Thai / English


Mark Phillips
12 Nov 14

BRISBANE is readying itself for the largest gathering of international leaders to ever visit Australian shores.

Never before have the likes of Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe, and Joko Widodo all set foot in Australia at the same time.

The logistics of the G20 Leaders summit are mind-boggling: 4000 delegates, 3000 international media, 6000 police, 7000 hotel rooms.

It will take six workers eight hours to assemble the oval shaped table that will be used by the 20 leaders for the two day meeting.

But another important, albeit lesser known, summit is also taking place in Brisbane this week.

Held before each Leaders Summit, the Labour 20 (L20) Summit is where unions prepare policy recommendations and key messages to G20 Leaders and Ministers. Those priorities are subsequently issued in a L20 Statement to governments.

It unites trade unions from G20 countries and global unions and is convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD.

A combined voice for workers

The L20 grouping first came together in Washington DC at the peak of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, when unions realised they needed a united voice and a place at the G20 table to argue for jobs and growth.

Members of the L20 formulate key messages in a broad consultative process and confirm policy goals at the L20 Summit for each G20 presidency.

At all of its summits, the L20 has consistently pressed for investment to create quality jobs, apprenticeships and skills; the formalisation of work through minimum wages, labour rights and social protection floors; sustainable, green and inclusive growth; fair income distribution; and greater financial regulation.

The annual dialogue includes speakers from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, International Labour Organisation and the OECD, as well as many of the G20 governments.

As the peak union body of the host nation, the ACTU is chairing this year’s L20 Summit beginning tomorrow, and although the final statement will be debated and modified over two days, its key recommendations are already encapsulated in a preliminary statement online.

The labour movement will be calling for the G20 to shift direction by committing to job creation and decent wages as the pathway to world economic growth.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow has previously described this as taking a stand against the American corporate model that is “destroying the social balance in the global economy”.

“If the G20 is going to meet its target of 2% GDP growth above expectations, which must be job centred growth, they need to shift policy,” she says.

“We haven’t yet seen the courage of governments to turn around the policies of austerity needed to realise growth and jobs.”

Real action needed, not just words

Last weekend, the L20 made public the results of a tracking survey of the impact of previous G20 policy commitments on working families which showed that more than half of those policies have had a marginal or negative effect in addressing the economic and social situation in G20 countries.

This year, the L20 is calling for real action – not just words – on jobs and wages, with no moving backwards on workers’ rights; commitments on reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change; stepping up the momentum on tax and financial regulation; and a range of commitments around trade and global supply chains, including purging them of forced labour.

“We are calling on leaders to put an end to years of stagnation and bring about the type of structural policies for job-rich, sustainable investment that workers can support,” wrote John Evans, General Secretary of TUAC in an article for the Equal Times website last week.

As host country, Australia and Prime Minister Tony Abbott have a unique opportunity to shape this year’s G20 agenda and the outcomes of the summit.

But ACTU President Ged Kearney says the Abbott Government’s focus on spending cuts and reducing workplace rights and wages is out of step with most of the rest of the G20.