A new global trade union demanded radical reform of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization to focus on human rights, in its programme adopted here on Friday. The new force, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) representing 168 million workers, laid out an action plan calling for deep changes to globalisation in favour of the poor.
Its programme also calls for a global trade system which protects developing countries and for the World Trade Organization to adopt social targets.
The ITUC said in its programme, approved here on the last day of its founding congress, that it wanted to "fundamentally change globalisation so it will work in favour of workers, the unemployed and the poor".
ITUC said it work for "a fundamental reform of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization... to recognise the primary importance of human rights".
It said that "honouring union rights is a pre-condition to justice in the workplace, in society and in the world", adding that it would "fight" any violation of union rights.
It also called on the international community to conduct "a basic strategy for sustainable development".
The programme said: "Since its creation... the WTO has represented a model of trade liberalisation that cannot last, that increases the exploitation of workers and inequalities in terms of development."
The new body is a response to decades of feuding within the union movement and embraces 306 national unions in 154 countries, although 42 million unionists in Communist-affiliated bodies refused to participate on the grounds that ITUC was compromising with the established economic system.
The ITUC has a central policy objective of tackling globalisation and what it sees as the damaging effects of the opening of markets and increased competition on ordinary workers.
But it does not however reject the benefits of trade.
"Poorly organised, international trade can be destructive, but well directed, it can boost development and jobs," Kristian Weise, an international labour expert with the ITUC, said.
The general secretary of the French union CFDT, Francois Chereque, said: "On the one hand, G8 trade unions say 'we must resist globalisation to preserve jobs'. On the other hand, trade unions in developing countries are demanding 'a just distribution of wealth'."
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Chereque said he hoped that the ITUC, rather than "adding up its aggravations", would be able to organise "a calm debate to develop new trade regulations that will preserve jobs in the North while allowing the South to achieve wealth".
Weise said that "the idea that protecting countries in the North would save jobs results from a misunderstanding", adding that jobs lost in relocations make up "only a very small percentage of total jobs".
He said he was in favour of "maintaining tariff barriers in developing countries... (to) protect their emerging industries".
The secretary general of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, John Evans, said: "The essential task of trade unions is to guarantee union rights and jobs everywhere in the world, to avoid that companies relocate to profit from lower social checks."
This is one of the aims of the new ITUC, which has said it wants to introduce "a clause on workers' rights in the WTO's mandate", that would make it obligatory for products and services traded between countries "to be produced and distributed according to fundamental labour norms".