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The global economic crisis cannot be successfully resolved if the solution leaves out workers who are discriminated against because of their race or ethnic origin. As unemployment rises around the world, so, too, are the incidents of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination in the workplace, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, the ITUC is mobilizing its members—some 170 million workers in 157 countries—to bring attention to the need to eradicate racism in the workplace.

In today’s global economy, the ITUC says, millions of men and women are currently deprived of jobs, denied promotions or are poorly paid, harassed and intimidated because of their race or ethnic origin.

The global union movement is calling on the world’s leaders, who will meet in coming weeks at a United Nations conference on racism, to make a “solid commitment” to eliminating all forms of discrimination. The ITUC statement makes it clear governments must play a role in eliminating discrimination.

Discrimination based on color, ethnic origin, culture or religion is an insidious and changing phenomenon, difficult to quantify and to combat. Nonetheless, a show of real political will by all those concerned could lead to a world free of discrimination.

Governments must work to create decent work, jobs that pay good wages, and provide health care and retirement security and safe working environments, says ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder:

Decent work is one of the keys to tackling the global economic and financial crisis. Racism and discrimination are incompatible with the notion of decent work.

Last year, the ITUC adopted an action plan to fight discrimination in the workplace as well as in the union movement. The plan includes integrating the fight against racism into trade union policies and raising awareness among trade union leaders to ensure equal treatment and equal rights among all workers within their own ranks. It also calls for recruiting and organizing migrant workers and workers from discriminated groups. Click here to read the entire action plan.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21. On that day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws.”

In proclaiming the day in 1966, the U.N. General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.