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International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

COP28: Progress for a just transition but big gaps remain

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, December 14, 2023

The ITUC welcomes the inclusion of references to labour rights and social protection in the Just Transition Work Programme adopted at the COP28 climate talks and recognition of the continuing work undertaken by trade unions around the world to tackle climate change.

Nevertheless, the absence of any reference to workers and their unions in the key COP28 “Global Stocktake”, which tracks progress in countries around the world, is a significant omission and indicates the scale of the work required to ensure its inclusion in the coming years.

Worrying gaps remain in the global ambition to keep the world temperature rise under 1.5C, and the lack of an overall commitment to fully engage with trade unions in transitioning away from fossil fuels and in other vital areas of climate action will hinder progress, as it risks leaving workers and their communities behind.

While the formation of the Loss and Damage Fund is a positive step, efforts must be made to ensure it is financed adequately to support less wealthy countries to invest in mitigation projects that will reduce the impacts of global warming and undo the damage already being done to lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and the biosphere.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “We are resolute in our commitment to continue and increase our action for a just transition to a sustainable future for humanity and the ecosystem.

“Some progress has been made at this COP, however, much more needs to be done. The fact that certain countries continue to block any reference to unions in the Global Stocktake and elsewhere reflects poorly on those countries and, more importantly, will hold back progress.

“Government climate negotiators have recognised that explicit reference to labour rights, decent work, quality jobs and social protection is necessary. However, sufficient financing must be delivered coherently and the ILO Just Transition Guidelines, agreed by tripartite discussions between union, government and employer representatives, need to be put into practice.”

COP28: Trade unions call for a labour-inclusive Just Transition

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, November 27, 2023

Beginning 30 November until 12 December, the COP28 will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The key ITUC priority for working people at the conference, available here, is the adoption of a Just Transition Work Programme that ensures labour issues are central to climate policy discussions by:

  • Upholding human and labour rights while fostering inclusive participation in climate policy formulation.
  • Enhancing mitigation ambitions to create quality jobs, backed by just transition measures.
  • Delivering on adaptation needs through robust social protection plans and funding mechanisms.
  • Providing the finance for the Loss and Damage facility and for investment in just transition.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle emphasised the urgency of the situation: “This year’s extreme weather events have caused widespread disruption, impacting workers globally. It is imperative that COP28 delivers on its promises. We need climate policies that put people and labour rights at the forefront to ensure a transition that is both equitable and effective.

“It is global economic failures that have amplified the disproportionate effects of climate change on working people, including extreme working conditions, threats to livelihoods and forced migration due to environmental disruption.

“That is why we demand a New Social Contract to create a fairer global economy, that focuses on the interests of working people to begin to tackle fundamental inequalities.”

International Workers’ Memorial Day 2023: Organise for safe and healthy workplaces

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), April 24, 2023

On International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April, trade unions are promoting the role that organising plays in making workplaces safer and healthier as we remember all working people who have lost their lives to workplace accidents and disease.

Workers’ unions are planning to use the new ILO fundamental right to a safe and healthy working environment to tackle the shocking death toll of three million workers who die each year because of their work, with tens of millions more suffering life-changing injuries and ill health.

Trade unions will use organising to ensure that the new fundamental right is put into practice and makes a positive difference to the daily lives of working people. The two ILO Conventions (155 and 187) provide backing for union organising, through the creation of workplace safety committees with worker representation, and worker safety representatives in workplaces.

This organising can improve the working environment through the right to refuse dangerous work and consultation rights over risk assessments, occupational health services and the provision of personal protective equipment. Convention 187 also requires the creation of national tripartite health and safety bodies with representation for government, workers and employers.

Combatting toxic workplaces

Around the world, unions will use 28 April to fight risks like asbestos and toxic chemicals, and hazards like long hours and stress in the workplace, as well as demanding an increase in the number of countries ratifying and implementing all ILO health and safety Conventions.

ITUC Deputy General Secretary Owen Tudor said: “Every working person has the right to expect to return home at the end their day’s work. No one should die just to make a living.”

Trade unions make work safer, and they have already saved lives in these areas:

Silicosis

Companies are continuing to expose millions of workers to excessive levels of silica dust, which can cause deadly cancers and lung diseases. Australian unions won new restrictions on products containing silica and cut in half the exposure limit to silica for workers, which could see cases of deadly silicosis drop to one-sixth of the current level.

Seafarers

In 2022, a Dutch court handed an important victory to the ITF, FNV Havens and Nautilus NL who had brought a legal case against Marlow Cyprus, Marlow Netherlands and Expert Shipping. The court ruled that ship managers, ship owners and charterers must honour the non-seafarer’s work clause that only professional dockers do demanding, skilful lashing work when they are available, rather than seafarers. The decision means greater safety for seafarers and secures jobs for dockers.

Nursing homes

In 2020/21, 75,000 nursing home residents in the USA died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus with more than one million nursing home workers testing positive. Unionised nursing homes reported Covid-19 mortality rates of residents 10.8% lower and an infection rate of workers 6.8% lower.

Labour 20 statement to G20 leaders: Global, state-led just transition now

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), April 21, 2023

Climate scientists have issued a dire warning about an impending global catastrophe – there is an urgent action from G20 governments.

Rather than continuing to allow corporate interests to dominate decision-making, the L20 statement calls for a globally coordinated, state-led, rapid just transition to combat climate change.

Chronic underinvestment in the real economy and corporate price gauging have created a cost-of-living crisis, with workers bearing a disproportionate share of the burden. Historic levels of inequality and social injustice have eroded trust in democracy and hindered global growth.

The international labour movement urges G20 leaders to prioritise the protection and promotion of labour rights. Fair and living wages, collective bargaining, social protection and decent work are essential for a new social contract for recovery and resilience.

Leaders need to act for the rights of informal workers, asylum-seekers and migrant workers, women, young workers and take urgent action to eliminate forced and child labour.

India’s presidency of the G20 should be marked with achievements of global goals and coherence across various agendas. The L20 calls for the restructuring of the International Financial Institutions and the repurposing the international financial architecture to serve a just transition to carbon neutrality, sustainable development and investment in the care economy and public services.

Kazakhstan: stop corrupt practices in oil and gas region, respect workers and their unions

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), April 17, 2023

The ITUC demands that the government of Kazakhstan immediately implements ILO recommendations, restores the status of the Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Industry Workers as the recognised sectoral union and carries out reforms to tackle discrimination in the sector.

It comes after over a hundred oil workers were arrested on 11 April for demonstrating in the capital, Astana, to highlight their unjust, exploitative and indecent treatment.

They were protesting after around 250 oil workers had been fired in the town of Zhanaozen by the company Ali Ber after it lost a contract with Kazmunaigaz, the state oil and gas company. In 2011, 17 people were killed and a hundred more injured there when security forces brutally ended a peaceful protest of several months over wages and working conditions that involved thousands of people.

Meaningful social dialogue

ITUC President Akiko Gono said: “This is typical of the corrupt way in which oil and gas is run in Kazakhstan, all at the expense of working people. Kazmunaigaz moves contracts between different operating companies to run down working conditions. These companies fire their workers when they lose contracts and the new, winning company re-employs some, but not all, and usually on worse conditions.

“This has to stop. Solutions are readily available to manage things in a much fairer way and give workers a voice. This will improve conditions in the sector and increase productivity. Social dialogue and collective bargaining are the best means to achieve transparency, stability and sustainability, but this cannot be genuine when freedom of association is restricted in law and practice.

“We demand the full implementation of the ILO recommendation on Kazakhstan, including on freedom of association, and the registration of the Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Industry Workers. This will lead to meaningful social dialogue and bargaining, which is a building block for tackling the corruption in the sector and ensuring decent work.

“Also, all charges against the workers who protested this week must be dropped. With the reforms we are demanding, they will have a channel to express their concerns and the next crisis can be averted.”

In meetings with the ILO Committee on Application of Standards, with several ILO officials and with an ITUC mission to the country, the government of Kazakhstan has promised to implement ILO recommendations. However, it has only made modest moves to improve collective dispute resolution processes and simplify industrial action by amending labour legislation. It must go further and promote genuine collective bargaining. It has yet to ensure full freedom of association in law, by amending trade union legislation, and in practice, by facilitating and not obstructing registration of unions. This should include ITUC affiliate the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan and the Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Industry Workers.

L20 statement to the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting, 2023

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, March 2023

In 2022, labour market conditions worsened significantly, chiefly due to tightening monetary policies. While households in all countries struggle with the rising cost of living, low wages and economic growth prospects, many developing countries are close to having exhausted their fiscal space. Austerity and budget consolidation at this stage would further reduce demand and employment levels, as well as impact social cohesion and resilience to future crises.

In this challenging setting, hundreds of millions of people are unemployed or remain outside the labour market. An estimated 214 million people are in jobs of such a low quality that their wages are insufficient to lift them out of extreme poverty.

As leading institutions warn of recession or severe economic slowdown, the G20 Labour Ministers need to act now to cushion against job losses, and to tackle all forms of forced labour, precarious work and poverty, inequality, and the price gauging that corrodes any nominal wage growth. Working people need higher wages which can be delivered through respecting and promoting trade union freedoms and collective bargaining and raising the level of minimum living wages. Labour Ministers must send a clear message to G20 Leaders on the realities and needs in the world of work. We urge Ministers to advocate for a fiscal and monetary policy that delivers a just transition and addresses the enormous investment gaps in public services, social protection, infrastructure, and development. We emphasise that strong social protection systems build climate resilience for workers and communities. We call for action to support gender equality, equal pay, and to put an end to violence and discrimination in the workplace.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Just Transition: A trade union proposal to address the climate and social crisis

By staff - Central Única dos Trabalhadores, March 2021

The defense of a trade unionism that fights for a fairer model of society for workers has always been a principle that guided the debates and actions of CUT Brasil. Over the years, the unionism of CUT-Brasil has understood that the defense of the environment and of a model of sustainable development is in the interest of the working class and this topic has become an issue of growing importance. The 13th CONCUT (National Congress of the CUT-Brasil) approved in its resolutions the defense of a just transition, advancing even further in the debate and struggle for a model of society that avoids the climate and environmental crisis and guarantees jobs and rights for the working class.

The booklet “Just Transition: a trade union proposal to address the climate and social crisis” comes at a time when the working class is facing a challenge of containing the unbridled advance of the destruction of the environment and the climate crisis, while defending democracy and its rights against attacks by capital and the extreme right. As the result of a partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the booklet aims to identify the main specificities of the just transition agenda for CUT-Brasil and the Brazilian working class, in addition to spreading the debate among trade unions, leaders, workers and to strengthen the fight against the production model that exploits the poorest and destroys the environment and our future.

The model imposed by capital causes unemployment, poverty and hunger, at the same time that it destroys entire biomes and threatens to cause permanent damage to the planet, increasing the risks for the working class. For the richest, it is possible to pay for housing, health care and other diverse protections against the problems caused by the climate crisis, such as desertification, floods and pollution. For the working class, avoiding the climate crisis is a necessity for survival.

Although the topic of climate change has many technical terms, in this booklet we seek to use a familiar and accessible language for the entire Brazilian working class.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

ITUC report shows big economic returns for modest investment in infrastructure, the care economy and the green economy

By Özlem Onaran and Cem Oyvat - International Trade Union Confederation, February 6, 2023

The study simulated the impact that public spending increases in the care economy, the green economy, and infrastructure could have across eight countries.

The report shows that a repeated annual increase in public spending by 1% of GDP within these three sectors would yield major economic returns that exceed the initial level of investments made. The findings reveal that:

  • Investing an extra 1% of GDP in the care economy over five years would yield an average GDP increase of more than 11%, as well as a 6.3% increase in total employment levels.
  • An extra 1% of GDP investment in the green economy over five years would yield an average GDP increase of 10%, as well as a 7.5% increase in total employment levels.
  • An extra 1% of GDP on infrastructure investment over five years would increase both employment and GDP levels by 12% on average.

Owen Tudor, ITUC Deputy General Secretary, stressed: “The lingering employment effects of Covid-19, as well as a rapidly changing world of work, have underscored the urgency of addressing employment deficits and inequalities. Governments must step up their investments to support the creation of quality jobs – especially in strategic sectors that are good for both people and the planet including care, infrastructure and the green economy.”

At the global level, trade unions are calling for the creation of 575 million jobs and the formalisation of at least one billion informal jobs by 2030, to enable delivery of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda commitment for full employment and decent work under Sustainable Development Goal 8.

Read the report (Link).

Mineworkers union leader: ‘Please stand with Ukraine and help us win this war’

By Chloe DS and Nataliya Levytska - Green Left, November 23, 2022

Nataliya Levytska is deputy chairperson of the Independent Mineworkers Union of Ukraine. She is in Australia as a Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) delegate to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress, where she is seeking support for Ukrainian unionists resisting Russia’s war of aggression.

During her visit, Geelong Trades Hall Council president Tim Gooden presented Levytska with three emergency radios on behalf of the council as its contribution to the struggle of Ukrainian unions facing permanent bombardment of communications and electricity infrastructure by invading Russian forces.

Levytska also spoke to Green Left’s Chloe DS about the situation of Ukrainian trade unions.

What can you tell us about the trade union movement in Ukraine?

I represent the KVPU, which is the second-largest union confederation in Ukraine. KVPU was established at the time of Ukraine’s independence, but its first affiliates were established during the miners' strikes that occurred during the times of the USSR [in the late 1980s].

The Ukrainian trade union movement united about 6 million workers. But now, due to the war, this number has decreased because Russia has destroyed enterprises and infrastructure, resulting in the loss of workplaces.

Russia has also destroyed residential buildings and hospitals, and imposed a reign of terror in the occupied territories, forcing people to flee and become refugees.

Prior to the invasion, Ukrainian trade unions fought for wage increases and better working conditions, and demanded the implementation of international labour standards. We confronted several attempts to undermine workers’ and union rights. Thanks to campaigns, protest actions and negotiations with the government, we stopped those attacks.

The KVPU and its affiliated organisations use different tools to defend workers' rights, including protests, work-to-rule actions, collective bargaining and submitting lawsuits. Even now, during the war, we have won cases in courts. For example, two weeks ago the Supreme Court of Ukraine ruled in favour of a Wizz Air union member in their illegal dismissal case.

However, due to the war, we are limited in our options. For example, we can campaign but we cannot hold protest actions.

COP27 establishes work program on just transition with social dialogue and social protection at its heart

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, November 21, 2022

Governments from the global south finally achieved a long fought for agreement to establish a fund to compensate “loss and damage” from climate change related events in developing countries.. The challenge is now to provide the necessary finance for the fund and to make it operational by COP28.

The trade union movement welcomes the establishment of a work program on just transition. The “Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan” asserts that Just Transition is founded on Social Dialogue.

Sharan Burrow, outgoing ITUC General Secretary, said: “Workers must have a place at the table for a transition that stabilises the planet, economies and our societies. Transition plans need to include both climate and employment plans. That requires unions to be involved and own the process, otherwise we risk stoking the fear of those who feel left behind and left out of decision making.”

Inclusion of social protection a major step forward

Eric Manzi, ITUC-Africa Deputy General Secretary, said: “To build resilience for workers, families and communities, comprehensive and universal social protection systems are needed. We need to see the funds to ensure those systems can deliver unemployment benefits and fundamental health services.

“In Africa, funds are desperately needed for transition skills training and ensuring informal jobs become formalised decent jobs with social protection. This is the way to deliver for workers in poor and rich countries alike.”

Unions regret the absence of commitments by countries to respect labour rights and human rights. The right to free trade unions, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety are essential to ensure a Just Transition.

The reluctance of countries to specifically guarantee the respect of human rights is a major concern for the labour movement. Ambitious climate policies can only be successful if there is trust that rights are respected for everyone.

On climate mitigation the result is very disappointing. Countries are backtracking on their commitment at COP26 in Scotland to phase down coal. The door is opened for “low-emission” energy instead of focussing fully on renewable energy.

Sharan Burrow said: “On market mechanisms we see the continuing undermining of the objectives of the Paris Agreement by proposals that allow double counting and unsustainable removal technologies. Stepping up mitigation ambition must be a major priority for COP28. The challenge will be how the incoming UAE COP28 Presidency will deal with that.”

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