ITUC OnLine – January 30, 2009

Davos 30 January 2009 (ITUC OnLine):  Global trade unions have welcomed the comments by US President Barack Obama over “shameful” bonuses ripped out of failing banks and businesses in recent months, as tens of millions of workers worldwide face loss of their jobs and homes and yet more businesses hit the wall.

Corporate bonuses in the US actually increased by 14% overall in 2008, as top executives in finance and industry, many from companies heading for bankruptcy, rewarded themselves for abject failure and pushed the global economy to the brink of recession.

“Companies receiving public bailouts are inventing the latest financial innovation – recycling taxpayers’ money into company bonuses. This is nothing less than grand corporate grand theft, and sadly it is not limited to the US,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. “Some of the culprits should be behind bars instead of propping up the bars here in Davos. Their actions will further inflame the rage which is mounting all over the world,” he added.

In one of the most outrageous cases, Merrill Lynch bosses gave themselves over US$3 billion as they cleared their desks a few days before the faltering bank was taken over by Bank of America. Bank of America itself has attracted a storm of criticism following exposure of its campaign against proposed improvements on US workers’ rights after receiving a massive government bailout.

Wall Street’s US$18 billion bonuses last year were mirrored in several other countries, especially where governments copied the disastrous US deregulation experiment. This amount alone could have provided two years’ education for the 75 million children around the world who have no school to go to. It would save millions of jobs if put in the pockets of the working people who really create wealth.

“Perhaps most outrageous of all, the very same financiers who created and promoted this failed system seem to still have the inside track advising governments how to come out of the crisis. This will only further inflame the growing anger of ordinary people across the planet – anger which will not go away while working families are paying the price with their jobs and their homes,” said Guy Ryder.

ITUC Calls on Presidents of Latin America to Implement Decent Work Agenda
Brussels, 30 January 2009 (ITUC OnLine):  Almost 10,000 people attended a high-level meeting with the presidents of Latin America at the World Social Forum in Belem. The ITUC and its regional organisation for the Americas, the TUCA, was able to engage with them and urged presidents Lula, Chavez, Morales, Correa and Lugo, of Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, to implement the decent work agenda.
The international trade union confederation called for the implementation of a new social and economic order that takes on board the proposals of the trade union movement and civil society. A new system of global governance is needed, and one that pushes forward the decent work agenda.  
“The main elements of this agenda include the creation of decent jobs, with effective social protection,” said Mamounata Cissé, ITUC assistant general secretary, who took part in the event. “Workers’ rights, respect for fundamental rights, equality and the building of global solidarity are essential to overcoming the current global crisis,” she added.
For the ITUC, this new governance implies a more equal distribution of wealth and the creation of green jobs. “In such a scenario,” said Victor Baez, general secretary of the TUCA, “regional social and economic integration will also be needed, especially in Latin America.”
The ITUC and the international trade union movement intend to play a key role in the defence of workers’ rights within this new system of governance.

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