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Unions Call for Action to Head OFF Risk of Global Slump

From ICFTU OnLine

EMBARGO: December 29, 0001 GMT

Brussels, December 29, 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): "1998 was a bad year for the global economy, 1999 threatens to be worse unless governments take action," is the stark message the international trade union movement is sending to union members around the world. 

"Globalisation is man-made and not a force of nature, even it sometimes appears to be uncontrollable, but the real question is does the international community have the will to build international policies and institutions to manage globalisation to meet the needs and aspirations of people?" said Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the ICFTU, in a letter to unions all over the world urging them to step up pressure on governments for co-ordinated action to stave off the threat of a global slump. " Trade unions all over the world are going to be joining together in a global campaign to combat the increasingly severe social impact of the crisis in 1999," added Jordan.

The unions are issuing a four-page statement highlighting that Asian and Russian economic and financial meltdowns have pushed a third of the world economy into recession and that working people and the poor are bearing the brunt of the crisis. In Asia living standards have collapsed and unemployment has surged; in Russia one quarter of the labour force has not been paid for six months. There is a real risk of the crisis spreading to Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa, regions already experiencing a fall in growth and a setback to prospects for employment and poverty reduction. 

"Slowing growth in the European Union and the United States, falling trade and dangerously volatile stock markets could all too easily push the global economy into a truly global recession with a devastating impact on employment," says John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD.

Much of the burden has fallen on women, who carry most of the burden of keeping families together and caring for the young and elderly on drastically reduced household incomes. The unions are stressing that measures should be taken in the countries worst affected by the crisis targeted on the most vulnerable people, to :-.

    protect education and health budgets, so that the poorest can keep their children at school and have access to essential healthcare;

    create and expand social safety nets to ensure that the under-employed and jobless have a satisfactory income on which to live, and extending ILO-backed child labour eradication programmes;

    boost employment intensive public works schemes and extending training and job search programmes;

    restrain prices of essential goods and maintain the purchasing power of minimum wages;

    develop sound industrial relations systems, through the promotion of tripartite dialogue between governments, employers and unions, based on respect for the ILO’s core labour standards. 

The ICFTU and TUAC are also pressing OECD countries’ Central Banks and Finance Ministers to implement a co-ordinated strategy to support balanced demand and restore global growth and job creation, through:-
    further co-ordinated reductions in the level of interest rates. With the move to Economic and Monetary Union, Europe has both a responsibility and an opportunity to support demand growth; 

    radical action in Japan to re-capitalise and reform the banks, if necessary through the nationalisation of the banking system and the introduction of permanent tax cuts to stimulate domestic demand;

    targeted expansion of infrastructure investment schemes to support output and tackle structural problems;

    financial assistance to the developing and transition countries in the front-line of the crisis, to alleviate poverty, support social programmes and restructure private and public debt;

    payment of back wages due to Russian workers to halt the vicious circle which has led to lost tax revenue and a prolonging of the financial crisis.

The international unions are highly critical of the way the debate over financial market reform has been held behind closed doors by bankers and financial ministry officials. Calling for full public participation in the "architecture" discussions, the ICFTU and TUAC are calling on governments to establish urgently a broad-based Independent International Commission to report rapidly on the institutional and policy changes needed to establish an effective international regulatory framework and new financial order. Amongst the issues the unions want to see resolved in 1999 are:-
    more stable exchange rates between the emerging reserve currency blocks of the Dollar, Yen and Euro;

    controls on destabilising short term foreign capital inflows and outflows;

    binding international regulation of financial markets to prevent massive leveraged speculation;

    the implementation of an international tax on foreign exchange transactions;

    extensive debt relief for the poorest developing countries, including those suffering from the consequences of Hurricane Mitch;

    new standards on corporate governance to combat bribery and corruption;

    reform of the IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programmes to promote increased employment and poverty reduction, good governance and respect for human rights and core labour standards;

    inclusion of core labour standards as a subject for negotiation in any new round of trade negotiations. 


1)The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) consists of 211 national centres of independent and democratic trade unions in 145 countries and territories with a total membership of 125 million working men and women. ICFTU, Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 155, B-1210 Brussels, Belgium. Telephone (32 2) 224 0211 - Fax (32 2) 201 5815 - E-mail - Web-site

TUAC's affiliates consist of 55 national trade union centres in the 29 OECD industrialised countries, which together represent some 70 million workers. It has consultative status with the OECD and its various bodies. TUAC-OECD, 26, avenue de la Grande-Armée, 75017 Paris, France. Telephone (33 1) 47 63 42 63 - Fax (33 1) 47 54 98 28 - E-mail - Web-site

For contact call Stephen Pursey (ICFTU) 32 2 224 0333 or 32 2 672 1963 or John Evans (TUAC) 33 1 47634263 or 331 45789923 

Contact: ICFTU-Press at: ++32-2 224.02.12 (Brussels). 

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)
Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 155, B - 1210 Brussels, Belgium. For more information please contact: Luc Demaret on: 00 322 224 0212 -

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