Building Workers’ Power to Change the Rules

The Frontline campaigns and four pillars of work set the course for the ITUC 2018 - 2022

The ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen gave us an ambitious mandate with four pillars to frame our strategic plans for the next four years. Organising to build workers’ power is fundamental to success, and with a ten per cent growth target, we are determined to grow the movement.

Trade unions are on the front lines in a struggle to reclaim democratic rights and freedoms from the corporate greed that has captured governments such that they act against the rights and the interests of people. We need a New Social Contract between governments, workers and business to rebuild the trust that is threatening our democracies, and we must stop hot-house earth with ambitious action on climate change.

We will leave no one behind

Women, migrant workers, workers in the informal sector and other workers who are marginalised or discriminated against – all those who are exploited in the endless quest for profit must be at the centre of our efforts. Without security and hope, many of our people are attracted to the false promises of the extreme right.

Summary of ITUC Strategic Plan 2018 – 2022: Four Pillars of Action, Thematic Areas and Goals

Pillar Peace, Democracy and Rights
Thematic Areas Countries at Risk Migration and Slavery Peace and Disarmament
Goals 1. Reclaim democratic space.

2. Establish a Universal Labour Guarantee.
1. Eliminate slavery.

2. Rights for migrant workers.
1. UN Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) enters into force.

2. Recognition of the role of trade unions in peacebuilding.
Pillar Regulating Economic Power
Thematic Areas Jobs, Shared Prosperity Corporate Power Multilateralism
Goals 1. New Social Contract with floor of labour guarantee.

2. Standard for digital business.

3. Fair taxation and public services.
1. UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights.

2. Nationally mandated due diligence and access to remedy.

3. ILO Supply Chains Convention.

4. A New Social Contract
1. Multilateral reforms, labour rights and union participation.
Pillar Equality
Thematic Areas Economic Integration of Women Organising against Discrimination and Exclusion
Goals 1. Equal participation of women in the labour market.

2. Eradication of violence and harassment in the world of work.
1. Increasing representation of marginalised workers in unions.
Pillar Global Shifts - Just Transitions
Thematic Areas Industrial Transformation and Just Transition – Climate Industrial Transformation – Future of Work
Goals 1. Just Transition for climate ambition through strong union participation/representation in developing national climate plans. 1. A global standard for governance of digital platform businesses.

2. Surveillance protection and worker control over data.

3. Tax rules on digital business.

Frontline campaigns

While the four pillars and ten thematic areas of work will drive the core of our activities, we are planning three Frontline campaigns that include key elements of all the goals.

Democracies for people: Change the rules

People across all continents are losing trust in democracy, and we must demand political commitments to reframe the fundamental responsibilities of government in order to rebuild that trust. Governments must be held to account for social as well as economic outcomes including living standards with jobs, secure jobs, decent wages and social protection. They must be held accountable for fair taxation rules that support quality public services, for human and labour rights, for the environment and much more. With more than a third of the world’s population involved in nationwide elections this year, it’s time to challenge progressive parties to rethink the rules and practices which will ensure people’s lives and livelihoods matter.

A New Social Contract

Workers demand a New Social Contract with a floor of a Universal Labour Guarantee as recommended by the ILO Commission report on the future of work.

No worker can be left behind because their employer chooses to adopt a business model that obscures employment responsibility, facilitates labour exploitation or allows the rule of law to be avoided because workers are forced to work in the informal sector of the economy.

A New Social Contract includes:

  • Universal social protection;
  • Fundamental rights including Occupational Safety and Health (OSH);
  • Minimum living wages;
  • Fair taxation and vital public services;
  • Equal participation of women with equal remuneration;
  • Time sovereignty; and
  • Just Transitions for climate and technology.

All this and more must be part of a New Social Contract.

Just Transition – The pathway to climate ambition

The climate crisis is now effecting every continent in the world, and current commitments by governments will not stabilise the planet. The Paris Agreement set 2020 as the point of review when each country has to renew its national development contributions. Higher ambition is essential, but from the workplace to industry level and government, Just Transition measures are vital to ensure people’s trust and are therefore the only pathway to high ambition.

2019 is a critical campaign year for the ITUC and our affiliates. There are key dates for action. We must “climate proof” our workplaces. In the last week of June we hope all workplaces will invite their employers to meet with workers to discuss their plans to achieve zero emissions and the Just Transition measures to protect jobs.

The UN Secretary General has called a Climate Summit in September, and on Sunday 22 September we will march for Just Transition and high ambition, not just in New York but everywhere. Students are showing us the way. And at the end of the year in Chile, union representatives from around the world will be at the COP 25 Climate Conference to hold our governments to account.

Getting to work

Our three Frontline campaigns and four pillars of work are a formidable agenda for action. Our aspirations for a just world are winnable. Working with affiliates and the Global Union Federations, we can engage union members everywhere and demonstrate that workers’ power can change the rules.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary