employment Agenda.


Restoring Job Creation

5. The world’s largest economies were experiencing slowing growth even prior to 11 September, and the shock of these events has worsened the world economic outlook. The three major industrialised economic regions have not yet escaped the risk of a synchronised recession and hundreds of thousands of workers have already lost their jobs. In some countries more deregulated labour markets have meant workers have been laid off more rapidly. The erosion of safety net protections in several G8 countries is also increasing insecurity. Unemployment is rising across the OECD as a whole for the first time since 1993 and four million more workers are estimated to be unemployed in the OECD in 2002 compared to 2000. Despite some mixed economic signals in recent weeks the economic risks remain very much on the downside.

6. The immediate economic challenge facing G8 policy makers must be to be ready to take concerted economic measures to ensure that the world does not tip further into recession and to support any recovery that appears. Labour and Employment Ministers must act as a consistent voice within governments to ensure that Finance Ministers work with the Central Banks to give priority to employment and take stimulatory action when necessary. A co-ordinated and concerted policy response should be based on active labour market programmes that can be speedily implemented, assist workers specifically affected, have long-term positive structural effects and are targeted at those most in need. Wage negotiations can also support purchasing power and job creation. Action must be taken to strengthen social safety net protection.


Knowledge and Skills for Employment, Decent Work and Productivity

7. There is a broad consensus among governments, trade unions and employers, that investment in human capital is a key to the future. However, there exists still a gap between the rhetoric of the public debate and reality. The Cologne Charter on Lifelong Learning, which was already adopted by the G8 Heads of State in 1999, has become a forgotten document – not a plan for action. Opportunity for genuine lifelong learning remains restricted to the few. Too many workers, in particular part-time employees, workers on low incomes, those in precarious or contingent work, older workers, migrant workers and all too often women, are in practice denied access to further training and lifelong learning. Moreover, in contrast to the public debate and performance of few "world-class" firms too often corporate culture and employment strategies increasingly view employees as costs to be cut rather than assets to be developed.

8. Therefore much remains to be done to make lifelong learning a reality for all. The Montreal Conference must lead to an action plan on Lifelong Learning which can catalyse activities by governments, firms and trade unions. The central priority for governments must be to raise levels of investment in education and training and to adapt them both to the needs of a changing economy and society and to the objective of raising the level and quality of employment. This means widening access to education and creating a general entitlement to lifelong learning.

9. In the current context of rising unemployment we call on Ministers to ensure the linkage of active labour market and training policies so as to be supportive of retaining workers at the firm level to the maximum extent possible. The retraining and redeployment of workers facing job loss can protect human capital investment by firms and help avoid unemployment. Subsidising paid leave for existing employees when replaced by unemployed persons as temporary substitutes can also make an important contribution to reducing unemployment. Experience has shown that such schemes work. In addition to raising skill levels, the practical experience gained by those hired has markedly improved their chances of re-entering the labour market.

10. Surveys of skill trends in industrialised countries have found that better qualifications are required to get jobs and carry them out and that jobs often take longer to train for. However, despite this there is also evidence of under-utilised "human capital resources". Many firms continue to employ workers to perform narrowly specified, closely supervised, repetitive tasks. Therefore, there is a need to design and pursue policies ensuring a broad re-design of jobs. Unless labour market and training policies are linked with policies that promote new technologies and innovation at the same time, high skill jobs and high performance work systems remain confined to a relatively small number of firms.

11. We urge the G8 Labour and Employment Ministers to propose a detailed Action Plan responding to the "Knowledge Imperative". In such a plan Ministers must:

- Renew their commitment to a socially inclusive, high-skill, high-value-added economy and society;

- Ensure that governments ensure adequate financing of lifelong learning, the responsibility cannot be left to the individual;

Encourage agreements between employers and trade unions that make participation in lifelong learning feasible in practice;

- Implement active labour market policies in order to allow restructuring in a socially acceptable way and support the implementation of company based paid educational leave schemes;

Support policies aimed at bridging the digital divide within and across nations by addressing IT-illiteracy, ensuring affordable access to ICT, Involve representatives of trade unions in policy initiatives bridging the digital divide, and ensure that the workplace dimension is built into the work of the Digital Opportunities Task Force, its report to the Kananaskis Summit and the UN Information Society Summit in 2003;

- Pursue policies to strengthen equal opportunities and close gender gaps in education, training and employment. It is essential that adequate child-care, pre-school education, and adaptable work schedules are developed to increase quality job opportunities and training for women;

- Pursue policies to combat age discrimination against older workers, facilitate their employment and retention by promoting the adaptation of work organisation to suit older workers and implement measures to provide training options;

- It is essential to make wider access to initial training, the creation of career ladders, increases in minimum wages, additional well-targeted measures and programmes as well as making labour markets more family friendly, a key element of lifelong learning for all.

12. Potential contributions made by active labour market policies in combating high and persistent unemployment cannot simply be measured by looking at rates of structural unemployment, which are inevitably arbitrary statistical concepts. Addressing the question of what works among active policies and for whom requires a broader set of labour market indicators. In particular, the availability of indicators to monitor new employment trends is a pre-requisite for assessing and evaluating the performance of active labour market policies. The focus must go beyond rates of structural unemployment, labour force participation and of inactivity. It is essential to take also into account the numbers of part-time and contingent workers, the status of employment, hours of work, trends of wages and earnings, poverty and income distribution as well as labour market flows. We urge Ministers to support the design as well as the use of key indicators of the labour market in order to address labour market and employment policy challenges. In doing so, the set of the now available 20 key indicators of labour markets designed by the ILO, should be used as a starting point and be developed further.


A socially acceptable path for managing change

13. Policies aiming to build human capital through joint action by governments, firms and trade unions must be based on a broader agenda to help establish responsible corporate behaviour and socially acceptable management of change at the workplace. Employees will not contribute to creative ways to improve productivity and competitiveness if they believe their own employment and income will be jeopardised as a result. We call on Ministers to promote the necessary framework for negotiating change at the workplace and ensure that workers information and consultation rights allow changes to be negotiated before final management decisions are made.

14. A simplistic notion of "labour market flexibility", where workers are expected to give up social protection, job security and decent wages must be rejected. In the knowledge-based economy, competitive advantage will flow to those countries that have built and are maintaining social capital based on trust, social cohesion and solid industrial relations that give workers an effective voice.

15. The importance of giving workers an effective voice was revealed in the 2001 OECD Growth Study. The findings underscore the need to combine the implementation of Information and Communication Technologies with organisational changes in companies. A high turnover rate of the labour force has an economic cost and is the downside of deregulated labour markets. It impedes the development of high performance work systems. Of increasing importance is the need for functional rather than numerical flexibility of the workforce based on trust between worker and management and secure employment relations. In reality there is there is evidence that in a number of sectors in OECD economies there is a weakening of the attachment between firms and their employees and increase both of both contingent employment and precarious work. One of the driving forces behind is a vision of the firm, which diminishes the role of fixed assets, in particular of labour, and instead focuses on outsourcing and external flexibility – this is contradictory to the vision of the knowledge imperative.


Building the Social Dimension of Globalisation

16. G8 Labour Ministers must give a clear signal to their own populations and to the rest of the world that they will work for a set of effective social rules to govern globalisation so as to achieve a more broadly-based and equitable distribution of the benefits of growth. Giving workers a voice at work is impossible if basic workers' rights do not exist. The unbalanced approach to globalisation based on the simple deregulation of markets has led to a questioning of the multilateral trade and investment system. If the system is to have legitimacy then trade and investment rules must be made coherent with wider concerns of public policy such as environmental protection and sustainable development, quality public services, food and product safety and the observance of fundamental labour rights. Developing countries must be better integrated into the WTO decision-making process and given increased access to industrialised country markets within a framework of adherence to core labour standards. Mechanisms are needed for effective consultation with trade unions and other representative elements of civil society.

17. G8 Labour Ministers must both set out a credible agenda to build the social dimension of globalisation and extend a link to developing countries through joint work on an agenda of good governance. The key to this is implementation and effective enforcement of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as a system wide standard which needs to be applied through all multilateral institutions:- the International Financial Institutions, OECD and WTO. Concrete co-operation needs to be developed between the WTO and ILO to ensure that the multilateral trading system is made consistent with observing core labour rights and environmental protection. The ILO Director General’s initiative in establishing the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation can provide a forum for this. The Ministers must also help to develop a labour dimension to the New Partnership for African Development that is to be discussed at the Kananaskis summit.

18. In the absence of internationally binding rules governments must do more to implement the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. They represent a multilaterally endorsed and comprehensive set of rules on corporate behaviour that governments are committed to implement. The G8 Ministers should add their voice and declare their willingness to ensure that the Guidelines are fully enforced as an effective instrument of corporate accountability.

19. Addressing employment issues and the social dimension of Globalisation becomes even more pressing as the world prepares for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in August. Poverty, as well as the inadequate participation of stakeholders in implementation measures are recognised as the most significant barriers to effective environmental actions over the next decade. Yet employment transition remains a key question for both groups of issues. Ensuring employment transition as part of a social pillar of sustainable development establishes a basic security framework, which is the only way to guarantee the effective and long-lasting participation of civil society in sustainable development implementation, and particularly among workers who are uniquely placed to engage in actions for change in the world’s workplaces with their employers.


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