From the TUC

A G20 diary: global labour leaders (and Robin Hood) arrive in Cannes

03 Nov 2011, by Guest in International

The leaders of the G20 are descending on Cannes this week for their annual summit, and their to-do list is intimidating: the global jobs crisis, Greece, bankers out of control again, Greece, the urgent need for a Robin Hood Tax, and yes, Greece. It promises to be a very interesting few days. This year’s summit is unique for the global trade union movement. For the first time ever we’re holding the “L20”: the trade union summit run in parallel with the main one. For the rest of the week trade union leaders from the G20 countries will be frantically lobbying heads of state (world leader speed dating, as Sharan Burrow ITUC General Secretary calls it) to get them to deliver on jobs, jobs, and more jobs. We need to create at least 80 million of them in the next couple of years just to return to pre-crisis levels of employment, according to the ILO. The last two G20 summits contained a few brief hand wringing phrases about the unemployed as governments committed to slashing budgets, and dragging us to the brink of another recession.

I’m also here and my to-do list is also intimidating: carrying the spare pens for global union leaders, writing the occasional blog for this site when the wi-fi allows, and nibbling on croissants by this patch of the French Riviera. Yes, it’s a great job, but someone’s got to do it.

First up today was a meeting of global Robin Hood Tax campaigners in an old Abattoir in Nice. It was a rich discussion (I’m avoiding the temptation to say “meaty”) on how impressively far the campaign has come in juat two years, and what it will take to finally win. We discussed the FTT game plan for Cannes: to get a coalition of willing countries to announce that they’re committed to moving forward on the tax, knowing that the silent or undecided majority of countries would likely follow suit. This is exactly the same approach that France and Germany are taking within Europe with decent results. The Eurozone crisis might derail that plan this week, but there’s always next week, or the week after, or the one after that… There are Robin Hood Tax demos throughout the week. Apparently – and tragically – I missed the chance to take part in yesterday’s rally of nude Robin Hoods! Tomorrow morning nurses from across the globe will be staging a stunt, administering an ‘FTT’ intravenous drip to keep alive an ailing planet. And Bill Nighy and Bill Gates are dropping by to spread some star dust around. EU Commission President Barroso joined us for a session and was bullish about pushing the FTT at the Summit. As he explained, you need to slowly build a coalition to put the tax in place, because waiting for it to be global is the same as saying you don’t want it.

The discussion at the L20 Summit has been truly global and uplifting at times, from nurses leading the Wall Street demos to Egyptian workers demanding their right to join trade unions. Rekson Silaban from the Indonesian unions spoke of their success in getting their government to provide basic medical care for the two-thirds of Indonesians who don’t have any. But the mood is certainly one of deep deep crisis for working people everywhere, which everyone committed to inject into their discussions with world leaders in the coming days. (As a truly perverse backdrop, the L20 is at the Palm Beach casino where the design brief must have been “gimme Brighton pier, but with more kitsch”).

What’s the mood like in Cannes? Walls of police, lost journalists, posters of Sophie Marceau at bus stops, motorcades carrying ridiculously important people, bemused elderly rich folks with leathery tans, and lots of mumbling about George Papandreou having the nerve to ask the Greek public if they want yet more pain. And, yes, croissant nibbling trade union bureaucrats…