Education International
Education International

Trade unions must be part of any solution to global financial crisis

published 14 November 2008 updated 14 November 2008

Working people, who will bear the brunt of the global financial crisis, must have a seat at the table and a voice in the discussions about causes, consequences and possible strategies to confront the current crisis. This is the main message to the G20 from leaders of the international trade union movement, representing more than 168 million workers around the world.

While there are widely divergent views among the heads of government of 20 industrialised nations, there is unity within the international trade union movement about the necessary next steps towards economic justice and stability.

The Global Unions “Washington Declaration,” to be presented to the G20 Crisis Summit taking place in Washington on 15 November, calls on political leaders to:

  • Initiate a major recovery plan
  • Ensure that a financial crisis on such a scale never happens again
  • Establish a new structure of economic governance for the global economy
  • Combat the explosion of inequality in income distribution that lies behind this crisis

The Declaration notes that working families the world over have an enormous stake in the response to this crisis.

“Today, those who are losing homes, jobs and pensions as a result of the financial crisis, for which they bear no responsibility, as taxpayers are being called on to bail-out those who are responsible. The G20 governments must acknowledge the urgent need to begin work on a more inclusive, just and democratic system for governance of global markets. Trade unions must have a seat at the table…”

The trade union movement is cautioning the G20 and the International Financial Institutions not to repeat mistakes of the past by insisting on cuts to government spending in response to a crisis.

“A new approach to fiscal responsibility must accompany a global New Deal. The worst error in the current circumstances would be to cut public sector budgets further. There must be a renewed commitment to the provision of publicly financed, quality public services. Rethinking the responsibilities of both the private and public sectors must include responsible resourcing of the public sector through fair taxation and a new commitment to efficiency and the ethical value of quality public services, in which the organizations representing public employees can play a key role.”

Education International (EI), which represents 30 million teachers and other education employees in over 170 countries, is deeply concerned that the financial crisis will impede achievement of the Millennium Development Goals related to education, especially with the massive looming teacher shortage. Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of EI and chair of the Council of Global Unions, said that a renewed commitment to quality public education is fundamental to long-term solutions.

As the Declaration states, “this is also the time to invest in people – in their education and health, and in care for the very young and the aged. 18 million new teachers must be trained just to meet the goal of quality education for all primary age children by the year 2015. Millions more teachers and instructors are needed for vocational education and training for skills that underpin the real economy and for retraining of working people as economies restructure.”

Leaders from the International Trade Union Confederation, the Council of Global Unions, and national unions in the G20 countries will meet with the World Bank and IMF, and with representatives of the incoming administration of President-elect Obama in advance of the Summit urging them to address the concerns of working people and the unions that represent them.

To read the full text of the Global Unions “Washington Declaration,” please download it from here.

For further information, please contact: Nancy Knickerbocker, EI communications coordinator, at +32 2 224 0681 or editor@ei-ie.org.