Global Unions debate jobs, inequality and development with the OECD and IFIs – Washington DC 9-14 March 2016


  • 09 March_Opening Speech-President R. Trumka (AFL-CIO)pdf
Global Unions debate jobs, inequality and development with the OECD and IFIs – Washington DC 9-14 March 2016

From the 9th to 14th of March the ITUC and TUAC held a series of economic meetings with the OECD, IMF and World Bank in Washington DC. This included a workshop on “Trade Unions, Income Inequality and Inclusion – the evidence and evolving roles” on the 9th March which was the first event outside Paris organized with the OECD Centre for Opportunity and Equality (COPE). The meetings brought together over 60 trade union economists from both industrialised and developing countries. The Workshop included Speakers from the OECD, the IMF, the ETUC, the AFL-CIO, the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) AFL-CIO as well as TUAC and the ITUC.

Speaking at the opening, AFL-CIO and TUAC President Richard Trumka noted that “the evidence is conclusive that the decline in union membership hurts the move to a more equal society” (download the full speech on the right-hand side). He called on the OECD to look at how unions play an important role in lowering inequality—vertically between the top and the bottom, and horizontally to insure social mobility and inclusiveness of all workers across all measures of diversity. He insisted that policy focus on how to improve and strengthen union membership to fight rising inequality.

Several speakers including those from the IMF and the Center for American Progress presented evidence on the role of trade unions as a powerful force to combat rising inequalities, including that showing that children of parents with a low educational background later have substantially higher wages if their parents are union members. The meetings continued with discussions on labour market policies with the IMF and World Bank, with the latters’ most recent publication (’balancing labour market regulation’) striking a positive tone in showing the benefits of well-designed minimum wages, labour law, advance notification and unemployment compensation systems.

Against the background of a deteriorating economic outlook, participants prepared trade union statements to a range of forthcoming meetings including the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting and the Ministerial Meeting on the “Digital Economy” in June, the G20 Labour Ministers Meeting in July as well as the G7 Summit in Japan in May. Global Union delegations will be making representations to all of these meetings. There was a strong call for a coordinated stimulus of public investment as well as the need to change the direction of structural policies in order to strengthen labour market institutions, increase wages and improve the quality of work.