Date: Sun, 4 Jan 98 14:17:54 CST
From: Michael Eisenscher <>
Subject: WHC REPORT PART 8 (2/2); Massacre Survivors
Article: 24986

The aim of the ‘social clause’ is to demobilize and disarm us

Presentation by Tafazzul Hussain, National Workers Federation of Bangladesh, [4 January 1998]

(Note: Following are excerpts from the presentation to the Western Hemisphere Workers' Conference by Tafazzul Hussain, president of the National Workers Federation of Bangladesh.)

International financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization are just tools in the hands of the multinationals and the governments beholden to their directives. Their prescriptions have ruined our national structures, our national states, our national economies.

The governments of Southeast Asia were used as testing grounds for the policies of privatization, structural adjustment, and deregulation. Now you in the Americas are being forced to swallow the same bitter pill. Many people said that workers in the United States and the other developed countries would benefit from the imposition of these structural adjustment policies in Southeast Asia.

But the record shows this is absolutely not true. Overexploitation of the workers in our countries gives the multinationals the means by which to blackmail workers in the United States. The bosses simply threaten to close their plants and run away to the far East if the U.S. workers don't make exorbitant concessions.

The fact is that good jobs are being lost both in the United States and Southeast Asia as a result of these policies.

And now, more than ever, the trade unions are under attack.

Today, they want to change the constitution of the International Labor Organization (ILO) as they seek to transform it into one of the subsidiary organizations of the World Trade Organization. Their aim is to undermine and abolish the independence of the trade unions.

In my country, the trade unions have been offered huge amounts of money if they accept becoming Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

There is a discussion taking place in unions across the globe concerning the “social clauses.” There are friends who say we should fight for the inclusion of these clauses in their proposed free trade agreements.

But who are the people suggesting that we accept these social clauses? They are the IMF, World Bank and WTO—that's who they are.

Are they sincere when they propose the inclusion of these clauses in their pacts? Do they really believe these clauses will address the needs of working people? The answer is quite simple: No!

Take my country: Bangladesh. These financial institutions gave enormous loans to the government in exchange for closing industries. They gave a $250 million loan to close the jute industries—the life line of Bangladesh. Eighty percent of the population, somehow or other, is connected to the jute industry.

And now the government—at the behest of these institutions, which had all sorts of “social clauses” in their loan agreements—are closing the jute industries. In the last two years alone, they've closed many jute factories, with an estimated loss of close to 2 million jobs. And as they destroy these jobs, they dare talk about “social clauses.”

They talk about social clauses to disarm us, to demobilize us, to get us to accept their destructive plans. That's the main reason they're interested in these clauses.

We must say no to these free trade pacts. They cannot be modified or amended to meet our needs in any way. Accepting the inclusion of these clauses only legitimizes their attacks against us. We must not fall prey to their designs.