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Towards sustainable industrial policy

23 April, 2013IndustriALL’s Action Plan calls for strong industrial policies that recognize manufacturing as a key engine of growth for national economies. Unions have an important role to play to promote sustainability and the creation of good quality jobs.

One of the driving motivations for the creation of IndustriALL Global Union was to combine the forces of trade unions across extractive, manufacturing and processing industries to push for recognition of the importance of these industries to national economies and as providers of good quality jobs.

This ambition is reflected in the IndustriALL Action Plan, which commits IndustriALL to promoting industrial policy. It also recognizes the impact these industries have on sustainability and the opportunities they present for advancing sustainability.

We are now developing a program to engage affiliates across all sectors and regions on how unions can influence governments, industry and the institutions of global governance to promote these goals in the Action Plan. The program is called Sustainable Industrial Policy.

Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. That implies a healthy environment, a healthy economy, and a healthy society, built on sound foundations and maintained through good global governance.

An industrial policy is a plan to encourage desired patterns of industrial development and growth. It should strategically target specific industries and sectors, as well as consider broader needs such as transportation and communications infrastructure, education and skills training, research, and energy.

Sustainable industrial policy is not about creating conditions for companies to thrive at the expense of workers, society and the environment. It’s about creating conditions under which companies can operate in order to make a sustainable contribution to society.

Such policies encourage the development of greener technologies that address problems like climate change, while creating large numbers of decent jobs. They involve the effective implementation of labour standards including promotion of collective bargaining and labour laws which restrict precarious work. And they are underpinned by social protection policies addressing unemployment, retirement and health care, to which industry must be required to contribute.

In May, we are presenting a discussion paper Towards Sustainable Industrial Policy to launch the initiative and stimulate debate among affiliates.

This year we will hold regional thematic workshops in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, South East Asia Pacific and Latin America to further develop the issues most relevant to those regions. We want to build the unions’ capacity to advocate sustainable industrial policy and to contribute to IndustriALL’s global understanding of the issues.

In the next two years, sustainable industrial policy will be discussed at all IndustriALL meetings at global, regional, industry and company level. Affiliates will be encouraged to participate in the debate and put forward their vision of how unions can contribute to the achievement of sustainability goals.

A key element is strengthening the role of governments. There needs to be a rebalancing of the power to dictate the terms of industrial development, away from multinational companies and back to democratically-elected bodies. Industrial policy needs to be revived, in order to correct for market failures through state intervention.

Unions must be part of industrial policy-making and have an equal seat at the table with industry. The transformation cannot happen without the active participation of workers.

Jyrki Raina

General Secretary