There's a web site! Global Labour Summit


A New Global Agenda Visions

and Strategies for the 21st Century


SiD's Global Labour Summit

Copenhagen, 31.May - 1. June 1997


Preface by Poul Erik Skov Christensen

President of the SiD - the General Workers' Union in Denmark


Part One : Background

1. A global revolution on the verge of the 21st century

2. The crucial role of Transnational Companies

3. Deterioration of workers' rights

4. More poverty and a further polarisation between rich and poor

5. Feminisation of poverty

6. The neoliberal wave

7. The labour movement on the defensive

8. A new global agenda


Part Two : Proposals for a new global strategy

1. Build strong, independent, democratic and representative unions

2. Build unity nationally and internationally - a mass international social movement

3. Strategic alliances

4. Political alliances

5. Alliances with NGOs

6. The informal sector

7. The struggle for human rights

8. Workers' rights

9. Reform, restructuring and strengthening of the IlO

10. A global campaign for the inclusion of workers' rights in the WTO

11. Tripartism

12. Women's rights

13. Children's rights and a global campaign against child labour

14. How to cope with the Transnational Companies


5.1. A common strategy

1. Export Processing Zones

2. The political consumer / the political enterprise

3. Trade and development

4. Trade

5. Development policies

6. The environment and occupational health and safety

7. UN policies

8. The debt crisis and Structural Adjustment Programmes

9. Information and media strategy

10. Seeking a viable alternative to neoliberalism with focus on social development and equity



by Poul Erik Skov Christensen

President of SiD, the General Workers' Union in Denmark

The present document "A new global agenda" is the result of SiD, the General Workers' Union in Denmark's Global Labour Summit which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 31st of May and 1st of June, 1997.

The purpose of the document is to focus on central issues in connection with globalization, and it is first and foremost the objective as labour movement to give a global proposal for visions and strategies for the 21st century.

It is also the objective with "A new global agenda" to strengthen the role of the labour movement internationally and in the various countries with some proposals for the future where the task will be to put people, the environment, democracy and social development on the agenda. A task which the market forces cannot handle. On the contrary, it requires solidarity and common solutions in each country and worldwide between countries.

With the document it is our ambitious goal that we - together with the initiatives that the ICFTU - the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - and the International Trade Secretariats already have taken and take - can contribute to setting the agenda for the next century.

The Global Labour Summit was not a formal democratic forum in the international trade union / labour movement - nor a congress. Therefore, formally it is also only SiD as organiser that can be responsible for the content, but from the debate at the Summit it was obvious that there was a broad consensus on the document which has been prepared by an international preparatory group.

It is our hope that " A new global agenda" can be a useful tool for the labour movement in the various countries and jointly internationally in order to set the agenda for the 21st century.





1.1. A global revolution on the verge of the 21st century


A global revolution is taking place on the verge of the 21st century. A global revolution - comparable only to the industrialization process in the last century - yet more comprehensive and faster than anything we have experienced before.

The technological revolution that has taken place during the last 10 to 20 years has meant an unprecedented development in the field of transport, communication, and the media. The drastic liberalization of capital movements and of trade which began in the 80s was further enhanced with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. With the end of the Cold War the traditional blocks disappeared and the road was open for a further globalization of the market. A completely new economic and political system came into existence. New countries adhered to market economy and opened up their markets to international trade. The world has become one big market where competitiveness is the order of the day. In reality, trade policy has taken over the role that security policy had in the Cold War days. Regional economic blocs such as NAFTA, the European Union and ASEAN have become leading actors on the economic scene.


1.2. The crucial role of Transnational Companies

Completely new structures are emerging within companies, who must seek new alliances, joint ventures or subcontractors abroad in order to survive. But the most crucial development in the last decades has been the enormous expansion of Transnational Companies - TNCs, who have come to play a decisive economic and even political role. For the TNCs the world has become not only one global market - but one global labour market. With their huge investments - twice the size of the entire development assistance to developing countries and some of the hugest TNCs with yearly sales that can compare in size to the GDP of certain countries - they are looking for countries with the cheapest labour and places where fundamental labour rights are not respected, thus setting off a downward spiral of deteriorated labour standards.

The expansion of Export Processing Zones - the paradise for TNCs with cheap labour, appalling working conditions, no health and safety measures, and no respect for even the most basic ILO Conventions - is a clear example of the lack of respect of TNCs for basic workers' rights. But it also shows the cooperation between the governments in the host countries and the TNCs and these governments' willingness to sacrifice core labour standards for the sake of attracting foreign investors and creating the lowest standard jobs.


1.3. Deterioration of workers' rights


Globalization has, thus, to a large extent been shaped by, and in the interest of, international investors. These investors have found a new voice in the elites of the Third World. These voices argue against the observance of trade union rights, against the abolition of child labour, against the end to discrimination and against the end to forced labour.

Workers in most of these developing countries have been fighting for survival and to win basic rights. Their governments are often ruthless in their disregard for and repression of democratic, human and trade union rights. They use the argument that they need to defer rights and improvements in working conditions in order to catch up with "advanced nations".

But even in the so-called "advanced" countries with long trade union traditions we experience a deterioration of labour standards and measures being adopted to weaken or undermine the trade unions for the sake of the global competitiveness. Thus, the governments in these countries are trying to emulate the practices of the developing nations using competition from the developing nations as the excuse for dismantling the rights and working conditions which workers have been struggling so hard for over a century to achieve.

In this way governments of different countries are using each other as excuses for turning back the clock and to undo the hard-won rights and standards, turning the workers of one country against those of another.

The globalization process is altogether undermining the concept of the national state. National policies are becoming more and more dependent upon international trends and decisions taken at international levels without any democratic control. In reality governments are losing their power to decide their own national economic and social policies.


1.4. More poverty and a further polarisation between rich and poor


On the whole, globalization has certainly not meant less poverty or more equality in the world - neither within the countries, nor between North and South. On the contrary, we have experienced a worldwide economic crisis, enormous social problems, especially poverty, unemployment, underemployment and social exclusion. We have seen a further polarisation between rich and poor with the expansion of prosperity for some accompanied by an expansion of unspeakable poverty for others. Poverty, unemployment and social disintegration that too often result in isolation, marginalization and violence. In many countries the crime rates have thus reached alarming heights.

40% of the world's population exists in abject poverty on less than one dollar a day. More than 700 million people worldwide are not productively employed. Many are underemployed and millions of young people have little hope of ever finding productive work. At the same time we experience an increase in the totally unacceptable use of child labour which is one of the most terrible violations of the rights of the child to a decent childhood and to education.


1.5. Feminisation of poverty

The economic crisis has hit women especially hard. More women than men live in absolute poverty and the imbalance continues to grow. Furthermore, with the global economic crisis discrimation against women is growing and has in reality never been stronger. Millions of women have no access to education or training, health care, income or credit. And the cuts in education, health and other social services have further weakened their chances of a decent life. Women get the least skilled jobs and with the growing unemployment they are also the first to lose their jobs and the last ones to find a new one. We are in fact experiencing a feminisation of poverty.

Furthermore, we often see a total lack of understanding of women's role in society and the potential they constitute for the development of their countries. Disgracefully, we still often find this attitude in the trade union movement as well.


1.6. The neoliberal wave


The neoliberal wave that has swept the world since the end of the 70s with focus on uncontrolled market economy, competitiveness, jobless growth, deregulations, privatisations and cutting down on crucial social sectors has certainly only further contributed to the polarisation within and between countries. The neoliberal policies have also often been accompanied by the adoption of anti-trade union legislation, undermining of trade union rights and repression of trade union leaders and activists on the spurious grounds that they represent obstacles to economic development.

In the industrialized countries the neoliberal wave was a serious and dangerous attack on the welfare systems.

The neoliberal policies followed also by the international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank have had drastic social consequences in many developing and transitional countries who continue to be forced to follow the policies imposed upon them in order to get further loans to encounter the debt crisis that most of these countries experience. Thus, governments in these countries have lost their autonomy and have no way of deciding the development within their own boundaries. In some new democracies that have been through years of bloody civil war the policies of the IMF and the World Bank can become a real threat to the democratisation processes, when the broad population becomes more and more frustrated at the lack of development and social improvements.

But the neoliberal wave is spent. We have seen that the neoliberalistic policies just do not work. The population in an increasing number of countries is rejecting these policies and demanding a much more human and socially just development.


1.7. The labour movement on the defensive

The collapse of the political and economic systems in the Soviet Union and Eastern and Central Europe at the beginning of the 90s further weakened the opponents of the conservative policies. Many socialist and labour parties in developing countries were left bewildered and split. In industrialized countries Social Democratic / Socialist and labour parties tried to distance themselves from the socialist ideology and sought the support of the growing middle class often adhering more and more to the economic policies of the neoliberal movement.

Conservative and liberal parties did not hesitate to proclaim that no alternative was now left to political and economic conservatism. And a weak and often split Socialist International - the SI - has not been able to gather the forces and to create one big social movement to stand up against neoliberalism and to face the new globalization process. The SI has been on the defensive, seeking but not finding viable common alternative strategies.

Trade unions have also been on the defensive looking for new visions to defend their rights in the new globalisation process. We must also admit that disgracefully there is a general tendency towards trade unions being weak, split, divided politically and often fighting each other rather than standing together in their struggle for a common goal. Repressive measures and a growing lack of understanding of the role of trade unions have further weakened the trade union movement. In many countries trade union membership has fallen to alarming low levels.

Originally, the labour movement was international, but it seems that this century there has been a tendency towards trade unions and labour parties being more concerned with their national issues and seeking national and not international solutions at the very time that power is shifting away from national structures to the international level where transnational corporations and international financial institutions operate.

But time has come to change the development. As trade unions we must use the positive new tendency of rejecting the neoliberalistic policies and the optimism to make our voices heard for a new global social development, for democracy and human rights and for the improvement of workers' rights everywhere in the world.


1.8. A new global agenda

We must never forget that globalization is a social process driven by human beings and human interests - and not some natural phenomena imposed upon us. Therefore, we are also in a position to shape this globalization process, to control and change it to a much more human, socially balanced and sustainable development. A development that is not controlled by the market forces, but controlled by human beings where focus is on people and the environment.

Economic activities are a fundamental basis for social progress. But social progress cannot be realized simply through the free interaction of market forces. Public policies are necessary to correct market failures, to complement market mechanisms, to maintain social stability and to create a national and international economic environment that promotes sustainable growth on a global scale. And such growth must promote equity and social justice, tolerance, responsibility and involvement.

Time has come for a turning point. Time has come for the trade unions to use the positive sides of globalization to the advantage of workers and poor people all over the world. Time has come to change our own defensive attitude and to bring ourselves in the offensive nationally and internationally.

And time has come to make governments live up to their commitments.

"Social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among our nations. In turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms." (From the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development.)

And let's also quote from one of the many commitments:

Put the creation of employment, the reduction of unemployment and the promotion of appropriately and adequately remunerated employment at the centre of strategies and policies of Governments, with full respect for workers' rights and with the participation of employers, workers and their respective organizations, giving special attention to the problems of structural, long-term unemployment and underemployment of youth, women, people with disabilities, and all other disadvantaged groups and individuals;

Develop policies to ensure that workers and employers have the education, information and training needed to adapt to changing economic conditions, technologies and labour markets;

Pursue the goal of ensuring quality jobs, and safeguard the basic rights and interests of workers and to this end, freely promote respect for relevant International Labour Organization conventions, including those on the prohibition of forced and child labour, the freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the principle of non-discrimination. (From the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, Commitment 3.)

Those were some of the key declarations and commitments made at the UN Social Summit in Copenhagen in March 1995 when governments from all over the world for the first time focused on social development. But the question is how much has been accomplished since then? Have we seen crucial differences in policies?

Governments must be made to live up to their commitments. We must make governments and employers realize that the biggest threat to peace today is poverty, the millions of people without a job and social conflicts. They must come to realize the need for a much more equitable development on a national as well as a global level.

As the biggest mass democratic movement in the world trade unions must stop being on the defensive and look for positive new visions and strategies to change the scene. It is our duty indeed not only to look at improving workers' conditions in our sectors and individual countries, but to get real influence on the overall national and global development.

We must be able to use the positive perspectives of globalization and use them to the advantage of workers all over the world. With the globalization process there will also be an increased demand from the world population for more social justice, for more equality, for social welfare and for respect for democracy and basic human and trade union rights.

Threats to human well-being such as environmental risks have also been globalized. Only global solutions and concerted action at national and international level will be able to help improve our crucial environment.

There is an alternative to the neoliberal wave, and there is an alternative to the uncontrolled market forces and a possibility of achieving social equity and equal rights and opportunities for everybody in societies based upon justice, democracy and the respect for human rights. After all it is a question of men's and women's opportunities in life. We must still believe and prove that democratic socialism is the viable alternative.

We must use the technological advances for much more effective interaction between trade union organisations all over the world in order to be able to ensure cooperation and solidarity and to use each other's experiences. We must take concerted action towards the international media to denounce violations of workers' rights and to make our voices heard around effective global campaigns for our rights as workers and human beings.

We must look for better cooperation with and influence in political parties, while at the same time securing our independence as trade unions.

Cooperation and strategic alliances on specific issues should be sought with NGOs, consumer groups, environmental groups, women's and youths' organisations.

We must make effective campaigns for the inclusion of workers' rights in the World Trade Organisation, for more effective measures to ensure the respect for core ILO conventions, for the right to organise and to have collective agreements in Export Processing Zones, for an end to discrimination and for the respect of women's rights as well as campaigns against global child labour.

We must use our global strength to force TNCs to have much more ethical and moral standards, to respect workers' rights, to have codes of conduct and to accept the establishment of international works councils. TNCs are indeed vulnerable to consumer pressures, they can be influenced. We must use this new political awareness in consumer groups to force enterprises to accept and respect labour standards and to improve working conditions globally.

We must establish new global networks for the trade unions and for trade union shop stewards. We must emphasize the need for much more information, interaction and exchange of experiences between our trade union organisations and shop stewards around the world concerning collective agreements.

We must set strategies to influence national and international policies towards people-centered and social development and job-creating growth. Effective tripartite cooperation at national and international levels must be a specific goal.

But, first and foremost, we must organise and unite - nationally and internationally - in order to become one huge global labour movement that can be in a position to alter the globalization process towards a global welfare system that respects democracy and basic human and trade union rights.

Thus, we propose to focus on the following eight points for concrete steps for strategies towards the 21st century.




1. Build strong, independent, democratic and representative unions

It is time again to give first priority to organising nationally and internationally. We must build strong, independent, democratic and representative unions. In far too many countries unions are only representing a very small percentage of the potential members. Even in industrialized countries with long trade union traditions we see the percentage of organised workers dropping to alarming low levels. In many countries employer-instigated unions or employer initiatives with focus on individualism with personal advantages to workers and on loyalty and responsibility towards the enterprise are appearing with the purpose of smashing the genuine unions and of undermining our basic principles of solidarity, equality and cooperation.

We must make workers understand the need to be organized and the role of the trade unions. We must make them accept to pay membership fees in order to secure well-functioning unions who must strive to become self-sufficient financially.

But in order to make workers feel a close relationship to the union, they must be able to feel that the union belongs to them and that they are able to participate actively and influence trade union policies. This calls for genuine democratic, transparent and accountable organisations with responsible leaders.

Special focus must be put on continued information and education activities at all levels of our organisations in order to secure well-trained national, regional and local leaders and shop stewards who are able to respond to the needs of the members and to involve them actively in the policies and activities of the unions.

Special efforts should be made to set strategies to organise the expanding informal sector in developing countries.

It is important to build strong independent unions that are not led by a political party or the government. This does not, however, mean that there cannot be a close relationship to one or more political parties. On the contrary, trade unions are per se also political organisations and they certainly also have a role to play in shaping the societies in which they function as the biggest mass organisations. Therefore, a relationship of some kind to one or more political parties with the same basic ideology is crucial in order to get influence on the political scene, on overall economic, social and labour market policies, in the Parliament and in the government. But it must never impede our possibilities of critizicing even our own allies if they fail to implement policies that are socially balanced and to the benefit of workers.

In our efforts to strengthen trade union organisation nationally and internationally we must be able to use the new communication technology to establish an efficient global labour information network through which we are able to cooperate, to exchange information for example on organising efforts, collective agreements, codes of conduct and tripartite cooperation, to improve work in the works' councils, to denounce violations of workers' rights, to exchange education programmes and to spread mass information throughout the world on the need and role of trade unions.

This global labour information network should not be a centralised, expensive system, but a network that is coordinated globally, but run and financed in a decentralised way.


2. Build unity nationally and internationally - a mass international social movement

In many countries - industrialized as well as developing - trade unions are still split due to political ideology, religious or ethnic reasons. This weakens the trade union organisations and only serves the purpose of the employers. In this way trade unions use their energy to combat each other instead of serving their common purpose. The only way that unions can become a real mass organisation representative of the members is if they unite in the common struggle for the interest of the workers. And the only way that we can secure that governments take account of trade unions and that they can play a real effective role in the development of their societies is if the trade union movement is strong and united. A first step could be common actions to pave the road for unity.

Also at international level we still see a division between the various international trade union organisations - despite the developments on the international scene the last ten years and the end of the Cold War - and far too many crucial non-aligned trade unions that do not want to adhere to any of the existing international organisations due to political, personal or historical reasons. These divisions must be overcome. For the first time ever we have a historic opportunity to overcome our differences and make one big united movement. It is crucial that we take this chance and unite as workers for common actions and campaigns for workers' rights and against the neoliberal policies of governments and international institutions that threaten our basic principles.

The International Trade Secretariats have a vital role to play in their various sectors in order to unite workers across the world and to work for respect for trade union rights and better working conditions within their branches. However, considering their global role to represent workers across the world their human and economic resources should be strengthened. Further mergers within the ITS' should be considered in order to have stronger and more effective organisations.

It should be recognized that the ICFTU - the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - and the ITS' have been the first to put globalization and its implications for workers' rights on the agenda. However, we must all strengthen our efforts to bring this debate out of the closed circles of decision-makers in these organisations and to secure that the issue is taken up and discussed at every level of our national organisations.

We must continue to be critical of our international organisations, and find new ways to meet challenges. We must secure that organisations from developing countries have their part of influence on the structures and policies. It must be secured that women and young people have much better representation in the international trade union organisations. We must work to have effective, democratic and representative international trade union organisations that can really be the voice of millions and millions of workers across the world. This is the only way we can build an effective and strong international mass social movement that is able to influence national and international policies and that can make our voices heard and understood.

But the question is really whether our national unions, the labour parties, sister organisations within the labour movement such as educational and humanitarian organisations as well as our international organisations are really geared at present to face the new challenges or whether there is a pressing need for restructuring of the whole labour movement.


3. Strategic alliances

3.1. Political alliances

As mentioned trade unions are of course also political organisations concerned with the overall political, economic and social development in their respective countries as well as the global political and economic situation.

It is, therefore, vital that trade unions are able to establish alliances with political parties, while at the same time maintaining their independence as autonomous organisations.

We must also secure influence in these political parties. We have in many countries seen a growing lack of confidence in politicians and lack of interest in political parties. The organisation percentages are falling to alarming low standards, while at the same time environmental organisations and other NGOs are able to attract far more support in public opinion. It is a general tendency towards democratic demobilisation which poses a dangerous threat to the basis of democracy.

It is crucial that workers organise in political parties and that trade unions are able to influence the political process.

We also experience how individualism is growing at the expense of our basic principles of solidarity and fraternity. Often it is the media with their focus on personalities and on specific cases that are able to set the political agenda and not the political parties. This further enhances the tendency towards the focus on political personalities rather than on political ideology. Today it seems to be more important to have a charismatic political leader, than to focus on ideology or a political programme.

Furthermore, we see a growing tendency towards even labour parties being run predominantly by academics and technocrats who often have no contact with workers and no knowledge or understanding of the problems at the workplace. We must therefore secure that we not only cooperate with the labour parties, but that we are able to influence them from the inside by being active in the parties, putting candidates for election at all levels of local, regional and national politics. This is the only way that we can secure workers' interests in the political parties.

Alliances with political parties should also be strengthened at regional and international levels in order to promote our chances of handling the tasks of the future.

3.2. Alliances with NGOs

NGOs are an important voice in civil society. As trade unions we must be more open to enter into strategic alliances not only with our political allies, but with NGOs such as women's and youth organisations, social welfare, development and human rights, and environment and consumer organisations, who share our general objectives. In many cases these organisations while focusing on a very few relevant issues are able to make better and more effective campaigns, better to attract international media attention and to lobby for their goals than trade unions have been in the past. They can become important partners if we are able to secure a good cooperation and to put our objectives as workers on the agenda.

This could be in the common struggle for the respect of human rights, for workers' rights, women's rights, and for specific rights within sectors.

However, we must also be aware that most NGOs do not have the democratic structures that we have in trade unions, nor do they often have a membership to respond to. NGO interests can also fluctuate. Therefore we must never rely totally upon these tendencies, but use them as a means of cooperation and strengthening our own struggle.


3.3. The informal sector

As unemployment grows, so does an already vast informal sector where workers are rightless and unprotected. The unemployed, casual workers, agricultural workers and landless peasants, migrant and domestic workers are largely unorganised. National and international trade unions must develop strategies to reach out to these millions of workers and assist them in their efforts to become organised.

To achieve these objectives, trade unions will have to form alliances with the existing organisations in these sectors, grassroot organisations and NGO's.


4. The struggle for human rights

The fight for human rights has always been an integral part of the trade unions' and the labour movement's struggle. Democracy, freedom, justice and equality have been the basic values upon which our movement was founded - values that we have considered as fundamental principles in order to satisfy the basic economic, social and political needs of people.

Today - more than 50 years after the end of World War II when the world united in a common demand for peace, democracy and human rights after the incredible atrocities of the war and almost half a century after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - we still see how grossly human rights are violated across the world.

Military dictatorships, despotic and autocratic regimes are still in power in many parts. Poverty and unemployment deprive millions of people of their human dignity and their most basic rights. Hundreds of millions of people still lack minimally acceptable levels of education, health and nutrition and more than one billion people in the world live in abject poverty. And the majority of these are women.

Poverty, wars and conflicts throw millions of people into the search for safer and better places to live. At the same time many countries in the industrialized world - where intolerance, xenophobia and racism are reappearing to show their ugly faces - close their borders and strengthen their asylum policies to keep out the poor masses who could threaten their own societies.

Social and economic rights, workers' rights, women's rights and children's rights are today generally accepted as being part of the fundamental human rights - at least in theory. Today we have more than 20 UN Conventions on fundamental human rights including the two central UN Conventions on economic, social and cultural rights as well as civic and political rights, and many special conventions on discrimination based upon gender, race and religion as well as all the ILO Conventions on workers' rights.

Globalisation and neoliberalism further threaten to undermine human rights. As we have mentioned, it has certainly not meant more equality neither within or between nations. Furthermore, there is a general tendency towards the undermining of workers' rights in the name of "free market" ideologies and social Darwinism.

The positive aspect of globalisation is that due to the global media today it is much easier to spread news of human rights violations and to raise public awareness about these cases which again has pushed politicians to act more seriously regarding human rights violations. The respect of human rights has, thus, in a large number of countries become an important part of the political agenda.

As trade unions we must keep setting human rights at the top of our agenda and use all possible means to push our political allies to take up the issue. We must make our governments live up to their obligations and implement the commitments they have made at the many UN Summits and Conferences.

We must enhance our basic principles that democracy and transparent and accountable governance are indispensable foundations for the realization of social and people-centered sustainable development. We must keep stressing that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among our nations and that economic and social development as well as environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development. Social and economic development cannot be secured in a sustainable way without the full participation of women and equality and justice between men and women must be a priority for the international community.

We must push our political allies to focus on these issues and look at possible instruments that could be used in the common struggle for the respect of fundamental human rights including workers' rights.

The question of possible reactions towards countries that grossly violate basic human rights certainly involves the discussion of trade and human rights - a discussion that has been at the forefront the last years in many countries. Disgracefully, we must admit that where big economic interests are at stake, most governments are willing to forget about the human rights issue and prefer to use the much more pragmatic "critical dialogue" or "constructive engagement".

However, we know how little effect this has had on dictatorships like Burma or Iran. Just recently we saw that it was not even possible to raise consensus on a condemnation of the human rights situation in China. Economic interests and investments were far more important issues at stake for most countries.

The possibilities for reactions vary from classical diplomatic reactions to political reactions. The basis must be an assessment of the nature and extent of the violations of human rights and which reactions will have most effect. Crucial is also the opinion of the opposition in the country in question. Are they calling for international sanctions as the only possible means to stop the violations of a dictatorship or do they prefer a further dialogue and interaction with other countries?

We all know that international reactions for example sanctions adopted in the UN are the most effective. The lack of such international reactions or the impossibility to reach consensus on such steps should, however, not hinder individual countries in reacting. A reaction by one or a few countries can very well be that first step necessary to focus on the violations and, thus, pave the way for international reactions.

But of course we must also be aware of the risks implied of both an economic and a political nature.

The question also raises the debate of whether or not we can interfere in another country's internal affairs, but it does seem that there is a clear tendency at least in some countries towards the so-called "moral interventionism" winning over the non-interventionism concept. And, anyway, as far as the labour movement is concerned, there cannot be any "internal affairs" of states when human rights and democratic rights are involved, including, of course, workers' and trade union rights. These are universal rights not subject to the interpretation of governments.

As trade unions it is our moral obligation all the time to follow the human rights situation in the world closely - both nationally in our organisations and in our international organisations. We must use the media and our networks to denounce violations and to put focus on those countries where abuses take place. We must push our political allies and governments to take concrete steps.

Similarly the Social Democratic / Socialist and labour parties must focus on all human rights including social and economic rights and seek to coordinate their reactions within their international organisation, the Socialist International - the SI - which has 150 affiliated parties.

Proposals for instruments for human rights:

Unilateral reactions:

1. Diplomatic reactions - varying from informal enquiries, representations, calling back of the ambassador for consultations, downgrading of diplomatic relations to the closing down of an embassy and possibly the interruption of diplomatic relations. Postponement or cancellation of visits. 2. Political reactions - to raise the question of human rights violations in the relevant regional or international fora - the UN. Each of these fora have a long range of possible reactions from the adoption of resolutions to exclusion of the country in question. As well as economic, political and sports reactions.

Bilateral and multilateral reactions:

1. Economic sanctions - unilateral or international. From individual products to general sanctions. 2. Arms embargo. Interruption of possible military cooperation. Peace-making initiatives following international mandates. 3. Development assistance - reduction or possible interruption of development assistance. Set conditions for further assistance. Take up the issue of human rights including workers' rights (for example in Export Processing Zones) at negotiations with the government in question. Possible alteration of assistance - i.e. more focus on democratization or assistance through NGOs to mass organisations including trade unions, human rights groups. Influence the policy of the international organisations and institutions (see the paragraph "Trade and development"). 4. We must lobby to have the Collective Complaints Procedure of the European Human Rights Court signed and ratified by members of the Council of Europe. 5. Sanctions regarding sports and culture. 6. Mass information and hearings to influence consumers. 7. Legal assistance: for example assist at court cases against opposition leaders, trade unionists, human rights activists in order to secure fair trials and public awareness of these trials. 8. Strengthen the cooperation with and assistance to legitimate and democratic opposition groups and repressed trade unionists in countries where human rights are not respected.

Further long-term measures:

Specific rules and conditions for intervention against governments who are systematically violating human rights including workers' rights should be adopted in the UN and regional organisations.

Reform and restructuring of the UN system - less bureaucracy and more fficiency. Member countries must be obliged to pay their membership fees.

There should be a much better coordinated policy within the various UN organisations and international financial institutions where human rights including social, economic, workers', women's and children's rights are a basic, integrated part of that policy.

The ILO's possibilities of specific intervention and eventually sanctions against countries that violate the core ILO labour standards should be strengthened.

Workers' rights should be included in the World Trade Organization (see specific paragraph on the WTO and workers' rights). The global efforts to ensure the respect for the seven core ILO Conventions should be enhanced at every level - national, regional and international.

Regional and global sanctions should be adopted against the export of weapons and other military equipment, the sending out of military experts or military training to states that grossly violate basic human rights.


4.1. Workers' rights

In rich and poor countries alike there are fears of rising insecurity as technological change, expanding international interactions and the decline of traditional community structures seem to threaten jobs, wages, and support for the elderly. Nor have economic growth and rising integration solved the problem of world poverty and deprivation. Indeed, the numbers of the poor could rise still further as the world labour force grows from 2.5 billion today to a projected 3.7 billion in 30 years' time.

Furthermore, nearly one billion people around the world, approximately 30% of the entire global workforce, are unemployed or underemployed in industrialized and developing countries alike, according to a new ILO report.

The global economic crisis since 1973 together with the globalization process has meant increased insecurity for workers in the industrialized countries where relocation of enterprises to countries with cheaper labour and poor labour standards, deregulations and the flexibilization of the labour market are becoming growing threats to those rights that workers have battled for over 100 years to attain.

In developing countries weak, repressed and often divided trade unions are battling to secure workers minimum rights.

In the newly industrialized countries the economic boom has most often been accompanied by a total violation of workers' rights. Only state-controlled trade unions are allowed to function and the genuine trade unions that are trying to emerge are exposed to all kinds of repression. Typically, economic advancement has not been followed by the necessary social equity.

It is only through a common global campaign that we can make our voices heard for the respect of workers' rights everywhere in the world.


4.1.1. Reform, restructuring and strengthening of the ILO

As the only tripartite UN organisation the ILO has a most important role to play. The ILO sets the international standards for workers' rights.

The ILO's role and supervisory machinery must be strengthened, so as to bring it back to the original mandate to defend the rights of workers and to secure that the observance of each convention is systematically pursued in all countries and in all international organisations and institutions.

The ILO should be given binding instruments to secure the implementation of its constitutional conventions (Nos. 87 and 98 on the rights of organisation and collective agreements) and of conventions ratified by the countries. Today it is far too easy for a country to ratify ILO Conventions and not to live up to its obligations of implementing the content.

It must be secured that the various ILO committees work efficiently and are able to cope with the new international situation arising from the globalization of the market. Trade unions - both national and international - have a role to play to secure that these committees are made workable.

A method should be introduced to secure that trade unions participating in the ILO Labour Conference and the various Committees are really representative unions. Today we experience that some governments are able freely to appoint trade unions of their own choice which are not representative of the workers to participate, while the genuine unions are kept without any influence or possibility of participation.

The ITS' should enhance their cooperation with the ILO in order to secure a review of the specific ILO Conventions and the planning of a strategy within the fields of their individual sector.

After the WTO Ministers' Conference in Singapore in December 1996 it is most important to secure that the role of the ILO is strengthened in relation to the WTO.


4.1.2. A global campaign for the inclusion of workers' rights in the WTO

Although it was not possible to reach our goal of having workers' rights included in the WTO - the World Trade Organisation - or even to set up a working group to pursue this objective at the WTO meeting in Singapore in December 1996, we must strengthen our efforts to achieve this. In the coming years up to the next conference in 1998 we must make an effective information and lobbying campaign nationally and globally towards governments, employers, consumers and even some trade unions to make them understand the need for and to accept the inclusion of workers' rights in international trade agreements. Special focus should be put on governments and trade unions from Asia as well as NGOs in general that have been the most reluctant towards the whole concept. It is especially important that trade unions and governments from developing countries make it a top priority and use their cooperation with other developing countries in order to avoid that it is mainly unions and governments in industrialized countries who are calling for the inclusion of workers' rights.

The inclusion of workers' rights in trade agreements is necessary because it is an additional instrument which can force countries to enforce universally recognized and enforceable labour rights, especially in countries where workers' rights hardly exist, are wanting, or where they are simply not enforced. The inclusion of workers' rights or a social clause would link social responsibility to trade, thereby rejecting the unconscious and inhuman mercantilist doctrine of trade without any social responsibility.

The social clause would, thus, be an additional instrument for the protection of labour rights and an aid in the organisation and education of workers. It would, however, require a close cooperation between the WTO and the ILO in order to ensure the effective implementation of the workers' rights and some effective instruments - whether sanctions, embargos, exclusion or the use of positive actions including assistance for education, training and social programmes towards countries that do change their attitude towards workers' rights - in order to be able to react when workers' rights are violated.

It must be stressed that these workers' rights are based upon the seven core ILO Conventions:

ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98 on the rights of organisation and collective agreements

ILO Convention No. 29 on forced labour

ILO Convention No. 105 on the abolition of forced labour

ILO Convention No. 100 on equal pay for men and women

ILO Convention No. 111 against discrimination and

ILO Convention No. 138 on child labour.

The fight to include labour standards in the WTO rules centers around these seven conventions. They do not include wages or social provisions, and neither are they about attacking the low wage comparative advantages of some less developed economies. It should also be stated that these standards are not about protectionism, but are about making sure that competition is fair and not at the expense of workers' fundamental human rights.

We must, therefore, redouble our efforts to lobby governments to make sure that these core conventions are enshrined in the WTO and that they are backed by a procedure for multilateral sanctions at the WTO.

The campaign focusing on these seven conventions does not diminish the importance of other conventions such as ILO Convention No. 135 (workers' representation in the enterprise) which ensures the representation of workers by legitimate institutions and organisations.

Meanwhile it is also important to make full use of existing WTO mechanisms to exert maximum influence in support of the rights of workers.


4.1.3. Tripartism

In some countries the principle of tripartism - i.e. government, employer and trade union cooperation - is well-advanced and secures trade union organisations an effective platform to influence national policies. This is a well-known phenomenon in the Nordic countries.

There are other positive examples of effective tripartite cooperation. NEDLAC, the National Economic, Development and Labour Council in South Africa should be mentioned. In NEDLAC all macro-economic, developmental, and labour market policies must be debated in tripartite committees and in some areas even with the participation of civic organisations before being presented in Parliament. This enables trade unions to deal with the much more overall policies affecting the whole development of their societies and not just bread and butter issues or their specific sector-related topics. However difficult this cooperation sometime appears, it does give trade unions a voice in society and huge possibilities of getting influence.

In many countries tripartite fora have been established merely to fulfill conditions from the ILO. Governments and employers do not respect the trade unions' participation, and the fora end up being just some kind of cover up. Clear examples have been seen in various Central American countries.

We must make active efforts to force governments and employers to accept effective tripartite institutions. As representatives of a large section of the population trade unions must have a say on overall policies as well as on specific sector policies. This of course also requires that trade unions are able to live up to their obligations. It requires comprehensive training activities for trade union leaders in order to be prepared to face governments and employers on difficult issues.

It is also crucial that trade unions are not always on the defensive but are in a position to come up with viable alternative policies and programmes. This will require extensive research and analysis activities within the trade unions.

It is, however, vital that trade union organisations are able to involve their members actively in the overall policies they are engaged in. This will require continued information and education activities in order not to widen the gap between the membership and the trade union leadership. Local leadership and shop stewards must always be in a position to understand, to discuss and to defend their union's policy.

It should, nonetheless, also be stressed that there are certain dangers in connection with tripartite cooperation at overall level. It is important to secure trade unions' independence. Trade unions may at some point be at risk of being bound to and made responsible of certain political decisions which might be against their general objectives.

Tripartism at international level is in reality only recognized in the ILO - the International Labour Organisation. As the biggest democratic mass movement in the world, trade unions should be engaged much more in overall decision-making at international level. For example in the WTO - the World Trade Organisation - which so far is completely dominated by governments who are deciding the fate of millions and millions of workers around the world. It would only be reasonable if the WTO were a tripartite organisation with representatives of the social partners as well as governments. It is after all the organisation setting the framework for world trade - one of the most important economic and political issue in the world today.


4.2. Women's rights

Even after decades of focusing on women's rights and many international instruments calling for equal rights and opportunities for women, discrimination against women has never been stronger. Globalization has certainly not meant better conditions for women. On the contrary, women are the most affected by the changing labour markets, by the unemployment and the deregulations. They get the least skilled jobs, they are the first ones to lose their job and the last to get a new one, and equal work is by no means rewarded by equal pay with men.

Although more and more women are joining the labour market, they are also the ones who mainly work in the new bastions of globalization in the developing countries - namely the informal sector, the export processing zones and home working, where they are exposed to harsh working conditions, exploitation, sexual abuse and fierce anti-union repression.

Altogether the role of women in society is consistently underestimated. There is, thus, still an urgent need to change men's and society's attitude towards women.

The neoliberal policies and structural adjustment programmes carried out in many developing countries and economies in transition have hit women especially hard with their privatizations and cutting down on crucial sectors like education, health care and social programmes.

It is in a way ironical and really proves the lack of coordination of policies within the UN system and the emptiness of the many declarations and commitments at Summits and conferences, that while we in some fora and UN organisations keep focusing on gender issues and the need for education/training and health care facilities as one of the best means of improving girls' and women's situation across the world and thus to promote a socially balanced development, structural adjustment programmes with the exact opposite policy and objectives are carried out in so many countries - with the most negative consequences for women.

Women's rights are human rights - as it was established so clearly at the Beijing Women's Conference in 1995. Therefore, women and gender aspects should be an integrated part of all policies and planning activities at all levels. Trade unions have a most important role in securing the follow up to the Beijing Women's Conference and the adoption by governments and international organisations and institutions of plans of action to implement the many commitments. Focus should be put on:

Equal rights and opportunities for women

Equal access to education, training and health care

Secure women's reproductive health

Secure paid maternity leave

Provision of child care facilities

Equal pay for equal work

Access to income and credit

Promotion of women's participation in decision-making positions

Steps against sexual harassment and violence against women.

In the trade union movement we certainly also still have a long way to go - in industrialized as well as in developing countries and in the international organisations. Trade unions are still dominated by men and very often not enough focus is put on women workers' special situation and problems. Trade unions must realize the enormous potential there is in women workers and improve their efforts to promote equal rights and opportunities for women. Trade unions need to look at their structures and procedures to make sure that these rather than hinder the participation of women, enable them to play a full part.

Special focus should be put on training activities for women in the trade unions. Women's committees should be established. It is, however, crucial that these women's committees do not end up like parallel committees without any influence in the unions, but that they are taken seriously by the leadership and the organisation as such and that they are an integrated part of the organisations with direct relation to the decision-making bodies. Gender perspectives and women's special problems should, furthermore, be an integrated part of all trade union training activities in order to be able to change men's attitude towards women.

More women should be represented in the decision-making bodies of the unions. Quota systems could be used to promote this tendency and women must be encouraged to run for leadership positions at all levels through continued awareness-building, training and education activities.

Women's rights such as equal pay, maternity leave, child care facilities should be an integrated part of trade unions' demands in collective negotiations and focus must be put on women workers' special situation and working conditions in areas such as the export processing zones, home working and the informal sector.

Regional and global trade union activities for women should be promoted in order to establish networks across borders and continents to exchange experiences, to strengthen women's awareness and self-consciousness and to focus on many of the same problems that women are experiencing everywhere in the world.

We must make alliances with NGOs and women's organisations in order to secure the continued focus on women's rights and the follow up to the commitments at the Beijing Conference.

In our campaign for the inclusion of workers' rights in the WTO which would include the ILO Conventions against discrimination and on equal pay we must focus on the need for the recognition of women's rights and their crucial role in society. Workers' rights in the WTO could mean a giant step forward in our struggle against centuries of discrimination against women.


4.3. Children's rights and a global campaign against child labour

According to ILO estimates some 200 to 250 million children under the age of 15 are working in the world today. This is simply unacceptable. It is the result of employers' greed and pursuit of profit at all costs, as well as governments' acceptance and the complacency on the part of all of us.

Trade unions must make active efforts to denounce child labour and to make local, national, regional and global campaigns against the use of child labour. The aim is the elimination of child labour.

Children have a right to a decent childhood and to education as established in the basic UN Convention on the Rights of the Child from 1989 and in the ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Workers from 1973. A child's place is at school and not at the workplace. Children are the whole basis of our future societies and the education of our boys and girls alike is the most important condition for establishing a viable socially equitable and sustainable development.

Too many trade unions close their eyes to the problem and are reluctant to deal with the matter, because it is not their sector or it could affect their members or potential members, because children often make a significant contribution to relieving the extreme poverty of their families. But as trade unions we must accept as a basic principle that child labour cannot be tolerated and that we must use every means to have it abolished while focusing on the need for compulsory education for all children and on the creation of jobs for adults.

It is obvious that one of the best methods to combat child labour is to have strong representative trade unions. This again enhances the need to organise and to build a strong democratic and united trade union movement that is in a position to influence national and international policies and to make collective agreements with the employers.

Specifically we propose to focus on:

Investigations: It is crucial to investigate the exact extent of child labour and the conditions under which children are working.

Massive information about all sorts of child labour, awareness-raising and campaigns at every level for the enforcement of UN and ILO Conventions.

Extensive use of the media and international communication networks to denounce governments that allow child labour and employers who use children as workforce.

The creation of special units or committees within our trade unions at local, national, regional and international levels to deal with child labour, to establish contact with the children who are working, to promote educational and training programmes, to inform them of their rights and of the trade unions' role and to develop alternative strategies to avoid child labour and to promote job creation for adult workers.

To establish networks with NGOs in order to promote the struggle against child labour and to raise consumer interest and actions.

To lobby with political parties and governments for the ratification of the relevant UN and ILO Conventions and their implementation, i.e. active steps towards the elimination of child labour, compulsory education and job creation for adults, and to report every violation to the ILO Committee of Experts, the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery and to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In development assistance programmes to focus on the need for compulsory education and for special educational and training programmes for children who are working. The industrialized countries should take up the issue of child labour in their annual consultations with governments from developing countries.

The inclusion of workers' rights in the WTO which would mean an important step in the struggle against child labour.

Lobbying and campaigns towards enterprises and TNCs to have collective agreements and codes of conduct.

Trade unions should lobby in the preparation of the new ILO Convention on Child Labour to ensure that any new convention supports and complements Convention No. 138.


5. How to cope with the Transnational Companies

The expansion of the Transnational Companies and their global investments is one of the most fundamental characteristics of globalization. Today there are some 39,000 TNCs led by Shell, Nestlé and General Motors that cover one third of the world's production and that were behind the ever increasing direct foreign investments, which in 1995 rose to 135 billion dollars. Some 30% of these investments were placed in new production sites in developing countries, especially in South East Asia.

According to the World Bank TNCs control 70% of the world trade and more than one third of this trade takes place within these global production companies.

There is an increasing tendency towards the formation of big conglomerates with the on-going mergers and alliances between TNCs. This means a further concentration of power and bigger market shares for the big TNCs who are building genuine enterprise empires that are gaining enormous power to decide the economic conditions and the fates of millions of people - a power that is able to influence the policies of governments, international organisations and financial institutions - and a power that is totally outside of popular control.

Furthermore, nations and regions are entering into a harsh competition in order to attract the investments of TNCs, thus competing on a flexibilization of the labour market, deregulations, lowering of labour standards, minimizing of enterprise taxes, investment deductions etc. One of the most outstanding examples is the growing number of Export Processing Zones that will be further described below.

The growing number of subcontractors and franchises makes it more difficult to get a clear picture of the magnitude and extent of the TNCs.

But what can we as trade unions do to cope with this development? To cope with the TNCs in order to secure better working and living conditions and the respect for workers' rights for the millions of people employed in or affected by the TNCs?

The inclusion of workers' rights in the WTO and in regional trade agreements would of course also in respect of the TNCs be a giant step forward.

Social treaties based upon ILO Conventions and other international agreements on labour rights and standards should be introduced at regional levels, for example in the EU, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, SADC and APEC. The social partners must be actively involved in the preparation and monitoring of these agreements.

Rules about respect of fundamental labour rights and ILO Conventions must be added to agreements on trade, economic and other cooperation between regional common markets.

Cooperation with NGOs and consumer groups should be promoted in order to benefit from the growing social and political awareness among consumers (see below).

TNCs are open to pressure from consumers, investors and shareholders. Trade unions must learn to make full use of the leverage that this provides them with to alter some of the practices of TNCs.

However, we cannot rely solely on these measures for the improvement of workers' conditions in TNCs. It is first and foremost our own task as trade unions to set some strategies to be able to think and act globally just as the TNCs have now been doing for years.


5.1. A common strategy

One of the basic and most important tasks is again organising - it cannot be stressed enough. Only strong trade unions will be able to influence TNCs. But these organising efforts must also, somehow, be directed at covering workers in subcontractors, home workers, seasonal workers, casual workers, migrant workers etc. who have a connection to the TNCs as well as workers in the Export Processing Zones.

There is a need to establish some global collective bargaining procedures. At the same time we must improve our means of actions and secure a close cooperation and relation between local, national and global actions.

Collective agreements must be negotiated with TNCs wherever they are operating. Global coordination and cooperation between trade unions in this respect is crucial. Agreement should be made to seek a role for collective bargaining on some issues, beyond the boundaries of the nation-state. An important start can be made through unions coordinating their strategies within regional economic blocs, to ensure the levelling up of labour and social standards.

Efforts should be made to build global shop floor structures. This can be facilitated through the setting up and strengthening of international company councils for union representatives. These councils should seek agreement to guarantee similar trade union organising facilities and observance of basic labour rights at all workplaces owned by the companies, irrespective of where they are located.

The establishment of Global Works' Councils. Some TNCs have already accepted this principle for example in the food, metal and banking sectors. The EU directive on European Works Councils - the EWCs - must be used to strengthen workers' role and influence in relation to the 1,100 to 1,200 transnational companies that are involved in European operations. Since also American, Japanese and other international companies are covered by the EWC directive, workers and the trade union movement in Europe must strengthen global coordination through their European and international trade union secretariats, the European Trade Union Congress (the ETUC) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (the ICFTU) with the trade unions in those countries.

Anchored in Europe, the EWC work must be used as a platform for the worldwide establishment of Global Works Councils and agreements between these companies and the international trade union movement.

A campaign should be carried out for specific Codes of Conduct in key Transnational Companies.

Efforts must be made to strengthen the education and training activities for trade union leaders and shop stewards. It is crucial to have well-trained trade unionists if we want to be able to negotiate effectively with TNCs and to participate actively as representatives of the workers in the works councils.

As the labour market demands increasing numbers of skilled workers, more focus should be put on the need for vocational training and governments' and employers' responsibilities to secure these training opportunities.

Trade unions must emphasize the need for a safe and healthy working environment and we must make enterprises feel a moral obligation to secure this. Health and safety measures must be introduced, trade unions must have health and safety representatives at workplaces and funds must be made available for health and safety training activities.

In this respect we must keep pushing TNCs to have them accept their obligation to secure the same health and safety standards in developing countries as in industrialized countries.

It is also vital to secure that TNCs are not able to export for example chemicals and pesticides that are forbidden in their home countries to developing countries where these products most often are being used without even a minimum of safety measures for the workers.


5.2. Export Processing Zones

The Export Processing Zones - the EPZs - started appearing in the 60s in Ireland and in Mexico. They soon spread to other countries and have further increased in numbers with the globalization process. Today they can be found in a very large number of developing countries, in Central and Eastern Europe and also in some industrialized countries.

The purpose of establishing EPZs was to attract foreign investors in order to create jobs, to generate income for the country and to increase the national technological capacity. In reality EPZs have been adapted to meet the interest of capital. Their greatest drawback is the absence of workers' rights.

According to a recent ILO investigation of EPZs in Central America and the Dominican Republic the first objective of attracting foreign investors has been reached, although in this connection they stress that it is important to focus on the quality of the job, on working conditions and on the labour relations in the EPZs. We will come back to this later.

Regarding the second objective - the generation of income - the ILO report states that the income from EPZs has not made a substantial contribution to the countries' GDP taking into consideration that EPZs are not a part of the national economy and all the advantages that investors are getting both in the form of tax and customs exemptions and subsidies for export as well as the institutional and infrastructural facilities that the governments are providing for the zones.

The last objective - an increase in the national technological capacity - has not been obtained. EPZs remain as closed social and economical areas without any interaction with local companies or producers. Furthermore, enterprises in EPZs usually do not use advanced technology, which means that the workers there do not get any knowledge of new technology either, which could otherwise be used at a later stage in national companies.

The establishment of EPZs has been further promoted by the neoliberal structural adjustment programmes of the World Bank and the IMF with their focus on an export-oriented industrialization.

EPZs are enclosed and guarded areas where foreign investors establish their plants. These foreign investors are allowed to import their raw materials and to export their merchandises without customs. Often they are guaranteed against trade union organisation in the EPZs and get exemptions from existing labour codes.

It is especially companies from the USA, Korea, Taiwan and some from Europe that are investing in EPZs looking for the low salaries and the lack of workers' rights or health and safety measures. The most frequent industries are textile, clothing, shoe, leather, tobacco, electronics, radio, TV, soft drinks and spare parts for cars.

It is estimated that some 80% of the workers in EPZs are young women who often work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week under harsh conditions, severe control and without even a minimum of facilities in the workplace. Sexual harassment and even physical punishment are not unusual phenomena. There are cases of forced family planning in order to avoid pregnancies and even of forced sterilization.

In Honduras in Central America child labour is also being used in the EPZs, but it is very difficult to estimate the global extent of child labour in EPZs due to the lack of accurate data.

As mentioned it is typical of EPZs that no trade union activities are allowed. Most often trade union activists will be fired and attempts to strike have often been met with police and even military intervention. Nonetheless, we have seen examples in the Dominican Republic, in Honduras and in Nicaragua where trade unions have succeeded in organising workers, in having their union recognized by the government and finally obtaining a collective agreement with a company. So it is possible after all.

The big dilemma with EPZs is of course that - as mentioned in the ILO report - they do create jobs. And these jobs are badly needed in countries where the unemployment often affects 40 to 60% of the population. Furthermore, in many of these countries the jobs - however bad the quality of the work is - give young women a chance at becoming economically independent for the first time. For the workers it is not easy to start being engaged in trade union activities. They can very easily lose their job. And companies often threaten to move to other countries if workers start to organise.

However, it is quite unacceptable that workers across the world are working under such conditions and in this way also contribute to the undermining of labour rights and standards. But it is only through a comprehensive information, organising and lobbying campaign that we can force employers to accept basic workers' rights and to improve the working conditions in the EPZs. In this connection the following steps are proposed:

Organising activities in the EPZs, information about workers' rights and training activities (possibly underground activities using social activities as cover up).

Regional and global cooperation between trade unions trying to organise workers in the EPZs / coordination of activities in the relevant ITS'

Mass information campaign about working conditions and the lack of workers' rights in EPZs locally, nationally, regionally and globally. Special focus in industrialized countries where there is in fact very little knowledge of EPZs in order to influence the consumers, employers and politicians/governments to take concrete action

Governments in industrialized countries should take up the issue of EPZs and require respect of workers' rights in their annual consultations with the governments in developing countries

Contact to the TNCs involved in EPZs requiring the respect for workers' rights and codes of conduct.


5.3. The political consumer / the political enterprise

As mentioned before globalization does have some positive aspects. The modern information technology with global media networks and coverage, and the development of the Internet have implied that news from all corners of the world are brought to us. There is more transparency, monitoring and control of what is happening around the globe than ever before.

This is bringing about a new awareness and responsibility among consumers, especially in industrialized countries. Consumers are becoming much more interested in issues like human rights, ecology and social conditions. A new concept is appearing - the political consumer who will demand some ethical and moral standards from the enterprises from which they have to buy the products.

Consumers constitute an extremely powerful pressure group towards enterprises, and also towards politicians. We have seen how threats of boycotts of products have been able to influence the investment policies of TNCs.

And enterprises are beginning to react to this growing awareness in consumers. In the global market where competitiveness is the order of the day and where employers and TNCs are always looking for new market shares, the attitude of consumers is vital. Therefore TNCs are vulnerable and are starting to realize the need to develop new strategies and policies.

Moral and ethic standards and a so-called social responsibility is appearing on the agendas of TNCs and even in international fora such as the World Economic Forum. It is certainly not out of idealistic reasons, but simply a pragmatic attitude, the need to create a positive image to satisfy the political consumers. A new form of enterprise is in reality developing - the political enterprise. This could very well be trend-setting.

Thus, consumers could become important allies, if we are able to inform sufficiently of workers' conditions and of the need to respect workers' rights globally.

The use of social labelling such as Rugmark should be further explored. We should also support, wherever possible, the introduction of properly monitored codes of conduct.

But as stressed before, we cannot rely solely on the new trend in consumers. It fluctuates and often it is depending on the stories that the media chose to focus on. But it can complement our activities and we must be ready to use and influence it if it can strengthen our global struggle for human and trade union rights.


6. Trade and development

As mentioned globalization and the liberalization of trade has not meant more equality between rich and poor, between North and South. On the contrary, there has been a growing polarisation. During the last 30 years the share of the global income of the poorest 20% has fallen from 2.3% to 1.4%, while at the same time the share of the richest 20% has increased from 70% to 85%.

The increased polarisation is reflected in the growing differences in development between regions. The percentage of the population living in poverty is falling in East and South Asia, it seems to stabilize in Latin America and North Africa, while it is increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa. But measured in real figures the number of people living in poverty is increasing every year. If we do not succeed in making the necessary changes in the global development, the total number of poor people in the world will reach 1.5 billion by the year 2025.

While there has been a drastic fall in development assistance from industrialized countries, there is also a tendency towards investments taking over the role of development assistance. Private investments have tripled in five years and have grown to 90 billion US dollars. Thus, investments have become the greatest source today of external financing of the development in the South.

But investments have primarily gone to Asia, where they have grown with some 65%, whereas in Sub-Saharan Africa investments have fallen with one third and only make up 2 billion US dollars.

Globally, it is the weakest economic and political regions that are hit especially hard and are kept outside of development. 47 of the poorest countries in the world - and most of these are African - only make out 0.3% of world trade compared to 2.3% in 1960.


6.1. Trade

Trade liberalizations and regional trade agreements have increased world trade and, thus, also global economic interdependency. But not all countries will benefit from the world economic expansion. There is a very serious risk that those countries that are badly integrated in the world economy will be further marginalized.

Trade is especially being expanded between the USA, South East Asia and the EU and a closer cooperation is developing between these areas - between the USA and APEC, between NAFTA and the EU and between the EU and South East Asia.

The more developed Third World countries are doing pretty well in the new global market using every method to attract investments - including as we have mentioned before the violation and undermining of workers' rights.

The WTO's objective of removing all trade barriers means that the 48 least developed countries (mostly African countries) with 570 million people will be forced to open their markets to the products from industrialized countries and they can, thus, lose further market shares. The problem is that these countries mostly still depend upon the export of their raw materials. Furthermore, they are not competitive because of the very low technological level, unskilled workers, ineffective production and lack of infrastructure.

For these countries to be given a fair chance to compete on reasonable terms, it would require that the markets in the EU and in other economic blocs be opened to their products and that they be given substantive economic and technical assistance for education, training, technological know how, development of the infrastructure and of industrial production.

But so far the promises made to the least developed countries have not been met. There are no obligations on industrialized countries in the plan of action adopted at the WTO. It is quite obvious that the WTO is dominated by the big economic powers - the USA, the EU and Japan.

This lack of solidarity in the world is unacceptable as it will only lead to further poverty, further marginalisation of countries, more conflicts and wars. We must secure that the poorest developing countries are given fair chances. For years we have been saying that trade would be better than development assistance. Now we must say: "more trade and more development assistance".

On the other hand, in order to guarantee the social dimension of trade, we demand:

A gradual and sovereign adhesion of countries into trade agreements.

The democratization of negotiations with participation of workers and other sectors of society, and guarantee final approval of agreements by democratic structures.

Adoption of social charters in the agreements, guaranteeing the respect for basic labour and environmental standards.


6.2. Development policies

In 1970 an objective of using 0.7% of the industrialized countries' GDP in development assistance was adopted in the UN. Today development assistance has never been lower and only reaches 0.27% of the GDP of the industrialized world. Only the Nordic countries and the Netherlands have passed the 0.7% goal. Furthermore, development assistance has fallen substantially to the least developed countries.

These poor figures in development assistance are due to the economic crisis in the industrialized countries, the huge unemployment, a certain mistrust in the effectiveness of development aid and the assistance to East and Central Europe and the countries in the former Soviet Union. Furthermore, the end of the Cold War has meant for example for the USA a lack of interest in Third World countries where development assistance was often given before for political reasons.

We must make governments in the industrialized countries live up to their commitments to reach the UN goal of 0.7% in development assistance and their obligations to assist especially the least developed countries to a human and socially and environmentally sustainable development.

More resources should be secured for primary education, training and basic medical service. In this respect the 20/20 principle (20% of donors' funds and 20% of the recipient country's GDP for the social sectors) should be complied with.

However, it should be stressed that development assistance alone can never secure a sustainable development. It is crucial that the governments in developing countries adopt a coordinated policy towards a socially equitable and sustainable development with focus on democracy and human rights, good governance and an end to corruption, the involvement of civil society, land reforms, social services (education, health care etc.), vocational training, development of the infrastructure and job creation. Cuts in the often far too high military expenses should also be a priority.

But we also know how little space third world countries often have to decide their own fate. The structural adjustment programmes imposed upon them by the World Bank and the IMF - the International Monetary Fund - with their neoliberalistic approach have been decisive in this respect.


1. 6.3. The environment and occupational health and safety

Globalization has meant a further deterioration of the environment, especially due to changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, particularly in industrialized countries.

It is crucial that the world's leaders now seriously consider the negative effects of globalization on the environment. Many agreements and commitments have been made, but it is time to implement these.

Although progress has been made and a growing consciousness for the need of environmental protection is appearing, we still experience how the world's resources are being worn down. The industrialized world must change its attitude to the environment and its energy consumption.

Likewise, the industrialized countries should increase their assistance to developing countries and transition economies to help them in their efforts to develop environmental policies in order to secure a sustainable development.

Occupational health and safety must be seen as an integrated part of environmental policies. Trade unions must work to have legislation adopted for occupational health and safety measures just as health and safety control and monitoring systems should be introduced. Trade unions must have health and safety representatives at the workplace, and special focus should be put on information and training activities on health and safety measures. Employers should be forced to secure a healthy working environment and to provide the necessary protection equipment. Special efforts must be taken towards TNCs in order to secure the same occupational health and safety standards, wherever they are located.


6.4. UN policies

Although there is an urgent need for a reform and restructuring of the UN system, as well as a need to make it less bureaucratic and more efficient, we must admit the crucial role that the UN has in promoting peace and development. We may criticize the UN, but we certainly cannot do without the organisation.

The role of the UN must be strengthened in general. This also requires that all member states make an active contribution towards paying their debt and regular contributions to the UN.

The policies of the various UN institutions and organisations must be coordinated much better. While in some organisations the social sectors, environmental and gender issues have the highest priorities, these policies can be undermined by the very negative social consequences of the policies imposed by the international financial institutions under the UN.

The trade union movement must influence the UN organisations towards policies that promote social development, the respect for workers' rights, equality and reduction of military expenditure in developing countries.

In this respect it is vital that the resolutions of the UN Social Summit in Copenhagen have a high priority and that the goals set out in the declaration and the commitments are systematically complied with. The role of the ECOSOC - the Economic and Social Council - in the monitoring of the follow up to the Social Summit must be clarified and strengthened.

The UN must strengthen its efforts to promote human rights and trade union rights in relation to countries that do not respect the declaration of human rights or the ILO Conventions.

A clear strategy on how to lobby towards politicians, governments, embassies, enterprises and international organisations should be adopted nationally and internationally within the trade union movement in relation to the follow up on the various UN Conferences and Summits.


6.5. The debt crisis and Structural Adjustment Programmes

For the poorest countries in the world the debt burden is one of the most important barriers to development and the struggle against poverty. There is an urgent need to find viable solutions to this problem. Often the debt payment constitutes 25 to 30% of the already limited public income of these countries. The problem is especially serious in the least developed countries.

The issue of the need for debt relief for these countries was taken up at the Social Summit in 1995, but very few of the industrialized countries were willing to accept an immediate relief. However, in september 1996 the World Bank and the IMF adopted an initiative for debt relief for some of the poorest and most indebted countries. But the industrialized countries must actively support this positive new initiative and secure that it is implemented.

At the Social Summit it was broadly recognized that there was an urgent need to change the structural adjustment programmes that the IMF and the World Bank have imposed upon developing countries for the last 10 to 15 years. The serious social consequences that the programmes have had were stressed and the need for a more social development was underlined. It appears that the IMF and the World Bank have understood these signals and that there is a changing attitude in the institutions. However, there are still no clear signs of a change of policy in the countries affected.

Structural adjustment programmes or SAPs have been implemented almost as a ready-made model across the Third World without any regard for the culture, traditions, special situation or problems of the specific country. Focus has been on growth, fight against inflation, the opening up of societies to foreign investments (without any focus on workers' rights), liberalization of the market, a blind belief in the market forces, export-orientation, cutting down of the public sector and cuts in social expenditure for education, health, social systems etc.

It is very difficult to make an overall assessment of the SAPs - the development of the countries is of course also dependent upon many other factors. But it does seem quite apparent that the programmes have contributed to widening the gap between rich and poor, have affected the poor, and especially the more vulnerable groups like women and children, extremely hard because of the social cuts, have not contributed to developing the rural sectors, have minimized the role and size of the state without any planning or strategies, but rather for the sake of cutting down. Thus, altogether they have not contributed to a long term sustainable development.

Trade unions must keep revealing the disastrous social effects of the SAPs and keep lobbying towards governments, the UN and the World Bank/IMF for a more social development. Just as we must demand that they take up the issue of workers' rights (also in EPZs) and child labour.

A global contact committee between the World Bank, other development banks, the IMF and the international trade union movement about workers' rights and labour standards should be set up.

Furthermore, international and national development banks and organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF must introduce a clause concerning respect of labour and union rights in the loan agreements and guidelines for purchases and specifications for tenders that control the award of public contracts. Borrowers and their executive bodies must be required to exclude from tender procedures any contractors/enterprises that do not respect international standards concerning workers' rights.


7. Information and media strategy

Most of the press and the electronic media are controlled today by the conservative forces. It can, therefore, be difficult for trade unions to make our voices heard. We have also seen too many examples of our campaigns not getting any impact outside our own circles.

And yet we all know how important a tool the media are today. A few minutes on television can start off a chain reaction from consumers to politicians and an issue can this way very easily become a top priority political matter.

We must work out a strategy nationally and internationally to deal with the media, to make our campaigns for example for workers' rights visible and understood. We must use the media for continued denunciations of regimes and enterprises that violate human and trade union rights.

TNCs have used the new global networks very efficiently for quite some time. In the trade unions we are just beginning to have them introduced, but we still do not have a clear idea of how effectively we could use them for our common goals.

We propose the setting up of a Global Labour Information Network where we could coordinate our activities and exchange experiences regarding for example organising efforts, collective agreements, international works councils, codes of conduct, labour codes, international labour standards, campaigns, conflicts, common actions, women's rights and activities, child labour, health and safety measures etc.

It could also be used effectively to exchange and coordinate educational materials and programmes that could then be adapted to the reality of each organisation and country. Today far too many materials are produced for example on projects that are never exchanged with any other organisations.

As mentioned before, it should not be an expensive centralised system, but a global and coordinated system that is run and financed in a decentralised way.

We propose that a working group be set up with representatives from the international trade union movement, the ITS' and national centres and unions to come up with a concrete proposal for strategy and content for such a Global Labour Information Network.


8. Seeking a viable alternative to neoliberalism with focus on social development and equity

Neoliberalism has failed because it did not create equity within and between nations. As an economic and political doctrine it was rejected at the Copenhagen Social Summit by the majority of the world's heads of state. More spectacularly the electorates of its two major proponents, Great Britain and the United States, resoundingly rejected these policies. The international climate is changing.

We cannot accept that market considerations have priority over human beings and the environment. It is not the market forces that should be steering our societies and our world. We reject the so-called market societies, because they have only led to increased social and global inequality and a lack of consideration for broad popular interests. We must put social market economy on the agenda. Social and economic development must go hand in hand, complemented by conscious redistributive policies and social welfare systems.

Still a virtual world government has been created which is not subject to any form of democratic control or accountability. The democratic accountability of international capital and the democratization of global governance is the central issue of the 21st century.

We must create a world where considerations for the individual's possibilities, rights and freedoms together with solidarity and considerations for the community are accompanied by social welfare, justice and full employment without destroying the ecological balance.

Only the labour movement with its basic principles of freedom, equality and solidarity can come up with global solutions that can create a social and sustainable development.

Economic growth is important, but with the wrong policies we achieve a growth that is only benefitting the big enterprises. Increased growth does not automatically lead to increased equity.

With neoliberalism we have seen a growth at the expense of the poor - for example in the US and Great Britain under Reagan and Thatcher.

It is crucial that we are able to change the neoliberalistic jobless growth to a sustainable growth that can lead to the creation of jobs and thus promote a sustainable development of greater equity. A growth that can provide an important basis to finance a rising standard of living, that can provide employment, and that is able to finance increased tax revenues to pay for the delivery of social services to the poor.

Growth is fostered by investment, training and technological innovation. These key engines of growth both contribute to, and are encouraged by, rising productivity.

Focus should be on specific programmes and social sectors that can promote social equity while contributing to further growth and increased productivity like investments in public infrastructure, basic health, primary education, vocational training and land reforms.

A new role should be defined for the state. We do not believe in the neoliberal concept of the minimal state. And we cannot accept the systematic ideological privatisations of the neoliberal movement.

We reassert that basic social services must be a public task to secure equal rights and opportunities for all. However, we must also be ready to discuss well-prepared privatisations in other sectors or areas in order to secure better and more efficient service and productivity. It is then the task of trade unions and employers to secure that these privatisations do not occur at the expense of labour standards and working conditions.

We believe that the state has an active and vital role to play in the building and shaping of the society, in securing democratic principles, good governance, justice and stability. It is the role of the state to secure a social and sustainable development that can bring about equal rights and opportunities for everybody.

It is through its economic, fiscal, trade and industrial policies that the state is able to intervene and shape the development of the society.

It is vital to secure that civil society can be actively involved at all levels in the shaping of the society and in the monitoring of democratic principles and the respect for human and trade union rights.

Now is the time for trade unions across the world to join forces and to struggle for the respect of workers' rights everywhere and for a new world order in the 21st century based upon democracy, human rights, solidarity, equality and justice in order to secure a socially balanced, sustainable development within and between nations

Return to top L.A. Labor News home page