IUFUniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide
World Day for Decent Work - October 7 Posted to the IUF website 02-Oct-2009 Share this article.
Unions around the world are mobilizing on October 7, each in their own way, to highlight the global struggle for decent work in the context of the worst economic contraction since the 1930's. Mass unemployment threatens the lives, health, jobs and communities of working people. Social security systems built up over decades are gutted to appease financial investors. There are now over a billion people whose basic nutritional needs go unmet. Employers respond to the downturn by capitalizing on it to further squeeze already degraded working conditions. For workers everywhere, work becomes still more precarious through outsourcing, casualization and the destruction of direct, permanent employment.
On the World Day for Decent Work, the IUF draws attention to
- Ongoing struggles at Nestlé and Unilever, the world's largest and third largest global food companies, corporations which continue to funnel tens of billions of dollars annually to shareholders while denying workers basic rights. In Khanewal, Pakistan, the factory which makes Lipton's immensely profitable Lipton tea employs only 22 workers on direct employment contracts. The five hundred and more other workers are casual, disposable and forced to live on poverty wages - but with IUF support they're fighting back.
- Nestlé celebrated crisis year 2008 by spending nearly USD 8 billion buying back its own shares on the stock market. That's over half of what the company spent on global wages and salaries. In Panjang, Indonesia, Nescafé workers have been struggling for well over two-and-a-half years to include wages in collective bargaining. Nestlé says wages are a "commercial secret" and refuses workers the right to negotiate their pay!
- Global food riots in response to huge increases in the prices of staple foods in 2007 2008 led governments and policymakers to rediscover the global hunger which was supposed to be on the wane. Official UN estimates now put the number of mal- and undernourished people at over one billion. Large numbers of agricultural workers - those who help to feed the world - account for a growing number of the global hungry, and they are hungry because their rights as workers are systematically repressed. The IUF, through its intervention at the ILO and at the UN interagency High Level Task Force on the Food Crisis, has put workers rights as a key element on the food crisis agenda of the UN. Yet the UN's "Comprehensive Framework for Action" currently contains only one reference to wages in relation to hunger - ands warns against raising them.
Agricultural workers need a living wage to feed themselves and their families. The IUF will be demanding that the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization FAO support and incorporate our call for a living wage for all agricultural workers as part of any and all global efforts to roll back hunger. And we will be organizing together with our affiliates around this theme in the months and years to come.
Also on October 7, the IUF will be publishing two reports which highlight the huge decent work deficit at Dole, the world's largest producer of fresh fruit, and in the fast-growing cut flowers sector. The reports will kick off targeted organizing and campaigns.
- At a conservative estimate, there are over 100 million domestic workers employed around the world, those whose tasks involve every variety of work in the home from day care to child and health care. They are ruthlessly exploited, trafficked, abused, excluded from social security systems and frequently denied elementary citizenship rights. They are not recognized as wage earners, and enjoy no legal rights or protection as workers. But domestic workers are organizing! In 2010 the ILO will begin to draft an International Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, to be ready in 2011. The Convention will set out, for the first time in international law, the rights of domestic workers as wage workers; their right to form unions, to bargain collectively, their right to social security, inclusion in occupational health and safety schemes and legal protection. Countries which ratify the Convention are obliged to incorporate its provisions into national law. The IUF has been actively involved in preparing the groundwork for this initiative, and has helped to establish the International Domestic Workers Network, IDWN, made up of regional and national domestic workers organizations worldwide. For more information, contact the IUF - click here to download the camaign brochure (in pdf format).