TUDCN-TUCA regional meeting: Latin American unions chart strategy towards regional recovery and resilience

Trade union members from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela, together with representatives from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), took part in the regional webinar of the Trade Union Development Cooperation Network of the Americas (TUDCN-TUCA), held on 14 February 2022.

The webinar allowed the participating organisations to strengthen the dialogue around the strategies and joint efforts aimed at promoting a recovery centred on the people and the environment, to help meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda in the region.

On the subject of SDG monitoring in the region, the political affairs officer of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Enrique Oviedo, stressed that major issues remained regarding access to information. He noted that only 56% of the indicators are available, impeding optimal monitoring. Mr Oviedo also drew attention to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, describing the period since 2019 as “the worst crisis Latin America has faced in the last 100 years”. He went on to note that the ECLAC has put forward a number of concrete actions to the region’s governments, such as promoting social protection systems and the energy transition, as well as supporting the lifting of patents on vaccines, the reform of the international financial architecture and the adoption of a multilateral debt restructuring mechanism.

The regional director of the ILO Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Vinicius Pinheiro, underlined the transformative power of SDG 8, with the inclusion of decent work in the 2030 Agenda. He recalled that the countries that handled the pandemic best are those that invested the most in mitigating the social impacts of the pandemic, with investments in employment and social protection policies. Mr Pinheiro also warned that, although macroeconomic figures are beginning to show an upturn in employment, it is mostly poor quality employment. He stressed the need to work towards just transition actions and the restoration of genuine social dialogue, which “is either being trivialised by opening up consultation processes to everyone or is under attack in many cases”.

In light of the current socio-economic and environmental situation, Bárbara Figueroa confirmed that the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) has set out a number of priority actions based on a strategy to defend social dialogue and to build alternative models to neoliberal policies. These are based on SDG 8 and are in line with several of the proposals put forward by ECLAC and the ILO, such as the establishment of employment policies based on decent work, with a focus on gender equality, youth, formalisation and organisational security, as well as the expansion of social protection policies and the protection of the public against the rise of the marketisation trend in social protection systems.

CGT Argentina’s Marita González, who is also the TUCA focal point in the Mechanism for Civil Society Participation in the regional monitoring of the SDGs, spoke about trade union leverage at the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, to be held in San José, Costa Rica, 7-9 March 2022, under the auspices of ECLAC. She warned that on this occasion the hybrid format of the forum was likely to curtail the influence of trade unions, but at the same time insisted on the importance of bringing the trade union voice into all the forum’s virtual discussions with governments and civil society. Mrs González reminded participants that it was at the ECLAC Regional Forum, thanks to the TUDCN, that the Argentinian Trade Unions had their first contact with the UN resident coordinator for Argentina, which led to the creation of the Argentinian Platform for Monitoring the 2030 Agenda (PAMPA 2030). “The SDGs are an opportunity to come out of this crisis stronger,” she said.

To conclude, Paola Simonetti and Bárbara Figueroa underlined the importance of the work conducted with ECLAC and the national and regional UN resident coordinators. They called on ECLAC to take action to ensure trade unions have a stronger space in the Regional Forum on the SDGs, so as to ensure constructive dialogue. Bárbara Figueroa insisted on the need for better coordination of the trade union voice within these processes and more effective engagement at the local level, while Paola Simonetti added that the ITUC would continue to campaign for a New Social Contract with SDG 8 at its core.