ITUC General Council begins 2022 Congress preparations and tackles rights abuses

The ITUC General Council meeting, 26-27 May, confirmed that the 5th ITUC World Congress will now take place from 17 – 22 November 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.

The decision to postpone the Congress from July was taken in order to provide for the highest possible physical participation in the event, with international COVID-19 travel restrictions expected to continue into 2022.

The Council approved the Congress theme ‘A New Social Contract’, as well as the preparatory process for developing the draft Congress Statement, and other key milestones on the road to Congress.

Attacks on workers

The Council received reports on attacks on workers’ rights and democracy from union leaders in several countries, including:

  • Belarus, where the Lukashenko regime’s suppression of trade union activity and pro-democracy activities, including the jailing of trade union leaders, continues.
  • Colombia, where dozens of trade union and community leaders have been killed in the past four weeks as public opposition to the policies and actions of the government of President Duque grows.
  • Hong Kong, where China’s puppet government has intensified its suppression of democracy, including handing a second prison sentence of 18 months to Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.
  • Myanmar, where the military junta’s ongoing campaign of murder and repression includes the specific targeting of officials from the ITUC-affiliated Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar.
  • The Philippines, where the brutal rule of President Duterte includes ‘red tagging’ of trade unionists for assassination.

The Council pledged solidarity actions in support of the work by trade unions in each of the above places, as well as Brazil, India and Nigeria, where unions are also at the forefront of struggles to defend workers’ rights and democracy against authoritarian regimes.

The Council was also briefed by local trade unionists on the recent killings and violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. It pledged the ITUC’s continued support and solidarity with the Palestinian people, and the urgent need for negotiations to bring about a just and peaceful two-state solution to the conflict, in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

World Congress update

The General Secretary provided an update on progress in implementing the decisions of the 4th ITUC World Congress and the work plan adopted at the General Council last November.

This included:

  • the launch of the ‘Just Jobs’ campaign;
  • campaigning for universal access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests, treatments and other public health tools; and
  • progress towards meeting the objective of universal social protection and other key elements of the UN 2030 Agenda.

The Council was briefed on activities around the New Social Contract, including the five key demands of workers – jobs, rights, social protection, and equality and inclusion. Further work on Just Transition for climate action, formalising informal work, and due diligence in global supply chains was also outlined, along with cooperation with the Global Union Federations and TUAC through the Council of Global Unions. Updates were also given on the ILO, including priorities for this year’s International Labour Conference and on the G7 and G20, as well as the WTO.

The Council was also informed of new joint Covid-19 guidance from the ILO and the WHO, which stresses the importance of ILO standards, social dialogue and union involvement in prevention and mitigation measures in workplaces.

Reports were received from each region, including the positive outcomes of the EU Porto Social Summit in May.

Updates from the ITUC Women’s Committee focused on the impacts of the pandemic on women and migrant workers as well as campaigning to stop gender-based violence and ensure investment in care. The Youth Committee also focused on the extreme impacts of the pandemic on employment opportunities for young people.

No new organisations were accepted into ITUC affiliation, and the Council decided to give no further consideration to affiliation applications from five organisations.

The next meeting of the ITUC General Council is planned for November 2021.