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Trade unions propose a "social partnership" to the G8
ICFTU Online..., 303/971128/LD, 30 November 1997
Brussels, November 28, 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): Invited for the first time to take part in a G8 summit, trade unions at the industrialised countries' conference on employment, opening today in Kobe (Japan), argued in favour of "social partnership" to combat unemployment and identify the means of balancing flexibility with job security.
The Kobe summit, the third employment conference by the world's most developed countries, after Detroit in 1994 and Lille in 1996, is being attended by the labour ministers of Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan, together with, for the first time, Russia and employers' and trade union representatives. The European Union, the International Labour Office (ILO) and the OECD are also represented.
"It seems to us that with the advent of a wider and deeper international market and rapid technological changes, what unions, employers and governments need to do is to find new means of balancing flexibility and security in employment." stated Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), adding that "for working people to join with their employers in adapting the workplace to the demands of increasingly rapid change they have to be able to trust companies not to arbitrarily hire and fire or change working conditions at short notice."
In a document submitted to the Conference participants, the trade unions highlight the fact that there are 36 million unemployed in the OECD, that the rate of unemployment is still on the increase in some European countries, that 60 per cent of American workers are now earning less than they did in 1973 and that Japan is in crisis.
Etsuho Washio, the president of the Japanese trade union confederation, Rengo, called on the Labour Ministers to renew their support for the trade union demands for the inclusion in international trade agreements and the World Trade Organisation of a social clause guaranteeing workers' fundamental rights. "We must break down the barriers that separate the world of commerce from the everyday concerns of working people" he stressed.
Insisting on the importance of information, consultation and negotiation between social partners at all levels, trade union organisations urged governments and employers to invest more in education and continual training to ensure greater "employability".
This is one of the themes taken up by the Japanese presidency of the G8, which will also examine youth unemployment, continual training and the integration of elderly workers into the labour world.
"We have found a surprising level of consensus" said John Evans, General Secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, recalling that the London Summit, just over six years ago, had produced a 72 page document which did not once mention the word "unemployment".
Contact: ICFTU-Press at: ++32-2 224.02.12 (Brussels)