New Global Union Force Demands Reform

The International Trade Union Confederation represents 168 million workers.

A new global trade union demanded radical reform of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization to focus on human rights, in its program adopted here on Nov. 3. The new force, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) representing 168 million workers, laid out an action plan calling for deep changes to globalization in favor of the poor. Its program also calls for a global trade system which protects developing countries and for the World Trade Organization to adopt social targets.

ITUC said it would work for "a fundamental reform of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization... to recognize the primary importance of human rights". It said that "honoring union rights is a pre-condition to justice in the workplace, in society and in the world", adding that it would "fight" any violation of union rights.

It also called on the international community to conduct "a basic strategy for sustainable development".

The new body is a response to decades of feuding within the union movement and embraces 306 national unions in 154 countries, although 42 million unionists in Communist-affiliated bodies refused to participate on the grounds that ITUC was compromising with the established economic system.

The ITUC has a central policy objective of tackling globalization and what it sees as the damaging effects of the opening of markets and increased competition on ordinary workers. But it does not however reject the benefits of trade. "Poorly organized, international trade can be destructive, but well directed, it can boost development and jobs," Kristian Weise, an international labor expert with the ITUC, said.

One of the aims of the new ITUC, which has said it wants to introduce "a clause on workers' rights in the WTO's mandate", that would make it obligatory for products and services traded between countries "to be produced and distributed according to fundamental labor norms."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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