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Last week, a Global UNIONs delegation was in Pittsburg for the G-20 summit. We contrasted the extraordinary measures taken to shore up banks with the growing threats to workers. In a joint Global UNIONs’ statement, we said, “The expansion of precarious forms of work and deregulation of the labour market are not the answer to the employment crisis R11; the insecurity of working people over recent decades was a significant contributor to the recession. A major challenge faced by both industrialized and developing countries is how to build labour market security in a globalised economy. Labour market flexibility must not be achieved through the severing of the standard employment relationship, the erosion of workers’ fundamental rights and a significant reduction in workers’ welfare.”


We are not arguing that the financial system should not have been saved, but we maintain that steps urgently need to be taken to make sure that the same kind of irresponsibility that caused this crisis does not re-occur. Unfortunately, things are beginning to slip back to “business as usual”. Adequate safeguards have not been put into place. Symbolically, contempt of the public interest is displayed by the extravagant bonuses given to many executives and traders, even in some banks that owe their very survival to taxpayers. For those among them who were dismissed, most often, “for cause”, there were generous “golden parachutes”. Contrast that with the conditions of those in precarious work, innocent victims of the greed and failures of others R11; where are their parachutes?


It is no simple coincidence that precarious work and fragile financial markets have both been developing in recent decades. Financial deregulation and what passes for “labour market flexibility” reflect a “hands off” attitude by governments and blind faith that the market, on its own, can deliver prosperity, if not justice. The costs of policy failures and uncontrolled greed have been transferred to the people. Risks, which were supposed to be a virtue of entrepreneurship, end up being borne by workers. The growing inequality in our societies, documented by both the ILO and the OECD, is a consequence of the shift of the burden of risk from the powerful to the weak.


The ITUC and TUAC have been active in the Work Relationships’ Group of the Council of Global UNIONs that Manfred chairs. We share the wide range of concerns covered by that Group, but focus, in particular, on two areas, the legal questions with respect to the work in the ILO on the employment relationship, and the policy frameworks, particularly those determined by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the OECD.


Policy changes in recent decades show that too much of the growing vulnerability of workers flows directly from policy advice from those three bodies and, in some cases, financial loan conditions imposed by the IMF and/or the World Bank.


There is no better example than the notorious “Doing Business” report of the World Bank. We thought we had made progress. The employment section of the report, which regularly “rewarded” governments that took the most brutal actions against workers through the elimination of employment or social protections, was to be modified in response to a growing chorus of criticism, including from within the World Bank itself. In April 2009, the Bank announced that the Doing Business labour market flexibility indicator, which encourages the reduction of workers’ protection, “does not constitute World Bank policy and should not be used as a basis for policy advice or in any country program documents”, and that the indicator would be removed from the Bank’s conditionality framework.


The 2010 version of the report was issued recently, but there was no trace of these clear, public assurances. You will find, instead, that one of the countries with the world’s worst records on human and trade UNION rights, Belarus, where the “right” of employers to arbitrarily fire workers has become the norm, is being commended by the Bank for making it easier to eliminate jobs. Another country with democracy and governance problems, Rwanda, won this year’s Doing Business “top reformer” prize because “employers are no longer required to consult beforehand [about job cuts] with the employees’ representatives or notify the labour inspector”.


If the approach of leading intergovernmental bodies and of the governments that control them is nor radically changed, the world will be condemned, sooner rather than later, to a repeat of this disaster. We can already see new forms of rapid, predator manipulation emerge in financial markets that make fast money at the expense of the real economy.


How will the next bail-out of banks and other financial actors be financed? And, what will be left of the promises to improve education, health care and other public services or respond to the threat of global warming if the foolishness of a few is allowed, once again, to empty the public purse?  Or is the only function of government to be the backstop banker of last resort.


The “recovery” should have as its objective, sustainable, not precarious development – a sustainable economy where the real economy gets out of the shadow of the financial economy – social sustainability, which means social justice – and environmental sustainability to reverse the damage that we have done to our planet in a way that provides good, steady and secure jobs. Security should be expanded for workers and precariousness should be shifted those at the top, where it is badly needed.


Such changes can only come from the political will to act. And, we must, at all levels. help make that happen. To do that, we have to ensure that the voices of working people are heard loud and clear here in Turkey and through the world.


* The speech of Guy Ryder in the Global UNIONs Conference in İstanbul