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BRICS unions discuss decent work and sustainable development

31 July, 2018The BRICS Trade Union Forum (BTUF), an alliance of union federations from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is demanding a developmental and democratic model as an alternative to the dominant global financial institutions, especially the IMF and the World Bank.

At a meeting in Durban 27-29 July, the BTUF adopted an African developmental agenda with a focus on decent work and sustainable development. The meeting, which took place at the same time as the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, called for social justice. Unions should also be included in the BRICS summit to strengthen collective power and building solidarity networks and activism in the global South.

However, BTUF raised concerns over precarious work and on the need for unions to develop a strategic response and multinational corporations were asked should comply with labour laws.

The issues discussed included the future of work, workers’ rights, universal health, investments that boost manufacturing, industrialization, and sustainability. Further, job creation was identified as key for young people as well as for attaining Sustainable Development Goals. Closing the gender gap in wages would improve women’s access to employment, and equal pay for work of equal value should be promoted.

For example, living wages are important in countering working poverty amongst the youth in Sub Saharan Africa, which was 70 per cent in 2016. Additionally, high youth unemployment works against benefiting from the demographic dividend which will happen in 2030 according to UNICEF’s Generation 2030 Africa 2.0 report. When this occurs, there will be more working-age young adults as compared to the elderly. However, without jobs there will be no benefit as the youth will be economically inactive.

BTUF goals for 2018 are investment in people, social and economic infrastructure and environmental responsibility. Building workers skills, innovation and developmental ICT tools key to Industry 4.0 with decent work, collective bargaining and social protection important. Full employment and job creation and trade union participation and effective social dialogue are some of the goals. Other goals promote democratic, ethical and responsive governance in public and private institutions, and inclusive international multilateral systems.

BTUF says it is up to the task “on many issues affecting workers, communities, developing countries, peace and security, food production, unemployment, international labour standards and workers’ rights.”

Says Paule-France, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa:

“The BTUF is a crucial reminder that international trade cannot exist without engaging unions. Without the watchful eyes of unions, multinational companies will ignore workers’ and human rights, and therefore we must be vigilant.”

Some IndustriALL Global Union affiliates belong to federations that are part of BTUF.