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G20 falls far from workers’ demands

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14 September, 2023The recently concluded G20 summit in New Delhi under the Indian presidency failed to address the enormous challenges of rising inflation, stagnating wages and the transitioning world of work faced by working people in the 20 big economies.

The G20 Leaders’ Declaration made no meaningful reference to the plight of working people, let alone any concrete actions to address the challenges they face. The concern of the G20 leaders remains fixated on improving long-term growth, with only a passing reference to the cost of living crisis, calling for a temporary and targeted fiscal measures to protect the poor and the most vulnerable.

This comes at a time when unions across the globe are calling for wage increase and social protection given the rising inflation. In the online L20 summit, organized by ITUC on 4-5 September following the Indian government’s decision to interrupt the participation of independent unions in G20 and instead appoint right-wing union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh as chair of the L20 meetings, unionists and academics argued for strong minimum wage plans in all countries. However, the G20 leaders failed to outline a plan on this, instead alluding to the need for universal social protection coverage in the context of the  transitioning world of work.

The Declaration makes no reference to workers’ rights or their access to livelihood. There is a hollow promise of implementing ‘digital upskilling and reskilling programmes’, but nothing on who will do or how it will be done. The global trade union movement is demanding to be included in the discussions on transformations that the world of work is likely to experience to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The G20 summit refused to recognize the role of unions and engage in a dialogue with them.

IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan chaired a session on industrial policy for just transition in the G20 and beyond during the L20. Speakers talked of the need for a state-led transition, not one that is driven by private companies. People must come before profits as the transition towards cleaner economy happens; only strong tripartite structures can guarantee this.

Unfortunately, the G20 Declaration emphasised the ‘critical role of private enterprise in accelerating growth and driving sustainable economic transformations’, and the need to ‘promote the ease and reduce the cost of doing business’. This is already set in motion in many countries, leading to an erosion of workers’ rights.
The Declaration refers to the need for ‘revitalized multilateralism’. While trade unionists and academics at the L20 summit vehemently argued for a change in the traditional systems of operating the global economy, including structural transformations in the global financial architecture and international trade system, the Declaration focuses on further  strengthening the role of multilateral development banks.

During the L20 summit, professor Jayati Gosh raised the issue of the relevance of G20, given that some of the G20 countries’ governments do not represent the interests of its working population. IndustriALL affiliates have consistently raised their voices against the anti-worker solutions to the country’s debt problems.

The G20 leaders failed to provide a concrete plan to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy, or how the renewable energy capacity is to be tripled.

Says Kemal Özkan:

“We are outraged to see that the G20 summit in India fails to address the burning needs of the working class in the world. No action to eradicate poverty, to fight against inequality, to bring accountability and responsibility for global supply chains, to overcome the challenges around the climate change through sustainable industrial policies with well-thought, structures and financed Just Transition.

"Our movement will continue to raise our concerns, expectations and demands through mobilizations throughout the world. Another world is possible and necessary, but this requires genuine political intention and action.”