ITUC World Congress: A fractured world needs strong unions

The ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen has opened with a debate on peace, democracy and rights which is fundamental for the security of workers and their families.

“Our world is fractured and people feel insecure. Conflict, dictatorship, fascism - the extremes battled against in the last century are again the battles of today. It will take workers’ power and inter-generational solidarity to win the fight for peace, democracy rights and social justice,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

Five year trend data from the ITUC Global Rights index collected from 2014 – 2018 shows

• violence against trade union activists rose from attacks in 41 countries to 65 countries - 59% increase on last year;

• a 69% increase in arrests and detentions, in 59 countries;

• a shrinking democratic space with denial of free speech now in 54 countries - a 50% increase on last year.

“When you add to this the exclusion from freedom of association for groups of workers in 93 countries and violations of the right to strike in 123 countries, the threat to democratic rights and freedoms is clear. The fight of our lives is to defend and enhance rights at work,“ said Sharan Burrow.

Peace is becoming increasingly elusive. Each year the world spends US$1.7 trillion on the military - just 1% of this would feed all the world’s malnourished children for 5 years. Military spending is increasing and is helping to drive armed conflicts.

The ITUC Is calling for every country to commit to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to renounce nuclear weapons and to reduce military spending, to unleash investment in the services, infrastructure and jobs that the world desperately needs.

“The money that goes into the arms trade could be used to provide vital social protection and services to people, and to pay for infrastructure that economies and societies depend on,” said Sharan Burrow.

A new global trade union petition supporting the NPT was launched by Ms Tomoko Yoshino, Vice-President of JTUC-RENGO Japan, to say no to nuclear weapons and reduce military spending, to fund vital social and economic investments.