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Chapter 11: international

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Chapter 11 - international

Contents

11.1 Introduction

The past year has seen a rapid decline in the employment prospects and living standards of tens of millions working people in Indonesia, Korea, and other countries of south east Asia as a result of financial and economic crises which have depressed global growth and job prospects. The General Council have campaigned, with other organisations in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, for action by the governments in the region and in the main industrialised economies to ease the social hardship in the countries concerned; to introduce specific measures in consultation with trade union organisations to promote recovery and to sustain stable growth and social development; and to protect the free exercise of basic employment rights. They convened meetings of senior trade union representatives from overseas with the Prime Minister and other political leaders before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October, the G8 Employment Summit in February, the meeting in April of leaders from Asian and European Union countries, and the G8 Summit in May.

Through the International Labour Organisation (ILO), they also pursued policies aimed at introducing a social and human rights dimension into the globalisation process and their representatives played a leading part in securing the adoption of a declaration committing countries to respecting all the ILO Conventions proclaiming basic rights in employment. The TUC has been active too in campaigns against child labour and in work which is expected to bear fruit in the adoption in 1999 of a Convention to eliminate the most exploitative and dangerous forms of child labour. The General Council have extended solidarity in response to a wide range of appeals for trade union cooperation with educational projects and for humanitarian relief.

11.2 Globalisation and employment rights

Congress in 1997 carried a resolution on ethical trade and human rights abuses, which called on the General Council to continue work to develop codes of conduct for companies setting minimum standards for all working people, which are independently monitored and verified. The resolution asked the General Council to attempt to secure the involvement of appropriate trade union organisations in seeing that codes are applied wherever practicable, and to press the World Trade Organisation and the ILO to adopt international agreements linking human rights in employment with trade. It also urged the Government to show leadership by encouraging ethical trading and investment; to support work on social labelling; to give information to consumers about the human rights conditions under which products are made; and to take account of human rights in employment in planning British trade missions.

The General Council have taken account of the resolution in their work in the ICFTU and other international organisations and in representations to the Government. In particular they presented the Congress policies in a conference on the eve of the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting, and in representations to the leaders in the meeting of Asian and European governments in London in April, and to the G8 Summit leaders in May. The General Secretary spoke at a One World Action seminar in Congress House in February on globalisation and human rights, linked to the meeting of Asian and European Union government leaders. The TUC, with UNISON, has also supported the publication by Amnesty International in June of the report, Workers Rights are Human Rights. General Council members joined the Amnesty campaign of re-dedication to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the 50th anniversary of its promulgation and of the adoption of ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise.

The TUC has continued to be at the forefront of international trade union campaigns to link improved access to global markets to respect for basic human rights in employment. The British Government would not support the reintroduction in the WTO of a proposal to study the relations between trade liberalisation and respect for basic rights in employment, but it is exploring possibilities to achieve the aim of linking trade with respect for basic rights within the ILO. The Government supported the adoption in June of the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. It has also supported restricting access to the European Generalised System of Preferences on grounds of violations of freedom of association and child labour, in addition to forced labour.

The TUC has continued discussions with non-governmental organisations and companies about codes of labour practice for international supply chains and of practical models for the independent monitoring and verification of the implementation of codes. It took a leading part with the ICFTU and with ITS representatives in the establishment of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an alliance of companies, trade union organisations and other organisations aimed at identifying and promoting good practice in applying codes, and in monitoring and independently verifying respect for codes. The Department for International Development supported the establishment of the Initiative and has observer status on the interim Board in which the TUC is represented by Simon Steyne (International Department). The TUC has invited affiliated unions with involvement in food production, retail trades and garment production to become involved in ETI work.

TUC representatives have also taken part in the steering committee of Invest in Freedom, a campaign organised by War on Want and several TUC affiliates to encourage the use of pension funds to promote respect for basic employment rights.

The ILO Governing Body has discussed corporate codes of labour practice and social labelling, and the TUC has suggested that the ILO should offer courses at the Turin Institute for monitors and auditors of codes and their trainers.

11.3 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions

The General Council have continued to work with the ICFTU in defending trade union rights around the world, campaigning for improved international labour standards, tackling multinational companies, assisting trade union recruitment and organisation, and promoting equality. In the Executive Board meeting in December representatives from a wide range of organisations reported that interventions by the ICFTU in the previous twelve months had contributed significantly to national trade union successes and that campaigns co-ordinated by the ICFTU against child labour and other forms of exploitation had also succeeded in making a substantial impact. In December the Board approved an action programme on sexual harassment within the trade union movement and a model complaints and investigation procedure which would be circulated widely.

In December the Board welcomed into membership COSATU of South Africa, NEZAVISNOST in Serbia, KESK and Hak-Is in Turkey, and other national centres in Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Latvia, Moldova, Panama, San Marino and Sweden. In June the Steering Committee were informed that neither COSATU nor NACTU in South Africa objected to the admission of the Federation of Unions of South Africa, and recommended to the Executive Board that its application should be accepted.

The Board approved a budget for 1998 of BFrs 396.07 million (about ,6.6 million) a reduction on the budget for 1997 of BFrs 10 million. Actual expenditure in 1997 had been 390.4 million - BFrs 15.6 million less than the budget estimate for the year. Expenditure in 1998 would again be covered wholly by income, and the General Secretary, Bill Jordan, reported that the plan to bring expenditure in the long term into line with the resources likely to be available was close to being implemented in full. The proposals for the 1998 budget provided for increases in the allocations for the three regional organisations of the ICFTU in the African, Asian and Pacific, and Latin American regions. The Board agreed proposals put forward by Tony Christopher, an ICFTU auditor who had chaired a working group to identify ways of increasing income for the International Solidarity Fund, to ask affiliated organisations in industrialised countries to explore the possibilities of using contacts with charities to obtain contributions to ICFTU solidarity activities or to establish charitable organisations on the lines of TUC Aid in their countries.

The Steering Committee, in June, noted a resolution of the Asian and Pacific Regional Organisation condemning the nuclear weapons tests by India and Pakistan in defiance of the concerns of the international community, and reaffirming the commitment of the ICFTU to comprehensive multilateral nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons. The trade union representatives at the ILO Conference in June adopted a similar resolution.

11.4 Africa

In representations to governments and international organisations, the General Council have been active in support of independent trade union organisations under attack in African countries and in pressing for favourable trade and debt reduction policies by the British and other governments of industrialised countries. They have cooperated closely with the ICFTU in this work. At the invitation of the Department for International Development, Michael Walsh, Head of the TUC International Department, took part in a workshop in Bamako, Mali, in May on partnership between OECD and developing countries in promoting good governance. He drew attention to the contribution which independent trade union organisations were making in several countries in transition to promoting the accountability of public authorities and combatting corruption.

The General Council sent a message of support to a meeting in Algeria in December at which the ICFTU General Secretary, Bill Jordan, had supported the efforts of the UGTA to maintain stability and respect for basic rights in the climate of extreme violence which had resulted in the brutal murder of many hundreds of civilians. Last year=s Congress was informed of the representations made on behalf of Dr Taye Woldesmiate, President of the Ethiopian Teachers= Association, who was being held in harsh conditions on subversion charges. The TUC also raised concerns about Dr Taye and about other grave violations of trade union and other rights in Ethiopia when Mr Dawit Yohannes, Speaker of the Council of PeopleÕs Representatives, visited Britain in December. The TUC supported a complaint in the ILO against the Government and in June the ILO Conference expressed deep concern at the continuing detention of trade union leaders without trial. It also urged the Government to ensure that trade unions could elect their representatives and organise their activities freely.

The Government of Sudan was condemned by the ILO Conference in a special paragraph for persistent gross violations of the forced labour Convention. The Conference asked the Government to end slavery in the country and to accept ILO assistance to that end. The ILO also described as serious and urgent the situation of freedom of association in Sudan, where the exercise of trade union rights was attended by dismissals, arrests, imprisonment, torture and disappearance. The Governing Body asked the Government to open an inquiry into the cases of a number of arrested and tortured trade unionists, and into the circumstances of the death of two people. It also pointed out serious incompatibilities between Sudanese legislation and freedom of association. The TUC has raised with the Ugandan Government concerns about interference by President Museveni with the rule of law and his undermining of the role of the Industrial Court by attacking its rulings and by encouraging foreign companies to flout protective labour legislation.

Nigeria

The General Council campaigned with the ICFTU and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers= Unions for the release of Frank Kokori and Milton Dabibi, trade union leaders who were being held without trial or charge in Nigeria, and for the restoration of trade union and other basic freedoms.

The General Council raised their deep concerns with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and the Prime Minister before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October and with the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on several occasions. The TUC asked the Government to give a lead in the European Union and in the United Nations in support of an international embargo on Nigerian oil exports and, in June, sent an ICFTU report on violations of basic rights to the Minister for Trade before a World Trade Organisation review of Nigeria, asking that the regimeÕs record should be taken into account by the WTO. The Ministers associated themselves with ILO and Commonwealth pressures but did not indicate a readiness to contemplate economic sanctions. In March the ILO Governing Body set up a Commission of Inquiry to examine complaints by the international trade union movement about the persistent attacks on trade union rights in Nigeria and the regime=s refusal to comply with the ILO=s recommendations on workers= rights or to receive ILO missions. The General Secretary asked the Vatican if the cases of the two trade unionists might be raised during the visit to Nigeria of the Pope. The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace replied that their detention had been raised with General Abacha.

General Abacha died suddenly in June, and shortly after, the two trade union leaders were released with seven other political prisoners. The General Council welcomed their release and agreed to continue the international campaign for removal of restrictions on basic trade union and other freedoms in Nigeria. The ICFTU Steering Committee in June decided to renew efforts to gain admission to Nigeria for an ICFTU mission.

Southern Africa

The General Council have continued their support for trade unions in their efforts to promote the interests of working people in countries of southern Africa. They have campaigned with Action for Southern Africa for the negotiation of a fair agreement between the European Union and South Africa, extending to South Africa terms of access to EU markets similar to those available to other countries of the region. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the Government was taking the lead in the EU in seeking to reach an agreement favourable to South Africa during the British Presidency. Agreement had not been achieved by the end of June. The General Secretary was appointed a member of the Committee on South Africa Trade who advise the British Overseas Trade Board on issues of trade and investment with South Africa. Affiliated unions and the General Council in January presented a bust of Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, in honour of his outstanding contribution to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, to the South African High Commission.

The TUC continued to support the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions which has been under attack by the Swaziland Government and the General Council have joined with the ICFTU in a complaint in the ILO about violations of the right to organise and the right to strike in Swaziland. In June the ILO urged the Government to ensure that the Industrial Relations Bill was drafted in line with ILO requirements and in consultation with the social partners. It also called on the Government to have an independent inquiry held into the abduction of Jan Sithole, SFTU General Secretary, and the killing of a child during a workers= demonstration.

The General Council protested strongly to the Government of Zimbabwe about a brutal attack on Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, who was beaten unconscious by eight men in December. It was reported at the Commonwealth Trade Union Conference in June that the economic crisis in Zimbabwe had developed as a result of the GovernmentÕs mismanagement of the economy and corruption in the public and private sectors. The ZCTU had proposed that the Government should engage with it in constructive discussions about overcoming the economic difficulties but the President had not responded by June. Later in June Mr Tsvangirai addressed a seminar on trade union and social developments in southern Africa, which the TUC co-sponsored with Action for Southern Africa, and reiterated that the ZCTU sought to find agreed policies to tackle the crisis which was causing widespread social distress in Zimbabwe. The ILO Governing Body condemned the imposition of compulsory arbitration in a banking dispute and the mass dismissal of strikers and asked for the strikers to be reinstated and for the law to be amended to prevent discrimination in employment against workers taking part in legitimate trade union activity.

Mr Fackson Shamenda, President of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, also addressed the ACTSA seminar and reported that the Zambian Government was persisting in attempts to undermine collective bargaining and to divide the trade union movement, and that the ZCTU was resisting the pressures. The TUC presented books about industrial relations law to the ZCTU in response to its request.

11.5 The Americas

The General Council have continued to cooperate with and support independent trade union organisations in Latin America. They have followed closely labour developments in the region, and TUC representatives have met many trade unionist colleagues from countries in the region, including Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela. The ICFTU Executive Board were informed in December that cooperation with ITS was improving in the Latin American region and that ORIT - the American regional organisation of the ICFTU - had taken initiatives to strengthen alliances with the Church, which was strongly supportive of trade union objectives in some countries of the region. He expressed the view that ORIT representations to governments in the region had been successful in promoting increased understanding of ICFTU proposals for establishing a link between improved access to international trade and respect for human rights in employment.

The General Council registered grave concern at the continuing high level of violence against trade unionists in Colombia and made several representations to the Colombian President to protect the exercise of basic trade union rights. An ICFTU delegation visited the country in October where, between 1991 and 1997, more than 1,000 trade unionists had been murdered. Many other trade unionists had been imprisoned for ordinary trade union activities. The delegation put to the President of the Republic the ICFTU concern that the Government should ensure that basic trade union and other rights were effectively protected and that issues of the impunity of the police, armed forces, and paramilitary groups, and the criminalisation of trade union action were addressed justly. The President welcomed the role of the delegation in monitoring the human rights position but said that no proper analysis was possible in the midst of civil war in Colombia. The mission concluded that the unwillingness of the President to take practical action to protect trade union activity was a grave obstacle to progress but noted that other government representatives had committed themselves to reduce pressures on normal trade union work. The Board called on affiliated organisations to maintain pressure on the authorities and agreed that the ICFTU should support the efforts of Colombian trade unions and other organisations to defend trade union and other human rights. The ILO also deplored continuing anti-trade union violence there and the deaths of many union leaders and activists, and the trade union representatives in the Governing Body proposed that a commission of inquiry should examine gross rights violations. The Governing Body asked the Government to ensure that its security forces respected human rights and called for the reinstatement of trade unionists dismissed because of their trade union activity. The TUC received visitors from the Escuela Nacional Sindical in Medellin, a centre for trade union education and training. With the support of several affiliated unions TUC Aid raised ,1,000 to support an ENS project for the rehabilitation of workers and their families displaced by violence in Colombia.

The General Council supported an international campaign to help the independent banana workers= union, SITRAP, in Costa Rica, in organising efforts on banana plantations dominated by employer-run solidarist unions.

Mr Pedro Ross, General Secretary of the CTC, Cuba, was received at Congress House and the General Council have continued to call for the lifting of the US trade embargo. The ICFTU Executive Board was informed in December that ORIT had renewed representations about the US embargo which was imposing suffering on Cuban working people and obstructing democratic progress.

The ILO Governing Body considered several cases of violations of trade union rights, including acts of gross violence, in Guatemala. Most of these dated from before the peace and human rights agreements in 1996. Recent complaints related to victimisation of a trade union official for attending an ICFTU regional conference, dismissals of other trade unionists because of their membership, and an armed attack on agricultural workers by gunmen hired by an estate owner. The Governing Body deplored the attacks and called on the Government to protect trade unionists going about their normal work.

North America

The General Council have continued to maintain close cooperation with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Canadian Labour Congress. In September, Margaret Prosser=s sororal address to the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh was warmly received by the delegates who re-elected John Sweeney as President. President Clinton also addressed the Convention. In April a group of senior AFL-CIO officers visited the TUC for discussions with the General Secretary and senior TUC staff. Also in April a meeting took place in Congress House between Emilio Gabaglio, General Secretary of the European Trades Union Confederation, with leaders of some ETUC - affiliated organisations, and Mr Sweeney, in the context of a dialogue organised by the ETUC and the AFL-CIO.

The General Secretary and the President of the Canadian Labour Congress have maintained close liaison on national and international trade union developments, notably the finances and activities of the Commonwealth Trade Union Council. The General CouncilÕs representatives in ILO meetings have supported efforts to persuade Canadian authorities to bring legislation into line with the freedom of association Conventions. Several cases examined by the ILO Governing Body involved violations of freedom of association in the public sector. In Ontario, collective bargaining rights and the right to strike of Crown employees have been removed by statute. The Governing Body asked the Government to re-validate agreements, guarantee access to collective bargaining machinery, and ensure protection against anti-union discrimination.

11.6 Asia and the Pacific

The financial and economic crises in the Pacific exposed the pernicious impact of restrictions on basic trade union rights and the lack of regulation of speculation on good governance and public accountability of the authorities in several Asian countries. The General Council have continued to campaign vigorously to support trade union organisations under attack in the region and to promote the exercise of other basic rights in employment. In December the ICFTU Executive Board adopted a resolution about the crises and concluded that millions of working people were paying the price of the lack of accountability in the economic and social policy spheres associated with globalisation. The ICFTU statement recalled that the trade union movement internationally had predicted the crises because without a social dimension and a strong system of regulation, globalisation would be inherently unstable and would allow financial speculation to ruin entire economies. The ICFTU called for fundamental reforms to the international financial system as well as to national institutions and agreed that the ICFTU should work for the introduction of a global tax on short term flows of capital and tax transfers to tax havens at a penalty rate; strong international control of financial markets; rethinking of the role of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank so that international co-ordination of economic and monetary policies could be developed; and action to keep global trade open and spread the benefits of trade growth by making sure that all WTO member countries respected ILO core labour standards.

It was reported in June that the ICFTU was engaged in an intensive programme of meetings in order to support trade union organisations in countries directly affected by the financial and economic crises to deepen their involvement in national efforts to secure consensus on measures to overcome it and to limit the harmful impact on working people. The Managing Director of the IMF met the ICFTU General Secretary and accepted that respect for basic rights in employment was necessary for genuine dialogue and had said that the IMF supported the tripartite pact in Korea, and would raise concerns about the violation of trade union freedoms in Indonesia with President Suharto.

Bill Brett represented the General Council at the Twelfth Asian Regional Meeting of the ILO in Bangkok in December. This meeting urged the ILO to deliver a strong response to minimise the adverse effects of the crises, with immediate steps focusing on training and redeployment of displaced workers and protection of women, migrants and other groups especially adversely affected. Mr Brett also took part in the high-level tripartite meeting on responses to the social crises in Asia, in April. This adopted recommendations aimed at mitigating the effects of the crises and providing a basis for a sustainable recovery. It also concluded that respect for basic international labour standards provided a basis for independent, strong and representative trade union and employers= organisations to develop productive social partnership.

The General Council gave full support to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and its affiliate, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)in its dispute with Patrick Stevedores and the National Farmers Union, backed by the Australian Government, which was strongly implicated in the initiation of the dispute. An MUA representative warmly thanked the ICFTU Executive Board in December for ICFTU and International Transport Workers= Federation interventions which had enabled the union to defeat an attempt by the Australian Government to replace dock workers in Melbourne by regular soldiers trained in Dubai. It was reported in March that the employers had dismissed 2,000 dockers in Melbourne and TUC Aid made a contribution of ,10,000 for relief of the families of dock workers deprived of their employment in the dispute. It was reported in July that the dispute had been settled by agreement. Most of the jobs had been retained and all redundancies had been voluntary. Union members had been reinstated and the MUA had kept its position as the organisation recognised for collective bargaining purposes. The ACTU and the MUA expressed deep gratitude for the international support they had received in the protracted dispute.

On Cambodia, the ILO Governing Body said that the first union to be established in the export-orientated textile industry should be registered and allowed to negotiate with employers, and that the right to strike should be respected and dismissed trade unionists reinstated. The ICFTU Executive Board received reports on Korea, which included an account of an ILO tripartite mission to the country and the conclusion of agreements on policies for economic recovery and alleviating the impact on working people of increasing unemployment and falls in living standards. The ILO welcomed the progress and expressed satisfaction at the release of four imprisoned trade unionists, but noted that trade union rights continued to be violated, especially in the public services, where the right of teachers to organise had not been recognised, and the Korean Congress of Trade Unions had still not been able to register. The Government was asked to change legislation and practice; remove a prohibition on companies paying the salaries of full-time union officials; and repeal provisions denying dismissed and unemployed workers the right to maintain their union membership. In the Philippines, the Governing Body urged that 1,500 members of the Telefunken Semiconductors Employees= Union, dismissed for taking part in a strike, should be reinstated.

China

It was reported to Congress in 1997 that the Hong Kong Legislative Council had adopted legislation a few days before the reversion of sovereignty over Hong Kong to the PeopleÕs Republic of China which established a right to recognition for representative unions and protection against anti-union discrimination. The legislation was repealed by the new legislature in October.

The General Council have continued to press for the release of trade unionists and other political prisoners in China and welcomed the release on humanitarian grounds of Wei Jinshen who had been imprisoned for 18 years for promoting independent trade unionism. Mr Wei visited the ICFTU and the TUC and other national trade union organisations in western Europe for discussions on labour issues in China. Representatives of the ICFTU and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) met to discuss the programme of the high-level delegation to visit China in July 1998 and agreed an itinerary, including provision for contacts in multinational companies operating in China as well as in a state enterprise. The central purpose of the visit was to investigate the challenges confronting working people in attempting to have their own independent trade unions. In June the ACFTU postponed the visit because of the ICFTUÕs insistence that it should be able to clarify the situation of detained labour activists and make contact with them. This issue had been raised with the ACFTU by a preparatory delegation. It was subsequently reported that the ACFTU had misjudged the intentions of the ICFTU which sought dialogue and had no intention to isolate China from the international trade union world, though it did seek to influence trade union developments. The ICFTU Steering Committee agreed that the ICFTU should maintain dialogue with the ACFTU on trade union rights and other issues and should consider in November whether an attempt should be made to rearrange the visit.

Indonesia

The General Council have been guided by the terms of the 1997 Congress resolution which expressed support for the Amnesty International campaign against the export to Indonesia and to other countries under oppressive governments of techniques of repression. Congress expressed the view that educational contracts between British universities and the security forces of tyrannical governments should be treated as analogous to the export of arms and deplored plans to establish links between British universities and the Indonesian armed forces. Congress also welcomed the decision of the Government to rejoin the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. In June the General Secretary of the ICFTU, Bill Jordan and Michael Walsh gave evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee who were examining the human rights policy of the Government, and commented inter alia on the arms export policies of the Government, welcoming the initiative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in securing agreement in the European Union on a code to regulate arms exports from the EU. The General Secretary said also that the Government should abide strictly by United Nations policies and processes.

The General Council, with the ICFTU, maintained pressures on the Indonesian Government for the release of Dita Indah Sari, Muchtar Pakpahan, and other detained trade unionists, and for the ending of repression of independent trade union activity. Further contributions were made, through TUC Aid, to the legal defence fund set up by the ICFTU to assist Indonesian trade unionists in prison. In representations to the British Government, the TUC pointed out that economic difficulties and high unemployment were interacting with increasing social and political instability and rampant corruption on the part of the regime to create a most uncertain future for Indonesian working people. The General Council recalled that the exposure of British economic interests to risk in Indonesia was greater than almost every other industrialised country as a result of imprudent investment and trade decisions. They asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to press for the release of trade unionists and other political prisoners as a condition of the country receiving a substantial rescue package from the International Monetary Fund. The ICFTU made a further complaint against the Indonesian Government that new industrial relations legislation in Indonesia fell far short of ILO requirements.

In February, Mr Walsh and Alison Shepherd, as a representative of UNISON, visited Indonesia at the invitation of the ILO to advise on the preparation of a trade union training project which the British Government had indicated it might fund. Contacts with the two central trade union organisations and others suggested that the official national trade union centre, FSPSI, had little scope to represent working people at a time of social crisis with many company failures; massive devaluation and rapidly-rising prices, even of essentials; and the emergence of mass unemployment. The SBSI national centre was subject to continuous harassment and attack by the Government, which was not accountable to any democratic check and was not responding to the critical social needs of working people in the financial crisis. The Government was attempting to put the blame for food price increases on shopkeepers of Chinese ethnic origin and several people had been killed in food riots and looting incidents which the regime had done little to control. The TUC representatives were informed by several reliable sources that bribes, commissions, and other special payments made up 30 per cent of the costs of production in Indonesia, three or four times the cost of wages and other labour costs.

The British trade union representatives visited Mr Pakpahan in hospital where he was being treated between attendances at his trial on charges of subversion which could carry the death sentence. He expressed warm appreciation of the efforts of the British trade union movement and the British Government to have him released and the charges dropped. The General Council renewed representations for the release of the trade union prisoners and gave support to the proposed ILO trade union training project which the British Government had indicated that it would fund. This would be directed at promoting grass roots trade union organisational development and the ICFTU and ITS should be involved with the TUC in identifying appropriate recipients of training. In May, the TUC sent a message of congratulations to Mr Pakpahan on his pardon and release from prison following the fall of the Suharto Government. In the ICFTU Steering Committee, in June, the TUC urged that pressure should be maintained for the release of Ms Sari and other political prisoners and for reform of Indonesian industrial relations legislation to bring it into line with ILO Conventions. It was reported in July that the British Government had agreed to provide $1.66 million to the ILO for a trade union education project on the lines proposed to the TUC.

Middle East

The General Council have continued to back international trade union efforts to reactivate the peace process in the Middle East in line with the resolution of Congress in 1996 which supported the principles agreed by the Israeli Government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1991; UN Security Council resolutions; and all accords between Israel and the PLO. They have maintained contact with senior representatives of Histadrut and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, and they are cooperating with UNISON in continuing work to assist the development of a trade union of health workers in Palestine. The General Council also considered the most recent ILO report on the situation of working people in the Occupied Territories, which described the impact of increased unemployment since the signing of the peace agreement which was due in large part to restrictions on the numbers of Palestinian people able to commute to Israel for lawful employment. The ILO report suggested that the irregular arrangements under which nearly half of the Palestinians working in Israel were employed left them most vulnerable to exploitation and pointed out that people from as far away as China were being recruited to do work in Israel which Palestinians could have undertaken. It was also suggested that injustices arising from the system of social security deductions and benefits should be addressed. The report quoted Israeli estimates of a further eight per cent increase in the number of Jewish settlers living in the Occupied Territories in the year to the end of 1996. The ILO reported that the expansion of settlements entailed confiscation of land and removed scarce means of subsistence from Palestinian working people.

The 1997 Congress remitted a motion about Iran concerning the assassination of dissidents; criticism by the ILO of violations of Conventions; the violent suppression of strikes; and the role of the National Council of Resistance in the Iranian movement for democracy. The motion said that the European Union policy of critical dialogue with the Iranian Government only encouraged policies of repression, and proposed that multilateral sanctions should be imposed on it. The General Council have raised with the Iranian Embassy in London reports of the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations by working people in Iran about the inadequacy of the national minimum wage. In 1998, the ILO Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations commented on the position in Iran in regard to the Convention on discrimination and employment and noted the Government=s assertion that women=s employment had increased in all sectors of the economy, particularly in scientific and specialised occupations. The Committee expressed deep regret that the Government had not supplied information on the situation of people of the Baha=i faith who had suffered discrimination in access to employment for many years.

11.7 Europe

The General Council have continued to cooperate with other national trade union organisations in all parts of Europe in tackling bilateral and international trade union concerns. They have been active in work to assist trade union organisations in central and eastern Europe to meet organisational and development needs. This work has been coordinated with the ICFTU programme which was reviewed by meetings of the ICFTU Co-ordinating Committee on Central and Eastern Europe, in which the TUC was represented by Mary Barber, International Department. The principal project in the region, in which the TUC is involved, is aimed at re-building trade union organisations at local level in Bosnia and at advising the Bosnian national centre , BiH, on employment legislation. In January the General Secretary met Tony Lloyd, Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for Bosnia, to discuss efforts to promote national reconciliation and said that the ICFTU work should have the effect of healing communal divisions. The TUC made a grant of ,15,000 for the project, made possible by a generous contribution to TUC Aid by the TUUT Charitable Trust.

In October a British trade union tutor, Peter Try, ran a course in Minsk on trade union rights for the Congress of Democratic Trade Unions of Belarus. The funding was provided to the ICFTU by the EU=s TACIS programme which was established to provide assistance in the form of grants to organisations operating in countries in the former USSR. In February another tutor, Nick Varney, visited Baku in Azerbaijan to conduct a course for the national centre, also organised by the ICFTU, and funded by the TACIS programme.

The General Council have continued to support the campaign by the three Russian national trade union centres, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, the Confederation of Labour, and the All-Russian Labour Confederation with the support of the ICFTU, for the payment of wages in Russia. They have condemned the widespread practice of non-payment of wages as an appalling injustice and called on President Yeltsin to see that all wage arrears were quickly paid in full. In April the TUC also supported a day of action organised by the Russian organisations in Moscow and discussed the position with Russian trade union representatives at the trade union summit meeting in London.

In February Bill Brett represented the General Council at the Congress of NEZAVISNOST (United Branch Trade Unions - Independence) in Belgrade in Serbia, and, in May, Rita Donaghy attended the Congress of the Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions (CMKOS) in Prague. David Lea took part in a meeting of the ETUC Working Group on Integration in Poland in March where discussions took place on the issue of EU enlargement to include countries of central and eastern Europe as well as other countries in western Europe. The TUC has been successful in an application for Know How Funds for Poland to cover the cost of British trainers for a project on vocational training for trade union officers organised by Solidarnosc. In July the TUC wrote to the President of the Board of Trade to draw her attention to an ICFTU report on the violation of basic rights in employment in Hungary. The report gave information about violations of ILO Conventions on freedom of association and discrimination by the Hungarian Government, despite having given commitments that ILO human rights Conventions would be respected.

In August 1997 the General Secretary addressed the Executive Committee of the LO Denmark while they were meeting in Guernsey and he subsequently attended the LO Centenary celebrations in Copenhagen, in January. In October the President, Mr Lauri Ihalainen, and other leading officers of the SAK, Finland, visited London and met the General Secretary and other trade union leaders, and in March the General Secretary visited Helsinki and addressed the Executive Committee of the SAK. Also in March Bill Brett represented the General Council at the Congress of the UGT, Spain, in Madrid. In April the President of the DGB Germany, Dieter Schulte, was at Congress House for discussions with the General Secretary, and in May the General Secretary addressed a meeting in Naples at the invitation of the CISL, Italy.

11.8 Northern Ireland

The General Council have maintained close contacts with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and its Northern Ireland Committee, and have supported ICTU initiatives backing the peace process in Northern Ireland in order to give effect to the resolution of the 1997 Congress which congratulated all the parties concerned for the progress made towards peace in Northern Ireland since the general election in May. Congress welcomed the GovernmentÕs commitment to introduce a parades commission and expressed the view that local mediation and conciliation over marches could build trust and confidence in the political process. It called on the British and Irish governments to do all that they could to facilitate discussions which might lead to an honourable, lasting settlement, commanding the support of both communities; and on the General Council to back efforts to eradicate violence and intimidation from the lives of working people in Northern Ireland. Congress affirmed support for the ICTU Investing in Peace programme which upholds the basic right of all to live free from discrimination and violence, calls for those seeking to be accepted in the political process to pursue their aims through peaceful means, and points to the need for comprehensive policies to tackle effectively social and community, economic, and justice issues.

The Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU held a demonstration in Belfast at the end of January against the pattern of sectarian murders which had been re-established, and the General Secretary sent a message expressing confidence that the policies of the trade union movement were supported by the overwhelming majority of trade unionists in Northern Ireland. The TUC recalled that the Northern Ireland Committee had, for 30 years, been holding the line against violence, discrimination, and division and had united the overwhelming majority of people on policies for employment, reconciliation and a better life for all people in Northern Ireland.

In April the General Council congratulated the Northern Ireland Committee on their contribution to maintaining a social climate conducive to political negotiations, which had resulted in the acceptance of the constitutional and political agreement on Good Friday by nearly all of the main parties in Northern Ireland as well as the British and Irish governments. The General Council discussed the Agreement and joined the ICTU and the NIC in welcoming it, noting that it had involved major concessions from positions traditionally held by the Nationalist and Unionist parties in respect of the government of Northern Ireland, relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and relations between Great Britain, the Irish Republic, and Northern Ireland. They noted too that the Irish Government had agreed to recommend amendment of the Irish Constitution to acknowledge that change in the constitutional status could come about only through the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. They welcomed, in particular, the references in the Agreement to human, economic and social rights issues. The ICTU and the NIC recommended to trade unionists that they should vote yes to the Agreement in the referenda to be held in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland on 22 May, and the General Council issued a statement referring to the support of Congress for the Investing In Peace Programme of the ICTU and expressing the hope that working people in Ireland would vote yes in the two referenda. Mr Monks, accompanied by Mogens Jensen of the LO, Denmark, visited Northern Ireland shortly before the referendum there to back the NIC position. Both referenda resulted in big majorities for the Agreement.

11.9 Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Rodney Bickerstaffe, with Roger Lyons as substitute, represented the TUC in meetings of the Administrative Committee and in plenary sessions of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Applications for affiliation to TUAC were accepted from the CC.OO, Spain; NSZZ Solidarnosc, Poland; and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions whose admission meant that TUAC represented more than ninety per cent of trade union members in OECD countries.

Representatives of TUAC raised many issues of employment, economic, and social policy during the year, including the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (see chapter 4) the trade union situation in Korea and Mexico, the Asian financial crisis, and OECD instruments on bribery and corruption. The TUC was represented in expert meetings on economic and social issues convened by the OECD.

In October, Mr Bickerstaffe took part in consultations with employment ministers ahead of a meeting of OECD Employment Ministers in Paris, where the British Government was represented by Andrew Smith, the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities. In November Mr Bickerstaffe led a TUAC delegation who made representations to the Japanese Minister of Labour in Tokyo before the Jobs Summit in Kobe. The Japanese trade union centre, RENGO, persuaded the Japanese Government to enable TUAC and ICFTU representatives to attend the main session of the meeting. In December TUAC raised with the Secretary-General of the OECD, Donald Johnston, and the OECD Liaison Committee of permanent representatives of governments, concerns that the social dimension of economic globalisation was being ignored, notably in south east Asia. The TUAC representatives called for respect for basic labour rights proclaimed by the ILO to be promoted through international trade agreements, arguing that they would discourage exploitation and reduce protectionist pressures.

In February, the TUC General Secretary, together with the ICFTU General Secretary, and the President of TUAC presented a statement to the G8 Employment Conference of Finance and Employment Ministers in London, hosted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The statement pointed out that trade unions were a key element of a functioning civil society and were essential for making employment initiatives work. Guaranteeing basic rights to working people on a global basis was the starting point for managing structural change and for developing well-functioning labour markets and social security systems. Trade unions performed the crucial role of protecting workers faced with growing insecurity, limiting the spread of insecure employment, fighting low pay, and integrating minority groups into society.

Mr Bickerstaffe led a delegation in consultations with OECD social policy ministers. The TUAC representatives called on governments to give priority to increasing employment opportunities and to play a central role in ensuring good public services and in integrating social concerns into all aspects of policy. They also called for state pensions to be protected and improved to enhance social cohesion.

11.10 World Economic Summit

The TUAC drew up a statement on the global economic situation for presentation to the OECD Ministerial Council meeting and to the Prime Minister, who was to chair the Birmingham Economic Summit in May. The statement called for a co-ordinated strategy to sustain global growth and support balanced domestic demand; for the establishment of an International Commission to develop a new financial architecture required to regulate international capital markets; and for the introduction of a social and democratic dimension to globalisation through ensuring that core labour standards were guaranteed in the global trade and investment system. The statement also urged the G8 governments to improve and accelerate the implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poorer Countries Initiative of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in order to bring effective relief from debt for the world=s poorest countries, where basic human needs were being denied as a result of the harsh repayment requirements on them. Mr Bickerstaffe led a TUAC delegation in consultations with the OECD Ministerial Council in Paris at which the trade union statement was also presented.

The TUC invited trade union leaders of the G8 Summit countries to meet the Prime Minister on 23 April. Participants included Bob White, President, and Nancy Riche, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress; John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO; Dieter Schulte, President of the DGB, Germany; Etsuya Washio, President of RENGO, Japan; Sergio Cofferati, Sergio D=Antoni, and Pietro Larizza, General Secretaries respectively of the CGIL, CISL, and UIL, Italy; Mikhail Shmakov, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia; Andrei Efremento of the All-Russia Confederation of Labour; and a representative of the CFDT, France. From international organisations, Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the ICFTU, Emilio Gabaglio, General Secretary of the ETUC, Willy Thys, General Secretary of the World Confederation of Labour, and John Evans, General Secretary of the TUAC, were also present.

The Prime Minister welcomed the opportunity to meet the G8 trade union leaders and said that he shared many of their concerns about employment, debt, and regulation of financial markets which would be addressed by the political leaders in Birmingham. He agreed that it was necessary to make sure, in the new global market, that governments were encouraged to set at least minimum standards, and he said that he would raise the trade union concerns at the meeting in Birmingham. In May the General Council welcomed the reference in the summit communiquÄ for the first time to the role of trade unions and, in a paragraph about the OECD, ILO and WTO, to the support of governments for progress round the world towards recognition and respect for basic labour rights. They expressed regret that the communiquÄ had not made a firm commitment to reform of international financial architecture nor to cancellation of the debt of the poorest countries which were key demands of the trade unions.

11.11 Commonwealth Trade Union Council

The General Council have continued to support CTUC work to foster trade union development through training and education activities and Mr Brett and Mr Monks have continued to represent the General Council in the CTUC Trust Committee and the Steering Committee which met in November, March and June. In October, before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh, a CTUC delegation met Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Prime Minister and other political leaders and presented them with two submissions about debt, trade, investment and development issues in Commonwealth countries and about violations of basic trade union and other human rights, notably in Nigeria. The CTUC representatives called for the continued suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth until free elections were held and basic trade union and other freedoms were respected.

The Director of the CTUC, Arthur Johnstone, resigned in November and the CTUC Chair, Bob White, in consultation with the General Council representatives and other members of the Steering Committee, appointed Annie Watson, formerly of the TUC International Department, as Acting Director. The Steering Committee decided that she should be appointed Director in June. The CTUC Trust Committee in March were informed that a deficit of ,84,000 had arisen in the CTUC as a result of a breakdown of internal control, in particular expenditure on projects in excess of income which was less than anticipated, and unforeseen staff leaving costs. The deficit was in effect owed to the TUC which pays the CTUC salary bill and invoices the CTUC at the end of each year. The General Council discussed the financial position in June and agreed to the request that they should permit the CTUC to reimburse funds owed over a period of three or four years, and that the CTUC Chair and Director should find out whether the TUC, the CLC, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions would agree to contribute additional funds to meet the deficit.

The Steering Committee and the Trust Committee were informed in June that several national centres in developing countries of the Commonwealth had agreed to make donations to help cover the deficit. It was agreed that the CTUC should embark on a fund-raising strategy in 1999, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its formation, to enable it to develop its work, to deal with emergencies, and to avoid future cash flow problems, and that Bill Morris should be invited to chair a special committee to lead the campaign.

Seventy-six delegates from 32 countries took part in the CTUC Conference in Geneva in June which received an account of CTUC projects in East, West and Southern Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean region. Delegates representing trade union organisations in the regions commended the training and education activities of the CTUC. The Conference reviewed