Give Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development a Boost with Green Jobs & Decent Work

A 50 member trade union delegation commenced its work at UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in New York yesterday by asking member countries to consider ‘decent work’ a vital part of any agenda for sustainable agricultural and rural development.

Brussels, 6 May 2008: A 50 member trade union delegation commenced its work at UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in New York yesterday by asking member countries to consider ‘decent work’ a vital part of any agenda for sustainable agricultural and rural development.

Trade Unions, one of nine Major Groups under Agenda 21, are meeting with governments and international agencies to review progress made towards Sustainable Development since the 2002 World Summit in the following theme areas: agriculture, desertification, drought, land, rural development and Africa.

Initial remarks prepared for the Opening Session, Thierry Dedieu, Confederal Secretary of the ‘Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT) reminded that although world attention is focused on the disastrous effect of escalating food prices, the major players in the agricultural industry, the millions of waged and informal workers that bring the food to our tables, should not be forgotten.

The ILO Agenda for Decent Work is critical for the agricultural sector,” said Dedieu. “Large segments of the industry currently encompass all aspects of precarious employment; unacceptable pay levels, unhealthy & unsafe work, insecure employment prospects, and numerous other substandard terms and conditions. In 2007, for example, over 170,000 agricultural workers died because of their work.”

“During the next two weeks, trade union delegates will report on progress made by trade unions to render industries related to agriculture and rural development more sustainable,” he said. “We have been able to bring health & safety to millions of workers through worksite negotiations and international Framework Agreements, at the same time as we continue to promote such international agreements as ILO Convention 184 on Health & Safety in Agriculture.”

In a telephone interview prior to the opening session, trade union caucus coordinator Winston Gereluk promised that trade unions would deliver a consistent message to the meeting of governments. “Many of the problems associated with this year’s CSD themes result from a continuing commitment to unsustainable forms of production which excludes the ‘world of work’ as a positive platform for change”.

“We can give a boost to sustainable development of the industry by promoting green and decent jobs,” said Gereluk. “We will ask the CSD to send a signal to decision makers that they can promote trade and investment based on a model of economic growth that eradicates poverty, protects the environment and promotes social justice and equality.”

Green & Decent’ employment policies in agriculture and the global food system can yield a high payoff as solutions to deal with drought, desertification and rural development, especially when combined with energy conservation and environmental protection, he said. A progress on a ‘Green Jobs’ report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) will be unveiled in a high-level luncheon with country delegates next week.

‘Green & Decent Job’ policies can achieve only limited results, however, unless governments also address the barriers that would weaken their implementation, said Gereluk. “It is nonsense to speak of sustainable development at a time when food prices are skyrocketing beyond the capacity of workers’ incomes, at the same time as industry giants reap record profits.”

As well, African development is difficult when governments possess such limited authority and resources to actually implement change. A strong public sector that can deliver effective oversight of programmes was necessary, he said. “And these need to be supplemented by a workforce that is informed with the right and capacity to fully participate in workplace decision making”.

Trade unions at the CSD will also highlight the need to integrate climate change, water issues, as well as public and occupational health as key cross-sectoral issues. “There is little point in devising plans for Africa,” said Gereluk, “if the reality of HIV/AIDS throughout the continent is meanwhile eroding government capacity to provide services.

Trade unions will encourage the CSD to harness the full participation of workers and trade unions in decision-making for workplace solutions and in building support for the aggressive policies that are needed at the community level. Trade unions are distributing a kit to country delegates in which they summarize the issues they want supported by the UN meeting. A copy is available at:


For further information call:
Lucien Royer
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC)
Tel (331) 5537 3737 Fax 4754 9828, CELL (336) 7769 9429
[email protected]

The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.