ITUC e-news November 2014

Attack on the General Secretary of the UGTT Tunisia
Labour 20 warn gaps in G20 agenda risk jobs
New Survey: Half of G20 policies rated as ineffective
Equal Times: Working in Latin America’s Shadow Economy
TPP Trade Talks Must Stop

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Attack on the General Secretary of the UGTT Tunisia: the ITUC expresses its condemnation and solidarity

November 17, 2014 – Following the physical attack on Houcine Abassi, the General Secretary of the Tunisian trade union confederation, the Union générale tunisienne du travail (UGTT), the ITUC condemns this unacceptable violence and once again expresses its full solidarity with the UGTT, the lynchpin of Tunisia’s successful transition to democracy.

Houcine Abbassi, who is also president of the Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC), was the target of a violent attack on Thursday evening as he was leaving his office by car, in Mohamed Ali square in the centre of Tunis.

The car windows were broken as stones were thrown at them by external infiltrators. It was only thanks to the vigilance of the UGTT’s security guards that the general secretary managed to escape unharmed.

The UGTT described the attack, which occurred at the end of an emergency meeting at the head office of the Tunis transport workers’ union, as « a despicable and contemptible act”. It has handed over evidence of the attack and witness statements to the authorities.
 The ITUC has added its voice to the resounding condemnation from all sectors of Tunisian society. As the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) said the morning after the attack: “This was an attack on civil society and on his pioneering role in cleaning up the country’s political climate.”

In this country where the social partners have shown great political courage and maturity throughout the delicate period of democratic transition, the Tunisian employers’ organisation the UTICA also expressed its « unconditional solidarity » with Abassi, reiterating its « rejection of all forms of violence, both physical and moral ».

“We call on the Tunisian justice system to bring its full weight to bear against these attackers and put an end to these violent attacks and the unacceptable climate of violence threatening the UGTT. The UGTT, a driving force for stability and for the fight for democracy and social justice in Tunisia and the whole Arab region has the full support of the international trade union movement”

said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.

Labour 20 warn gaps in G20 agenda risk jobs

November 16, 2014 – The 2 per cent extra economic growth target heralded as the major outcome of the G20 Brisbane Summit will struggle to be met as it was not accompanied by any plan to stimulate demand through higher wages and quality job creation, warned the Labour 20. 

Photo: ACTU/Mark Phillips

With more than 200 million people unemployed around the world, massive youth unemployment and stagnant wage growth, projections that the global economy will meet a 2 per cent target above current trajectories are based on unrealistic economic modelling.

The modelling adopted by the G20 leaders assumes full employment, which is clearly not the case in most of the world, said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“We have no confidence that on current economic modelling the 2 per cent growth target can be achieved. With the huge unemployment crisis, and no plans to address demand needed to stimulate the global economy, the G20 will be back next year with higher unemployment and more fractured societies,” Burrow said.

The L20 assessment of the communique shows that inequality and inclusive growth were left aside in favour of business interests being put ahead of those of working people.

“Positive steps have been made by the G20 on tax evasion and avoidance through the BEPS Action Plan, investment in infrastructure and participation of women in the workforce, but much greater action is needed on shadow banking regulation, public disclosure of tax reporting and responsible investments to reduce risk and put the real economy back on track,”’ said John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC).

“We thank the international community of governments for overcoming the obstacles put in place by the Australian government to leave action on climate change and social dialogue off the agenda of the G20,” said Burrow.

The L20 welcomed the leaders’ statement on Ebola, which recognised the important role of healthcare and relief workers in combatting the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“We look forward to working with the Turkish Presidency of the G20 to re-launch the G20’s work on inequality, climate and raising social standards in global supply chains.

The G20 will have to recognise the importance of the world refugee crisis. We expect social dialogue to be a hallmark of the G20 going forward instead of the narrow corporate interests promoted by the Australian Presidency and we thank the Turkish Government for their support on this question,” said Burrow.

Ged Kearney, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said the Australian Government’s Presidency of the G20 had been a missed opportunity to show global leadership.

“Sadly, the Abbott Government dropped the ball when it had the chance to provide mature leadership to the G20 on climate change and inequality and instead used this forum as a soapbox to advocate domestic policies that are driving down living standards in Australia,” she said.

New Survey: Half of G20 policies rated as ineffective

November 12, 2014 – A new survey of Labour 20 members representing working people in G20 economies has found that 56 per cent of G20 policies are considered ineffective in improving outcomes for working people. 


More than half of G20 policies have failed to have a positive impact on working people with weak action on issues that could have had an impact on workers lives such as jobs, decent wages and social protection,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation, on the eve of the annual Labour 20 (L20) Summit in Brisbane, Australia.

More than 200 million people were unemployed in 2013, an increase of five million compared with the year before according to the International Labour Organisation.

“Governments are prioritising policies which support the interests of big business and not tackling the inequality of wages and rising unemployment,” said Ms Burrow.

“In Brisbane, the G20 needs to agree on a plan for jobs and growth, putting in place comprehensive measures to support aggregate demand, reduce inequality and spur investments. This must be backed up by national job creation targets, and followed up in consultation with social partners,” said John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC).

Economic modelling prepared for the L20 shows that a co-ordinated mix of wage and investment policies in G20 countries could halve the global jobs gap and create up to 5.84 percentage points more growth in G20 countries, compared to business as usual.

Labour 20 Chair and Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney said that effectively tackling unemployment must be a priority for the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

“With Australia’s unemployment at a twelve year high of 6.2%, and youth unemployment more than double that at 14%, the Abbott Government must shelve its spin and set out a jobs plan,” Ms Kearney said.

“Prime Minister Abbott needs to understand that empty rhetoric won’t cut it. He needs to spell out concrete policies and initiatives for job creation based on decent wages, conditions and investment in skills.”

The ITUC Global Poll 2014 of G20 countries found that

  • 68 per cent of people say their government is bad at tackling unemployment;
  • 79 per cent of people believe the economic system favours the wealthy, rather than being fair to most people; and
  • 62 per cent of people want their governments to do more to tame corporate power.

The results of the G20 tracking survey will be presented at the Labour 20 Summit in Brisbane 14 -15th November 2014.


 by Jérémy Joly

November 13, 2014 – They are everywhere. You can’t miss them. They are on the streets, on buses, in restaurants, on building sites,…

Maxima, aged 55, earns between 50 and 60 nuevo soles a day (US$17-20) selling fruit juice in Lima.
(Jérémy Joly)

Around 130 million people are working without contracts or social protection in Latin America and the Caribbean. That is 47.7 per cent of the economically active population according to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Programme for the Promotion of Formalization in Latin America and the Caribbean (FORLAC).

Informal economy workers form part of a society that has integrated them for want of legal employment.

Twenty-eight-year-old Franklin has been working as a shoe shiner in Lima for eight years. On good days, he earns 30 nuevo soles (US$10). He explains, while cleaning a young man’s shoes, that he no longer even dreams of working for a company or being given an employment contract. “I have no education, no qualifications; no one wants to hire me. In a few years time I’ll find another job on the street.”

It is the poorest people that are most affected by informality, with 72 per cent of the lowest income earners (those earning less than US$2, or 5.83 nuevo soles) working in the informal economy. In comparison, only 31 per cent of Peru’s highest earners – those earning more than US$100 (291.70 nuevo soles) a day – work informally.

“Informality limits the country’s GDP and productivity growth, at the same time as it heightens inequalities and social exclusion. The economic growth seen in the various countries of the region is not benefiting the population as a whole,” Juan Chacaltana, an ILO specialist on jobs and employment policy, told the press at the Organization’s Regional Meeting in October.

Among those left behind by growth is 55-year-old Maxima, who earns between 50 and 60 nuevo soles a day (US$17-20). She tells her story while preparing the fruit juice she sells to passers-by.

“Starting a business of my own has never been possible, it costs too much! I’ve done lots of little jobs but I’ve never managed to have a contract or social protection. Now all I ask is that they let me work!”

“Sometimes, the state is non-existent”

Employers and workers have different perspectives on how to tackle the problem of informality.

“More inclusive social policies and more education and training are needed, so that people can live with dignity. But in many countries it’s complicated because taxes are very low, and sometimes the state is nonexistent,” Laerte Teixeira da Costa, social policy secretary of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), tells Equal Times.

For employers, the priority is different. “The laws in our region do not make it attractive to take people out of informality. The administrative side needs to be simplified and there needs to be more employment flexibility,” insists Roberto Suárez Santos, deputy secretary-general of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE).

Víctor Báez Mosqueira, general secretary of the TUCA, challenges this argument. “Limits need to be placed on outsourcing, as they have been in Uruguay, which has introduced joint responsibility extending social obligations to the main company. It is a good way of protecting companies and combating informality.”

Between 2001 and 2012, the rate of informal work fell by more than 10 per cent in Uruguay, following a curve identical to that of unemployment.

It is a result obtained thanks to a combination of factors. In addition to the legislation on outsourcing, companies were offered fiscal incentives for providing new jobs and training. But the success of this policy is also thanks to strong economic growth. It would be difficult to apply such measures across the board, given the huge disparities between the countries in the region.

Báez also advocates more sweeping change: “If we keep on being producers of raw materials, we will never get anywhere. We need to industrialise our countries, contribute added value and, by doing so, create jobs.”

TPP Trade Talks Must Stop

November 11, 2014 – The ITUC has called on governments to stop negotiations on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement, criticising the secrecy and corporate bias in the current negotiations. 

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments. Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark. What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits. Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.”

The current TPP proposals include provisions which would:

  • Make governments submit to so-called investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures whereby investors can sue governments on a wide range of policies, including environmental and social policies ;
  • Introduce patent protections that would boost pharmaceutical companies’ profits, but put vital medicines out of reach for millions of poorer people;
  • Severely restrict governments’ ability to make national laws for public health, safety and general welfare with a ‘regulatory coherence’ chapter;
  • Stop governments from giving priority to public policy aims when making decisions about public procurement;
  • Impose a series of restrictions on governments’ abilities to regulate the financial sector, thus holding back efforts to reform damaging financial speculation and impeding governments from taking measures to maintain their balance of payment.

Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation. The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

“A fair and open global trading system is essential to prosperity, but this proposed TPP is nothing of the sort. Global and regional trade needs to create jobs and prosperity for the many, not just provide welfare for corporations and transfer more power from the parliaments to the boardroom,” said Burrow.

National trade union centers in the countries negotiating the TPP are today formally calling on their governments to stop the negotiations, and to seek a proper negotiation mandate if they are to engage in the negotiations again.

The national trade union centers that support this call are: Australia, ACTU; Canada, CLC, CSN and CSD; Japan, JTUC-RENGO; Mexico, UNT; New Zealand, NZCTU; Peru, CUT and CATP; United States, AFL-CIO. Some of these trade unions, as well as the unions of Chile (CUT-Chile) and Malaysia (MTUC) had asked for the negotiations to stop at an earlier stage.

“Governments are prioritising policies which support the interests of big business and not tackling the inequality of wages and rising unemployment.”

– Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary –


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