John Evans, Sharan Burrow, Ged Kearney and Frances O'Grady at an L20 press conference at the G20 Summit in Brisbane. Photo: Paul Matthews/G20 Australia
G20 update: Round the world in 20 unions
Frances O’Grady has just finished a three-day marathon set of meetings at the L20 and G20 in Brisbane in the Australian state of Queensland. The G20 summit brings together the leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful economies, and the L20 has been created so that the trade union movements in those countries are able to press them over issues that matter to working people.
The G20 leaders have adopted a communique that falls far short of what is needed by the global economy and the world’s working people. They’ve agreed measures to expand global GDP by just 2%, which won’t close the jobs gap that has opened up since the global financial crisis and – without measures to address inequality – won’t see that growth reflected in higher living standards for anyone outside the 1%. The world needs a pay rise, but global leaders aren’t – with a few exceptions – listening.
Angela Merkel and Barack Obama were the world leaders most on our side, as their domestic commitment to minimum wages show. Frances met Merkel with a trade union team, and Obama’s team met with trade union leaders John Evans (TUAC) and Phil Jennings (UNI, the private services sector global union). We can’t say what happened in these private meetings, but we do think that President Obama’s reference to a ‘fair go’ in his speech on Saturday was a nod in our direction! Frances had put that concept of decent pay and respect at work into her criticisms of Cameron’s lacklustre speech to the Australian parliament on Friday. She said:
“The one bit of Aussie slang David Cameron didn’t use was the ‘fair go’ – the core Australian principle that workers deserve respect and a decent standard of living.”
Merkel and Obama also turned up the heat on new bessy-mates Tony Abbott and David Cameron over climate change, with Obama stressing the issue in his speech just days after reaching agreement with the Chinese government on the issue. Our call was for green jobs and just transition, and we’ll be stepping up the pressure on those issues all the way to the Paris climate change conference in December 2015.
Indeed, David Cameron was feeling the heat in more than one way, complaining that the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane was not to his taste as he swanned into yet another air-conditioned dinner on Friday night, while Angela Merkel hit the Brisbane bars where the ordinary people drink. And she got up early the next morning to see Frances and the union team, despite being from the centre right of German politics, whereas Dave was ‘too busy’ to see us, in common with Abbott, who could meet B20 business leaders but not the L20. (I say the B in B20 stands doe business, but their press conference line up at the weekend was 7 men in suits, so it may stand for “Boy’s Only”! The L20 presser line up was three women – including Frances – and just one man.)
As well as seeing leaders from the European Union, France, Germany, Russia, Spain and the USA in Brisbane (and several Moreno the run up), union leaders had sessions with IMF and World Bank bosses Christine Lagarde and Jim Yong Kim, ILO head Guy Ryder, OECD chief Angel Gurria and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, in his role as head of the global Financial Stability Board. None of whom were ‘too busy’ to see the unions…