21st Meeting of ITUC General Council

An ambitious action programme, focused on peace, defending democracy and workers’ rights, achieving a new social contract and ensuring climate action based on just transition, has been adopted by the ITUC’s annual General Council meeting which concluded in Brussels on 17 October.

21st General Council

The Council adopted emergency resolutions calling for peace for the Kurdish people and condemning the Ecuadorean government for its violent repression of the popular movement against the destructive policies it is implementing at the behest of the IMF. Following a report from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Council affirmed the full solidarity of the international trade union movement with the struggle of the people of Hong Kong for respect for fundamental human and democratic rights.

“The prominence of peace, democracy and rights on our agenda this week reflects concerns in every part of the world about the rise of nationalism and the extreme right, which is driven by economic inequality and insecurity in the world of work and which is in turn increasing the risk of armed conflicts and even the potential for catastrophic nuclear war. A new arms race is emerging, draining funding from vital public services, while the retreat from multilateralism adds a new layer of danger. With the global economy on the brink of another crisis, a new social contract is urgently needed. The Centenary Declaration adopted by the ILO this year lays the foundations for this. And while these issues are at the heart of our work, the world is facing a climate emergency and our drive to tackle climate change through Just Transition is at the very top of our list,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The action programme also mandates work on a ground-breaking “Beyond GDP” report as a tool to hold governments to account for the real social and economic impacts of their policies, recognising the narrow focus of GDP as the main economic indicator, ignoring the wider effects of how economies are managed. Council members pledged to press their governments to ratify the new ILO Convention 190 on gender-based violence and committed the ITUC to intensify its campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The Dorje Khatri Award for trade union climate action was awarded to the ITUC Spanish affiliates CC.OO., UGT and USO for their success in achieving Just Transition for miners in the country’s northern coal-mining regions. Dorje Khatri, a leader of the Nepalese Sherpas union and a climate activist, lost his life in an avalanche on Mount Everest in 2014.

The Council was briefed on the important announcement by Qatar on 16 October that it will end the kafala system of modern slavery for all migrant workers in the country, and that a minimum wage will shortly be set based on joint work with the ILO – making Qatar the first Gulf country to have a universal minimum wage (more information here).

An affiliation request from the Peruvian trade union centre CSP was approved, bringing the total number of ITUC affiliates to 332, representing 207 million workers from 163 countries and territories.

Solidarity actions, based on proposals from the ITUC Human and Trade Union Rights Committee, were planned for unions in several countries where workers’ rights are under heavy attack. The Council discussion on multinational companies highlighted the case of Amazon, which is notorious for its appalling treatment of workers and its schemes to avoid paying tax as well as growing concerns over the privacy of its workforce and consumers.

“The challenges facing working people across the world are enormous, and we face them with confidence and determination as a unified global movement. Social protection for all, gender equality and inclusion of young people, a future of work shaped by Just Transition and the labour protection floor in the ILO Declaration which guarantees all workers fundamental rights, an adequate minimum wage, maximum limits on working hours and safety and health at work. These, and the many other areas of specific ITUC action endorsed by the General Council this week, are the right formula for social and economic justice and a sustainable world,” said Burrow.