‘RECOVERY’ HAS LITTLE MEANING WHEN MILLIONS ARE LOSING THEIR JOBS – say international trade union leaders

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EU steel and postal workers marching to defend jobs in London this year, before the G8 Summit
EU steel and postal workers marching to defend jobs in London this year, before the G8 Summit

THREE global trade union federations – representing 55 million industrial workers – have issued a call to the G20 summit, taking place in Pittsburgh, to do something now to stop the worldwide wave of sackings.

The call was made by the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM).

They called on finance ministers and central bank governors from the G20 nations ‘to prioritise the global jobs crisis in their deliberations, and to create real measures that stop the epidemic of job losses throughout the world.’

They stressed ‘the immediate need for economic ministers to recognise that true recovery can only happen if job retention and job creation become the priorities.’

‘The full ripple effect of the year-old crisis is only now being felt as tens of millions of jobs are cut, with a forecast of more job losses to occur in 2010 and 2011,’ the unions said.

‘The ITGLWF, ICEM, and IMF stand staunchly behind the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) statement last week that “any talk of recovery has little meaning until people are getting back to work’’.’

The unions pleaded for the G20 to adopt the ‘Pittsburgh Declaration’.

This is based on the International Labour Organisation’s ‘Jobs Pact’.

But this ‘pact’ is a pale reflection of the anger felt by American workers, and workers across the globe, who are being made to pay the price for the capitalist crisis.

Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the international textile unions (ITGLWF), revealed that in the industry ‘nearly 13 million jobs have been lost in the past year’.

And he added: ‘The global crisis is deepening, not bottoming out.

‘Stimulus packages must be continued and extended to promote sustainable manufacturing that provides decent work and a living wage, leading to a consumer-demand recovery,’ he pleaded.

ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda said that: ‘Talk of recovery now is not only premature, but inhumane in view of unemployment rates rising into double digits in many countries.

‘A new social model must take hold, starting with this G20 meeting, and it must begin with serious reforms to the neo-liberal financial model, as well as a sustainable social plan that addresses the needs of millions of people that have been negatively impacted by this crisis.’

‘What has occurred thus far,’ said IMF metalworkers leader, Jyrki Raina, ‘is that huge sums have been poured into financial institutions, while these same institutions have failed to manage their fundamental task – to finance a viable industrial economy.’

He added: ‘We demand that governments address the critical issue of employment, particularly the human adversity brought on by precarious labour – a form of work that undermines the industrial structures of the global north and destroys equitable development opportunities in the south.’

The ITGLWF is the global voice for 217 textile and associated trade unions in 110 countries; the ICEM represents 467 trade unions in 132 countries; and the IMF covers over 200 metalworking trade unions in 100 countries.

The G20 meeting in Pittsburgh opens tomorrow.

• ICEM affiliate, Fédération Chimie-Energie (FCE-CFDT), has denounced ‘market reforms’ to the French electricity industry.

The FCE-CFDT said reforms proposed by the Sarkozy government would put the entire industry at risk, if it has to share revenues from nuclear generation with competitors.

‘Electricity market reform in France, with a proposed effective date of 1st July 2010, would destabilise the company,’ FCE-CFDT warns.

Competitors would be able to buy power at rates ‘far below EDF’s production costs’ and the union says such reforms would also prevent the competition from engaging in their own investments.

The union called for a plan that would mandate all electricity providers to make investments.

FCE-CFDT added that although there were supposed ‘safeguards’ in the reform plan, nothing in the plan would protect consumers from electricity price hikes.

The union is appealing for the Commission Champsaur to re-work its proposals, ‘giving redress to economic development issues, social cohesion, and climate change challenges.’

The privatisation process in France is sending shockwaves through the country.

At France Telecom, 23 staff have killed themselves since March 2008, prompting the employment minister, Xavier Darcos, to contact the France Telecom CEO and urge him to come up with a solution!

The country’s biggest telecoms firm initially denied any responsibility for the situation, saying that the suicide figure was roughly the same as the national average of 26 suicides per 100,000.

But it has now promised emergency measures, such as a counselling hotline and an end to shift transfers.

France Telecom has gone through drastic restructuring – 60,000 out of 160,000 staff were laid off and 70,000 were transferred to other positions.

According to French unions, some employees have been shifted around 20 times since 2004.

France has traditionally been a country where the power of labour is strong, and firing employees is extremely difficult.

Earlier this year, when several French companies hinted at mass lay-offs, unions responded by detaining top executives, with widespread public support.