ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow is on home turf in Australia at the moment, and, as Australia takes over the G20 at the end of the year, she gave a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney on Thursday that provides an excellent summary of how the G20 has performed in managing the global economy, and what unions are looking for.
In it, she traces the development of the G20 as a response to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Initially, political leaders like Gordon Brown and Barack Obama – as well as Australian PM then and now Kevin Rudd – co-ordinated action to prevent recession becoming a depression. But from 2010 on, countries like Canada and the European Union spearheaded a drive to replace co-ordinated recovery, putting austerity at the heart of the agenda, despite continuing to talk about jobs and growth.
Drawing on the experiences of the L20 – the trade union movements of the G20 countries – Sharan puts forward a five point agenda to address the current state of the global economy:
- Jobs: Investment in infrastructure, new green technologies and industries.
- Fair wages underpinned by a minimum wage.
- Strong labour laws: including the right to strike, the right to collectively bargain and the right to join a union.
- A social protection floor: governments must step forward and protect the interests of workers and their families.
- Make large companies pay their taxes.
The alternative, as she says, is frightening.