World unions: Time for a global economic fix is now

Unions representing workers in the 20 most economically powerful nations called on world leaders Nov. 14 to take urgent action to prevent a global depression by radically changing the way the global economy is run and by reversing decades of deregulation policies they say have caused the current crisis.

Union leaders from the G-20 countries demanded massive world-wide development projects to create decent jobs and called for a world-wide “Green New Deal” to save both the world economy and the planet itself, which they said is suffering because of climate change.

The unprecedented joint call by many of the world’s largest labor unions came out of an AFL-CIO-hosted meeting of the union leaders that took place in Washington D.C. last weekend while leaders of the G-20 nations met there to grapple with the world financial crisis. The labor gathering was sponsored by the International trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (TUAC-OECD) and Global Unions.

Trade unions from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China, Russia, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico were represented.

“Tens of millions of workers are facing the loss of their jobs and more and more people are falling into poverty, with women frequently the worst affected,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

“Now is the time for a complete change in direction, and we will be putting the case for that change to world governments.”

“Immediate action is needed to get the world economy moving and boost employment,” John Evans, general secretary of the TUAC-OECD, told the gathering. “Governments need to make further, coordinated cuts in interest rates and to front-load investment in infrastructure, education and health to help stimulate growth and reinforce public services. This needs to be accompanied by tax and spending measures to support the purchasing power of low-and middle-income earners, and concrete steps to launch investment in green goods and services, to help address climate change.”

The unions promulgated a detailed world-wide economic recovery program called the Washington Declaration.

The declaration calls for immediate steps to stimulate the world economy and for numerous more long-term measures. The demands include:
•better accountability of central banks;

•regulation of hedge funds and private equity;

•proper supervision of banks and global conglomerates;

•reform and control of executive pay and profit distribution;

•taxation of international financial transactions.

•reform of the credit rating industry;

•ending tax havens;

•protection against predatory lending;

•active policies for housing and for community-based financial services.

Major parts of the Washington Declaration deal specifically with conditions in the poorest countries, where the trade unionists say the global recession will hit hardest. The document calls on richer nations to make massive creation of decent jobs a primary goal of “the new approach to the global economy with fundamental workers’ rights, social protection and social dialogue central to reversing massive inequality, which is at the root of the present crisis.”

Ryder told the world labor gathering, “Governments have found it easy for the past three decades to withdraw from their proper role in regulating markets and enduring that multinational companies meet global standards on workers’ rights. Getting good government policies back in the driving seat will be much more difficult, as no government can achieve this alone. Now is the time for coordinated action to restore proper regulation to put the markets at the service of the people.”