33rd Ordinary Congress of LO-Norway: Speech by Dan Cunniah,Director Bureau for Workers’ Activities

Speech by Dan Cunniah,Director Bureau for Workers’ Activities at 33rd Ordinary Congress of LO-Norway,Oslo, 4 May 2013.

Statement | Oslo | 08 May 2013
President Röar Flathen
Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Espen Barth Eide
Distinguished Guests and Delegates,

On behalf of Guy Ryder, ILO Director General and on behalf of the ILO Bureau for Workers’ activities let me first wish you fruitful debates and success in your efforts to promote the rights and interests of workers and their families in Norway. I should add workers in the world and your organization has a very substantial record in international solidarity activities, including through cooperation with the ILO.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Your congress is meeting as the world enters its fifth year of a prolonged and violent economic crisis. Over the past 6 months alone, one million people have lost their jobs in the European Union. Creating enough jobs is a major worry virtually worldwide.

Some 870 million women and men are not earning enough to lift themselves out of poverty as measured by the $2 a day per person line. Since 2007, unemployment globally has increased by 28 million and some 39 million people have dropped out of the labour market opening up a 67 million jobs gap. Young women and men make up 74 million of the 198 million unemployed globally.

These figures are alarming. They mean millions of lives blighted, families and communities damaged and our societies challenged. At the same time, As the International Trade Union Confederation noted in their May Day Statement, “Working people are facing sustained and often brutal attacks on their rights in every region of the world”.


We have a duty and a responsibility to work with you and address the job crisis and tackle it. We have a duty to combat abuses of human and trade union rights.

From the outset, I should stress, however, that our success depends to a large extent on the support and commitment from our constituents including the trade union movement and trade unions acting at national level as well as globally through international solidarity and campaigns such as those led by the ITUC and Global Union Federations. We have a common agenda to address the crisis, protect the most vulnerable and promote policies that take into account a human dimension.

Wave after wave the costs of austerity in terms of its violent impact on working people, political cohesion as well as future economic potential are increasing daily.

There is another option: this is the Global Jobs Pact adopted at the ILO in June 2009 to address the economic and social impact of the crisis. It promotes a well-thought strategy, devised through a tripartite consensus and founded on evidence-based research and on international labour standards.

We have brought this in our recent talks during the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

This is not a superfluous exercise when we know that this is where many governments have taken their advice, or else were basically told what to do to rescue the neoliberal agenda.

Interestingly, the IMF has now recognized that the austerity they promoted in the first place has become part of the problem! And the recent World Bank Jobs report seems also to align itself with the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda. Is that enough?

Probably not. There is still much progress to be made at global level to ensure policy coherence. We count on the trade union movement, also at national level, to support our efforts aimed at influencing the policies of those institutions.

Dear Friends,

Let me turn to the importance of industrial relations and collective bargaining. Social dialogue appears to have been one of the first victims of the crisis, in particular in Europe.

Only a few weeks ago, here in Oslo, the ILO Regional Meeting considered that “Social dialogue and collective bargaining serve as effective tools to mitigate the impact of the crisis, but in many countries they have been weakened”.

But the report that will serve as basis for a discussion on social dialogue during the International Labour Conference paints a grim picture of the impact of the crisis on industrial relations. Many countries have restricted existing collective bargaining, weakening their rules or even abolishing national collective agreement or dismantling their automatic extension mechanisms.

The most blatant violations have been registered in Greece.

Dear colleagues,

Social dialogue should be central to tackling the crisis. It provides a means to bring all parties to the discussion table and find solutions that uphold the rule of law, generate fair, balanced and sustainable outcomes and safeguard social peace. It is a fact that where social dialogue takes place in good faith, long-term solutions can be found.
Social dialogue and collective bargaining are also key instruments to avoid social dumping and I know that your organization has been particularly active to combat social dumping. I must in particular commend your efforts to maintain compliance with ILO unique Convention, Convention 94, on public procurement, and respect for collective bargaining.

Norway is a country with one of the highest rate of ratification of ILO Conventions in the world. It is important for workers in Norway, but is also a strong signal sent to all countries with regard to the importance and relevance of international labour standards, as useful tools to fight social dumping within countries or between countries.

Dear friends and dear colleagues,

I would have failed in my mission here to speak of ILO concerns if I would not speak about the dramatic situation world-wide in terms of safety and health at the workplace.

Only a few days ago, a mass industrial manslaughter occurred in Dacca, Bangladesh. The collapse of a building, illegally constructed, and containing five garment factories with 2,500 workers is the worst ever industrial accident in Bangladesh. More than 400 garment workers died in the disaster with fears of a final death toll reaching 1,000 as hundreds remain injured and trapped in the rubble. The ILO has sent a high-level mission to the country. As we celebrated the World Day for Safety and Health at the Workplace on 28 April, this dramatic event shows that there can be no pause in our fight to improve safety and health at the workplace.

I would also like to express the ILO support to the Palestinian workers and call for a resumption of the peace process.

Dear colleagues and friends from LO,

In closing, I would like to put on record our appreciation of the support LO has shown with regards to the ILO projects aimed at strengthening the Trade Union Movement.

The Project “Trade Unions for Social Justice”, funded by Norway, has created lasting change in countries like Nepal and India, and the work is still on-going, targeting ratification and implementation of ILO’s Conventions 87 and 98, on the right to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, as well as increasing trade union relevance and membership in the informal economy. In Africa, the Project has contributed to the strengthening of much-needed gender-networks in the labour movement, while in Latin America; the focus is now on regional trade union strategies in financial and taxation policies, targeting the unequal distribution of income and wealth on the continent.

While we are thanking the LO, one person deserves special attention. Trine Lise Sundnes has impressed greatly in her capacity of being a member of ILO’s Governing Body. Representing the Norwegian and Nordic Unions, she plays a major role in the Workers’ Group of the Governing Body of the ILO, and she is doing a remarkable job that you can all be proud of.

Mr. President and colleagues of LO let me wish you fruitful debates and much success in your work for the years to come!

Thank you.