ITUC OnLine – March 31, 2009

Decent Work Decent Life Campaign Statement for G20 Meeting in London

On 2 April 2009, world leaders from the G20 countries will meet in London to find solutions to the global crisis. In the meantime, millions of people in developing and developed countries are already paying a high price for the crisis: global unemployment is expected to increase by at least 50 million and the global economic crisis stands to lead to cuts in the wages of millions of workers worldwide with a rise in the number of working poor living on less than USD2 per day (ILO).

The crisis must provide the trigger for a wholesale reform of the global economic order.  As such it could be a turning point for the goal of achieving sustainable development and social justice. The central objectives of a new economic architecture should be shared prosperity with decent jobs and income for all. Indeed, the period prior to the financial crisis was characterised by a certain amount of GDP growth, but that failed to generate decent jobs and to extend benefits to working people and the poor. A new global economic order must promote fair distribution of wealth created and resources generated in the economy, based upon the centrality of decent work as a mechanism for employment generation, social protection, social dialogue and rights at work.

To move in this direction, we believe the following steps are necessary:

  1. Decent Jobs and Quality Public Services
    In order to mitigate the immediate impacts of the global economic crisis, especially on poor and economically vulnerable people, funding is urgently needed for the creation of decent jobs and adequate social protection packages. Governments should invest in and strengthen public provision of quality public services, which would also help to provide a vitally needed economic boost to stimulate higher growth in general. The international political and financial system needs to be restructured so that all countries have the space and resources they need to invest in public services and sustainable development.
  2. Financial Market Regulation
    Among many measures needed, two major issues require extraordinary measures and immediate action.  First, tax havens and banking secrecy must be regulated. Developing countries lose an estimated €350 billion a year in illicit capital flight, two-thirds of which includes mispricing, transfer pricing and tax evasion practiced by many multinational enterprises. Governments must agree to plug these tax leaks and address banking secrecy jurisdictions (tax havens), in which a number of developed countries play a major part, in order for that money to be available for the achievement of decent work objectives. Second, reform of the financial markets must focus on the regulation of all financial players with common standards of transparency and disclosure, rigorous capital requirements, limits on excessive borrowing and bad loans, fair top executive pay and bonuses and avoidance of conflict of interest. Workers rights must be guaranteed with full access to information and consultation in the process of takeovers as well as regular and detailed feedback on pension funds and their investments. Effective monitoring and regulation of hedge funds and private equity by means of asset disclosure obligations and more stringent requirements on investor information is coherent with such measures and complements their objectives.
  3. Social Justice
    Aid:  Industrialised country governments should not use the current financial crisis as an excuse to renege on their ODA commitments. Meeting the 1970 aid pledge of 0.7% of Gross National Product (GNP) is now more important than ever. Governments in the developed world should accelerate their increases in aid to meet their long-standing commitments, as well as ensure long-term, predictable aid flows to developing countries. Meeting these long-standing aid commitments will require only a tiny percentage of the huge sums used to bail out the banking system.                                                                                                                                       Trade:  Developing countries should not be forced to open their markets and should be left the policy space to decide on the time and modalities of market opening. All multilateral, bilateral and regional trade agreements need to be subject to an assessment of their impacts on decent work and on developing countries.
  4. Reform of Global Governance
    Systemic reform of global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions were at the forefront of advocating the types of policies that have resulted in destructive competition between national economies, including tax competition, privatisation, under-investment in public services and labour market deregulation – leading to much of the exploitation and decent work deficits that we see today. Any overhaul of the global financial architecture must include a complete reform of these institutions and their rules so that they put sustainable development and decent work at the heart of their policies and include developing countries on an equal basis in their governance processes.
  5. Addressing Climate Change through Green and Decent Work                                                              To avert widespread climate disaster governments must launch a ‘Green New Deal’ through large-scale investment in green infrastructure that can provide decent work and prepare the ground for a far-reaching and ambitious international agreement on climate change at COP15 in Copenhagen, in December 2009.


Spotlight Interview with Zuliana Lainez (ANPP- Peru)
“The impunity enjoyed by those murdering journalists has given rise to self-censorship”
Brussels, 31 March 2009:  The repression of freedom of expression and trade union rights in Latin American takes a heavy toll on the continent’s journalists. Women journalists are targeted differently, based on their gender. How can the trade union movement and international solidarity come to their aid? Zuliana Lainez, general secretary of the National Association of Journalists of Peru, ANPP (1), provides the answers.
What are the main actions of the Peruvian journalists’ union?
Aside from defending workers’ rights and providing our members with training, we devote a lot of energy to defending freedom of expression and association. Peruvian law recognises the right to organise and bargain collectively as well as the right to strike, but Peru has been heavily influenced by the neoliberal model since the 1990s. This change of policy has virtually wiped out the labour movement, including the journalists’ unions, as the threat of dismissal is used against anyone trying to organise. There are some 30,000 journalists in Peru. Around 9,000 of them are affiliated to our union, but as individuals, as there are no longer any unions in the media industry.
What is the scale of the violence against journalists in Peru?
It has to be said that journalists in Peru are not murdered on the same scale as in Colombia or Mexico. The last murder dates back to March 2007 and the victim was a radio journalist, Miguel Pérez Julca, who had broadcast incriminating information about people “with connections”. Peru is, however, the country with the region’s highest rate of non-fatal attacks against journalists. There were 212 physical assaults against journalists in 2008. The greatest enemy of democracy and journalists’ freedom of expression in Peru is intolerance, as the authorities (national, regional or local) almost invariably put pressure on journalists when they see something they don’t like in the media. This pressure can take the shape of violence, death threats, legal action, etc.
Who carries out the physical assaults?
They are usually individuals who are paid to carry out attacks. Over the last two years, however, we have seen a distinctive development in the interior of the country:  the perpetrators are direct representatives of the authorities. A radio journalist, for example, was in the studio, doing his programme, when a representative of the Mayor came to beat him, at work! They also face assaults during demonstrations, when the stance of a media outlet is taken to be the personal stance of the journalist. There are even cases of demonstrators assaulting journalists, as they fail to realise that they are workers too.  
What can your union do in such cases?
We have a department in charge of defending journalists’ human rights that is not only open to our members but to all journalists. It operates a hotline through which we can be contacted around the clock. We put journalists who have been attacked in contact with the lawyers from this department, who guide them on the procedures to follow. In very serious cases, such as murders, we organise mobilisation and awareness raising campaigns to put pressure on the authorities to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
Does this lead to prosecutions?
Impunity is very common is such cases. Proceedings are initiated against the perpetrators or the instigators of the crime but they usually go no further than the police investigation. There has been no conviction in 80% of the cases reported between the eighties (the worst period) and now. In the small minority of cases leading to convictions, the perpetrators are sentenced to 25 years in prison at the most. The instigators are rarely identified. The impunity enjoyed by the murderers gives rise to self-censorship, which results in the press losing credibility and impinges on civil liberties. It’s the same in several other Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Mexico.
You are in charge of human rights at FEPALC, the regional organisation of the IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) in Latin America. Are you able to organise solidarity between the journalists of the region?
Yes, the IFJ has affiliates in every country of Latin America, and they are interconnected through us. A journalist was recently murdered in Mexico and we immediately sent the information to all our affiliates, who showed their support by sending letters of solidarity.
You are also a member of the ITUC Women’s Committee. One of its priorities is combating violence against women. What role does the media play in this respect?
The media is partly to blame because of the content of the news, the stereotypes it uses in advertising, and the way it covers stories (2). In Latin America, some media outlets are more interested in reporting on violence against women as a means of selling papers than as a way of fighting against such violence, which is almost always covered in the “news in brief” section. There is a lack of self-criticism on the part of the media.
What action can trade unions take in this area?
We organise programmes to educate the media about how to cover gender related issues, violence against women, etc.  In Peru, we have linked up with an NGO to study how women are portrayed in the media. This research is used as the basis for meetings with journalists, to look into what improvements can be made.
Our union also has a department in charge of gender related issues, which was set up in 2004. We organise a meeting of women journalists in Peru every year, on 8 March, to assess women’s working conditions and to develop strategies to give women access to top positions in the media and trade unions. We are also carrying out research into violence against women journalists, which has shown that the type of threats and attacks directed at women journalists are different from those directed at men. Women are more often the victims of defamation. When, for example, a woman journalist reports that a politician has threatened her, he responds that it is linked to sentimental issues.
Interview by Samuel Grumiau and Mathieu Debroux
(1) The National Association of Journalists of Peru (ANPP) is affiliated to the International Federation of Journalists and to the Autonomous Confederation of Workers of Peru (CATP), which is one of the ITUC’s affiliates in the country.
(2) On 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) published recommendations on how to report about violence against women. 

G20: World’s Unions Call for Far-Reaching Urgent Action

Brussels, 31 March 2009:  Trade union leaders from around the world are converging on London this week to press their case at the G20 Summit on the global economic crisis. Meetings with the Summit host British Prime Minster Gordon Brown on Tuesday and Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd on Wednesday will round off dozens of similar meetings with heads of governments, organized by national union leaders in their home countries since the beginning of last week. Summit-eve discussions with French President Sarkozy, Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero and German Finance Minister Steinbrueck took place on Monday.

The ITUC is urging the G20 to take strong and concerted action to turn the global economy around and avoid future crises, pushing a package of detailed measures spelt out in their “London Declaration”, drawn up by the ITUC and the OECD Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC). The package calls for action in five main areas:

  • a coordinated international recovery and sustainable growth plan to create jobs, ensure public investment and tackle world povery;
  • help for insolvent banks and new financial regulations;
  • action to combat the risk of wage deflation and reverse decades of increasing inequality;
  • far-reaching action on climate change; and
  • a new system of global economic governance, involving reform of the global financial and economic institutions (IMF, World Bank, OECD, WTO), and a central role for the International Labour Organisation.

Meetings with IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy will also be held in London, while talks with ILO Director General Juan Somavia, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and labour ministers from the G8/G14 countries took place in Rome at the weekend.

“We are covering every possible base in alerting world leaders to the depth of anger and frustration felt by working people everywhere at the complete failure of unregulated capitalism. People are paying for this disastrous failure of governance with their jobs and livelihoods, and nothing less than a complete overhaul of the system can meet the urgent needs of this moment. However, we are deeply worried that G20 governments are not yet ready to show the necessary leadership. Every moment they delay taking the far-reaching decisions needed means more jobs lost and more people falling into poverty,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators braved cold and wet weather on the streets of London at the weekend, in a broad civil society demonstration addressed by ITUC President Sharan Burrow and co-organised by the British TUC , which is coordinating the series of London meetings this week with the ITUC. Some 70 national and international union leaders will attend the London meetings.

Mauritania: Call for an Urgent Return to Democracy

Brussels, 30 March 2009 (ITUC OnLine): “It is urgent that the entire international community send a very strong message for a return to democracy in Mauritania,” said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the ITUC. Fearing that the unstable situation in Mauritania could have a domino effect on the region, the ITUC has addressed an appeal to the United Nations, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and, together with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), to the European Union.

The country’s democratically elected president was ousted by military troops on 6 August 2008. Since then, the ITUC’s affiliated organisations in Mauritania (UTM, CGTM and CLTM) have been campaigning through the grouping of democratic trade union centres, the Coordination des Centrales syndicales démocratiques, for the urgent restoration of the rule of law.

Recent attempts by the African Union to mediate a solution (without trade union involvement) have failed, but the need to find a solution to the crisis is all the more urgent in light of the attacks on the exercise of basic rights and freedoms. The government emerging from the coup of August 2008 is pushing for an amendment of Article 432 of the Labour Code, in a bid to directly undermine and dissuade the exercise of trade union rights and freedom of expression through sanctions against trade union leaders.

The trade union movement considers the only way out of this crisis to be the holding of early presidential and legislative elections, but these must be preceded by President Ould Cheikh Abdallahi’s return to power. The involvement of the trade unions is also essential if there is to be any hope of reaching a solution. These measure should be coupled with the application of individual and targeted sanctions against all those, be they civilian or military, acting with a view to maintaining the unconstitutional status quo in Mauritania.

“It is crucial that the whole international community unite behind the position of the African Union,” said Kwasi Adu-Amankwah, general secretary of ITUC-Africa. Following the joint appeal of ITUC-Africa and the ITUC last week, the Security Council of the African Union voted on 24 March in favour of applying sanctions against the members of the junta, establishing a deadline of one month for the drawing up of the list of those targeted by the sanctions.

ITUC letter to Abdou Diouf, general secretary of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.  

ITUC letter to the African Union

ITUC letter to Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

ITUC letter to Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.

ITUC letter to Josep Borrell, chair of the Committee on Development.