G20 summit must be bold on bolstering demand
This week Prime Minister David Cameron will be travelling to St Petersburg for the G20 Leaders’ Summit. Syria will no doubt dominate, but the primary function of the G20 is to address the continuing economic problems facing the world. On that, trade unions in the G20 countries (known collectively as the L20) have been making progress in winning the economic argument.
Slowly but surely, trade union lobbying and campaigning – as well as the continuing failure of austerity to deliver recovery – has shifted the communiques resulting from meetings of G20 ministers. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, from the G20’s early days under the chairmanship of Gordon Brown and Barack Obama in 2009 when multilateral action prevented the Global Financial Crisis from turning into a full-blown depression (and the ILO won a seat at the global table alongside the IMF and the World Trade Organisation), through the Canadian and Korean G20s in 2010 which saw co-ordinated intervention replaced by austerity economics.
Now we’ve reached a position where, at the first ever joint meeting of G20 Employment Ministers with the more powerful Finance Ministers, even British Ministers have signed up to bolstering demand and putting job creation – especially for young people – at the top of the global priority list. Of course, there’s a long way to go – especially in terms of turning fine words into practical action.
The L20 (that’s L for Labour) has worked with the employers’ B20 on quality apprenticeships, the creation of an Employment Task Force addressing youth unemployment (initially opposed by the UK, a position TUC lobbying helped to reverse) and a reversal of austerity economics. With civil society organisations (now coalescing into the C20), we have also made progress on issues like global tax avoidance, development and transparency. More progress is expected on these issues this week.
The L20 statement to the St Petersburg summit mixes long-term strategic demands with specific policy asks such as the Robin Hood Tax. Key for the TUC – and the points Frances O’Grady has made direct to David Cameron – are the following demands:
- a practical jobs and growth action plan;
- making bolstering demand and reducing inequality as important as addressing poverty;
- promoting and delivering decent work, and observing the ILO fundamental principles and rights at work;
- backing the action on tax havens agreed by the G8 and the subsequent OECD action plan on base erosion and profit shifting; and
- welcome the L20-B20 joint statement on quality apprenticeships and renew the mandate for the Employment Task Force for the Australian G20 in 2014.
The statements that the global unions put out before each G20 Ministerial meeting are excellent prescriptions for the global economy, as well as the basis for co-ordinated lobbying of both the politicians and the civil servants who negotiate the wording of the communiques. They deserve a wider readership than they currently get, both from journalists and union activists. But the real test is whether they get implemented, so that the global economy starts working for working people.