The Oxfam study was released on the eve of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos. Photo: Flickr/WorldEconomicForum

Stop the war on wages and close the wealth gap

21.01.2019

Multinational companies must stop the war on wages and give workers secure jobs with decent salaries, says IndustriALL Global Union as a new study from Oxfam shows that 26 billionaires own as much as the poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population. 

The report Public Good or Private Wealth shows the gap between rich and poor is growing as billionaires’ wealth increased US$2.5 billion a day in 2018. 

The Oxfam study is timed with the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos this week, where every year the global elite says more must be done to create a fairer society, but does absolutely nothing about it. 

Low taxes and offshore holdings are making companies and individuals rich beyond imagination and yet the desire to squeeze every last penny of profit is insatiable. This month, garment workers in Bangladesh have been protesting in their thousands calling for better wages as they earn a pittance making clothes for global brands, whose owners are among the top billionaires. 

At Shell, one of the world’s biggest companies, a recent mission by IndustriALL found contract workers in Nigeria living in poverty and unable to pay for basic healthcare, despite working decades at the oil and gas giant. 

In many countries, such as Brazil or Hungary, labour legislation to protect workers is being undermined or overturned.  

Trade unionists fighting for better wages and safe working conditions are under attack, often with the complicity of the judiciary, as seen in Zimbabwe, Belarus and Algeria

Industry 4.0 and energy transition are new threats to workers and the present model will only concentrate wealth into the hands of a smaller minority. The surge in contract, temporary and agency work further weakens workers’ bargaining power. 

Unless governments protect workers, stand up to multinational companies and listen to trade unions, nothing will change. 

After the first industrial revolution, trade unions fought for and won higher wages, safer conditions and social benefits. Now as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace, with rights eroded and real wages falling, trade unions must be ready to bargain for a just world of work.