Trade Union Assembly in Rio calls for urgent change of model

The II Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment, bringing together over 200 trade union delegates from across the globe, began on Monday 11 June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event is being held within the framework of Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

The opening panel made up of trade union leaders from the four continents presented the global vision of the international trade union movement. All were agreed on one vital point: the urgent need for a change of model geared towards development that is focused on respect for human and labour rights and, of course, the environment.

For Víctor Báez Mosqueira, general secretary of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), introducing taxes on the richest members of society as well as on financial transactions is the first step required on the road to change. "Collective bargaining is also a key income transfer mechanism, ensuring that human work succeeds in taking people out of poverty."

Kwasi Adu Amankwa, general secretary of the African regional organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), drew attention to the fact that half of Africa’s population lives in poverty. The leader underlined the importance of placing governance high on the sustainable development agenda, in the context of a continent plagued by corruption and military conflict.

Social inequality was identified as the main problem to be tackled on the Asian continent. The head of research for ITUC-Asia, Ching Chao, presented the analysis, underlining the paradox that the economic growth in the region was leading to increased poverty and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

The general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Bernadette Ségol, finalised the discussion, pointing to the grave repercussions of the austerity policies, which are creating a "disastrous situation of ever-more precarious work" on the European continent. The trade union leader stressed the need for solidarity between countries to fight these policies, together with more ambitious commitments from the heads of state and government attending Rio+20.

The II Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment, organised by ITUC-TUCA and Sustainlabour, will draw to a close on 13 June with the publication of a final resolution jointly drafted by all the trade unionists attending the event.