VANCOUVER, Canada - As a world congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) got under way here Monday, leaders of the global labor federation blasted the economic crisis hitting working people, and blamed the crisis on the greed of banks and financial institutions.
Guy Ryder, ITUC general secretary, and Sharan Burrow, ITUC president, were joined by Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, in a pre-congress press conference. In brief opening statements, each blasted different aspects of the crisis and its impact on workers. And each placed the blame on bank and corporate greed. Georgetti put it this way: "Our principle is that if you make a mess, whether drilling, mining or financial, then you have to clean it up."
The labor leaders said the current crisis shows the need for "fundamental" change.
Ryder said the ITUC is about building international solidarity in the workplace from the bottom up to give workers a voice at the table of international financial institutions like the G-20, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.
Georgetti noted that the "greedy" voices already have a permanent place at the table, but labor and workers have to fight to be heard at all. Ryder said the glaring inequalities of the crisis provides an opportunity for basic change.
The ITUC leaders argued strongly against the austerity programs being put forward by governments around the world. They noted that it is global stimulus efforts that have saved 20 million jobs worldwide. Ryder said the ITUC will continue to fight austerity drives full force. He said some leaders of affiliated national labor federations would be absent from the congress here because they are leading mass mobilizations in their countries. For example, he said, several key French labor leaders would not be able to come because they are organizing mass actions against the Sarkozy government's pension "reforms" that will hurt workers by raising retirement ages and taxes on workers.
Burrow said there can be no economic recovery without "Jobs, jobs, jobs." The ITUC is working with affiliates to build for massive coordinated workers' protests against the crisis on Sept. 29 around the world. The Spanish affiliates are already calling for a general strike for the day.
More coverage of the ITUC congress will follow at People's World.
Photo: Left to right: Sharan Burrow, ITUC president, Guy Ryder, ITUC general secretary, Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, in a press conference before the start of the ITUC congress. (PW/Scott Marshall)