From the TUC

World Bank gives up attack on trade unions – another blow to the Washington consensus

03 May 2009, by in International

The World Bank has given up attacking workers’ and union rights, and decided to promote ILO conventions instead! This staggering about-turn results from years of lobbying by trade unions and progressive politicians (special respect to Congressman Barney Frank, a personal hero for all sorts of reasons – and now one more.) It is a serious and practical blow to the Washington consensus, because as well as abandoning the rhetoric that stronger workers’ rights and stronger unions are bad for business, the World Bank has told its country offices to stop advising Governments to water down such rights – this was always a bigger issue than what the World Bank said publicly.

The World Bank memo which announced this policy change is worth quoting. The World Bank will in future

“emphasise the importance of regulatory approaches that facilitate the creation of more formal sector jobs with adequate safeguards for employees’ rights and that guard against the shifting of risk from firms to workers and low-income families.”


“Adjust… the scoring in the Doing Business 2010 report (to be launched in September 2009) regarding provisions for fixed term workers and standards for severance payment, mandatory days of rest and night work and holidays, and minimum wage levels, in order to accord favorable scores to worker protection policies that comply with the letter and spirit of the relevant ILO Conventions, recognizing that well-designed worker protections are of benefit to the society as a whole.”

That’s a pretty pro-union, pro-worker position from a body whose President is Robert Zoellick!

The TUC and other parts of the world trade union movement will be watching closely what actually happens as a result, of course – the proof is in the implementation. And we’ll be calling on the British Government to back the new policy wholeheartedly. A first case study will be Rwanda, where the Government is proposing new labour laws based on the old World Bank policy…. watch this space.