The financial crisis can strengthen the global trade union movement

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On 9-10 October, just when the financial crisis had became the main topic, union representatives from some 30 countries who are members of the Committee for Workers’ Capital (CWC), met in Stockholm to discuss how workers’ pension capital can be used to strengthen wage-earners’ rights and to contribute to jobs and development globally. The global financial crisis was obviously one of the main themes at this meeting. The total failure of neoliberalism can improve trade unions’ power to influence globally, as several speakers pointed out.
The CWC was founded in 1998 at the initiative of LO in connection with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of LO. The aim was to examine how the pension capital governed by the trade union movement can be used to make companies and investors respect human rights in working life as well as contribute to sustainable growth taking into consideration environmental and climate aspects. The committee works by assignment of the ITUC, the TUAC (the trade union advisory committee of the OECD) as well as by the global union federations.

In spite of the seriousness of the present situation, the participants in the meeting expressed some optimism. The crisis makes it necessary to re-examine the prevailing neoliberal economic ideas and paves the way to initiatives from the global labour movement.

The solution proposed by the labour movement consists of regulation of capital, nationally and globally, rules on democratic control as well as a global policy for jobs and social justice, including trade union rights.

Several participants pointed out that millions of jobs can be created within the green sector. The trade union movement must choose to place the investments of pension capital in environmentally sustainable jobs in sectors such as infrastructure and the housing sector. But a prerequisite is naturally that governments in industrial countries in fact take decisions on making large investments of this kind. Without political support, the market will not manage the necessary reconversion into sustainable development in terms of environment and climate.

The meeting was also attended by guest speakers, who presented, for instance, the work carried out by the insurance company Folksam on Principles for Responsible Investments (PRI), the ethical council of the Swedish AP Public Pension Funds, as well as the trade union campaign on Burma.

LO President Wanja Lundby-Wedin attended the meeting on the second day. She presented an LO proposal for a revision of the work of the CWC, which was welcomed by the participants. The ambition is to make the CWC a powerful resource for the global trade union movement as regards training and consultation on investment of capital. A decision on a revision will be made at the ITUC General Council meeting in December.

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