The ITUC voiced workers’ proposals on how to carry out the UN’s “Our Common Agenda”

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC, brought workers’ priorities to make the New Social Contract a reality to the global discussion about implementing the UN secretary-general’s report “Our Common Agenda”.

Government representatives, workers, employers, and members of civil society were convened by the president of the UN General Assembly on 11 February 2022 to discuss a series of proposals included in the report “Our Common Agenda” that aims at accelerating the realisation of the 2030 Agenda. Among other proposals, the report includes a call for a renewed social contract.

For trade unions, a new social contract centred on the Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) is the central building stone for achieving a human-centred recovery. Through its targets for jobs, workers protection, decent work, social protection, inclusive growth and environmental preservation, SDG 8 connects social and economic progress, and it provides a stark leverage for achieving the other goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Six key demands for a new social contract

Ms Burrow presented the six key demands that workers have for a new social contract. She stressed that such a contract must include investments in climate-friendly jobs with just transition; comply with the promise of the ILO Centenary Declaration of rights and protections for all workers, irrespective of employment arrangements and including occupational health and safety; ensure minimum living wages and equal pay, established through statutory processes or collective bargaining; provide for social protection for all, with a global social protection fund for the poorest countries; establish equality of incomes, gender and race, including a world of work free from gender-based violence and harassment; and work on the basis of a rights-based development model realised through a multilateral reform that, as she added, “deals with the threats to our peace and common security”.

Union proposals to move forward

Regarding the measures that unions consider essential for carrying out the proposals of “Our Common Agenda”, Ms. Burrow underlined the role of job creation, social protection and multilateralism.

On job creation, Ms. Burrow stressed that “climate transition builds jobs”. Investments in key sectors could lead to creating by 2030 the 400 million jobs targeted in the UN Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection, and even more as the ITUC calculates that up to 575 million jobs could be created in that period of time, given the right investments and the inclusion of lifelong learning processes within just transitions and measures to formalise the informal economy. She also strongly pointed out that unions expect all these investments and new jobs to be aligned with transparency and rights.

“There is no more green and brown investment. People or profit. All investment must be transparent!” she said.

Ms Burrow underlined the ITUC’s staunch support of the UN secretary-general’s call for formalisation roadmaps, decent work opportunities for all, and a floor of rights and protections for all workers, irrespective of their employment arrangements as laid out in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.

On social protection, Ms Burrow underlined the essential role that social protection plays in the creation of resilient societies with stabilised economies. She also welcomed the call of “Our Common Agenda” for the establishment of a global fund for social protection to finance social protection floors in the world’s lowest income countries.

“The fund is an act of solidarity that must and can be realised”, she said, and added that such a fund would cost a minor fraction of a percent of global GDP and could be financed through a combination of debt relief, ODA, allocation of SDR’s and direct contribution aligned with a national plan. She equally stressed that the fund should be aligned with ILO standards, ensure the strong involvement of social partners, provide financial support where needed, and at the same time encourage domestic resource mobilisation enhancing county ownership.

Finally, regarding multilateralism, Ms Burrow announced that the ITUC welcomes the proposal for a World Social Summit in 2025 to monitor progress on these proposals and show global commitment to shared prosperity.