BRUSSELS, Belgium (PAI) – The leaders of the world’s unions are demanding that national leaders put jobs first as the way to get the globe out of its continuing deep recession. But even the unionists’ own statement is pessimistic about whether the politicians will agree to that.

In a four-page analysis of the economy, sent to President Obama and other leaders who will meet in Seoul, South Korea, in mid-November, the International Trades Union Congress also warns that without good job creation, the world risks a decade of continued economic stagnation and rising income inequality.

“G-20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009 committed to putting quality employment at the heart of the recovery. They have not lived up to this promise,” the Brussels-based ITUC said. “It is of deep concern that employment does not figure on the initial G-20 summit agenda. The economic crisis that has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of working people is far from over. It is now a social crisis.”

ITUC calculated there are now 220 million unemployed worldwide, some 31 million more than before the economic crash started in late 2007. “An extra 100 million people, many in developing countries, have been pushed into extreme poverty,” it noted. Both groups need help, ITUC said.

But the G-20 nations – political leaders of top economies, including the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Brazil and China, appear to be retreating in favor of catering to bondholders and investors instead, ITUC says. That means prospects are dim for the unions’ demand.

Though the report did not single out any specific country for retreating on jobs, the U.S. may be on that path and Great Britain already is.

President Obama has appointed a debt and deficit commission which is expected to recommend raising the retirement age gradually, starting in 2020, among other actions. And the new more-Republican Congress is opposed to further stimulus. Sen. Bernard Sanders, Ind.,Vt., has noted that raising the retirement age shuts younger workers out of the job market.

Britain’s new coalition government is pushing huge budget cuts through Parliament, throwing thousands of public workers out of jobs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy shoved an immediate 2-year increase in the retirement age through his Parliament, despite widespread worker and public protest.

Such measures, catering to the financial markets, will not help the world recover from the crash and will prolong it for a decade, the unions warned.

That didn’t stop the union confederation from offering its own agenda of how to help the world recover. It included:

* Retaining and renewing economic stimulus measures that focus on jobs and economic growth, rather than spending cuts. The ITUC said growth – more people at work – is the better way to bring national budgets back into balance.

“The crisis has resulted in a massive transfer of private debt to public debt. Cutting public expenditures, wages, pensions and social programs to pay for this transfer is morally unjust and economically unsound,” ITUC said.

“It will serve to increase inequality – a key factor in precipitating the crisis in the first place – and risks tipping the global economy back into recession with catastrophic results.”

* Make employment a top priority by “implementing projects with higher employment content, including investing in green infrastructure and quality public services in the social sector.” Governments should also “halt the growth of precarious and irregular work that is undermining the recovery and increasing insecurity,” ITUC said.

And governments should “prime the pump” until the private sector shows it can consistently create jobs and “unemployment is on the path of falling to pre-crisis levels,” the union confederation added.

* Use the International Labor Organization and other international bodies “to prepare the employment and social protection components” of the jobs framework the G-20 leaders agreed to in Pittsburgh. It said that framework should be based on recommendations from G-20 labor ministers who met earlier this year in Washington.

ITUC said the social protection component of creating jobs must include “strengthening social dialogue, including collective bargaining, to ensure wage growth keeps pace with productivity, combat income and gender inequality.”

* Raise tax rates on “higher income groups and unproductive or speculative assets.” The unions specifically advocated a tax on financial transactions and legislated limits on corporate pay. “This requires a break with the policies of the past whereby direct taxation has been cut whilst indirect taxation inherently more regressive – has increased,” ITUC said.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.