Lobbying the power people
The leaders of the Global trade union movement were in London last week to lobby the people attending the London Summit, centred around the G20 nations. 55 trade unionists from 18 countries turned up, and met, in varying combinations, the heads of government from Britain (a visit to No 10), Brazil, South Africa and Australia, as well as the Director of the IMF and the Director General of the World Trade Organisation. Many of the people involved had seen their own countries’ leaders at home before coming, but it was still a busy couple of days.
The main thing trade unionists were looking for, not surprisingly, was an emphasis on jobs – and that was no different whether the trade union was from a developed or a developing country. By and large, that’s what the leaders they saw delivered, and it explains the generally positive approach of union comments on the summit’s conclusions. Of course, there were lots of other issues raised too, all drawn from the G20 London Declaration.
This exercise mirrored a similar initiative in Washington DC before the first G20 leaders’ summit last year, and no doubt we’ll need to repeat the exercise before the next one, due to be held later this year – at a venue yet to be announced formally.
Does this sort of long-haul, mass diplomacy work? It’s not easy to say, and at least part of the reason that so many trade union leaders flew in from Argentina to the USA, South Africa to Japan, is that it takes a brave person to decide that it doesn’t work, so they’re passing up the opportunity.
And it almost certainly isn’t enough to turn up only when the leaders’ summits take place – it only works on the condition of two other processes – the continual lobbying process at domestic and international level that unions are engaged in, and the representation of popular concern that has seen an upturn in the last year of street protests, factory occupations and the like.
Trade union lobbying is based on action at the grass roots, not just clever arguments.