Addressing the transport union and manufacturers summit at the Vatican City, ITF president Paddy Crumlin said that globalisation has failed working people in some key areas internationally, with 60 percent of the world’s workforce in the informal economy, including the majority of transport workers.
“There is a direct correlation in the rise of corporate power and the decline in workers’ rights, wages and secure work,” said Mr Crumlin. “As unions, we need to be more effective for working men and women to be able to meet the tremendous challenges of the modern world.
“The world is seeing unprecedented levels of inequality, the result of a failure to share the benefits of growth, increased deregulation and the erosion of human rights, including labour and trade union rights.
“It’s a dreadful moral failure in a world where 26 people own as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent. We must continue to challenge the multinationals and public corporations that refuse to act in line with the true values of the often geographically diverse communities in which they operate.
“We recognise the scale of the challenges we face. Modern day slavery, human trafficking, exploitation of labour, automation and the very worst excesses of modern day neo-liberal capitalism, combined with the climate crisis, will have an unavoidable and damaging effect on every part of society, in and beyond transport. The goal of this summit is to create a foundation in which we can build global awareness of these issues.”
This week the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) hosted the first summit of transport union leaders, manufacturers and technologists from around the world at the Vatican City. The summit included representatives from the ITF and its affiliated unions, Deloitte, Transdev, MSC Shipping, Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, Volvo, General Motors, Securing Americas Future Energy, Daimler Financial and Mobility Services.
The summit set a shared vision for confronting some of the biggest challenges facing contemporary society, including the promotion of social, economic and environmental justice.
“In today’s world, corporate morality is now articulated through environmental, social and governance principles: a commitment to the protection of the environment, a social responsibility to guarantee a balance between the acquisition of wealth and its redistribution along morally acceptable grounds and governance that delivers environmental and social justice,” said Mr Crumlin.
In a race to the bottom, corporations acting decently and observing proper governance, are under increasing pressure to follow bad corporate behaviour in order to survive.
“As trade unionists we must challenge multinational corporations who step outside these standards. Take BHP for example, whose poor governance has led to environmental disasters like the collapse of the Fundão Dam in 2015 in Brazil killing 14 workers, who engage in tax avoidance and fail to take social responsibility for its workforce when 80 seafarers are sacked with no notice while at sea, denying them their labour rights, all the while exposing their own corporate greed,” said Mr Crumlin.
Mr Crumlin, who is also chair of the influential Committee on Workers Capital - an international labour union network for dialogue and action on the responsible investment of workers capital - continued, “Aggressive corporations use weak and compliant political structures, including some governments and media organisations, to avoid being held to account by institutional investors, including international pension and superannuation funds.
“Hectoring and bullying in response to legitimate ESG concerns is a further indication of failing governance in these companies, including BHP.”
According to the International Labour Organization, 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2017, with 25 million people subjected to forced labour. That same year, the ITF inspectorate collected USD38 million in stolen wages from seafarers.
“These figures, while staggering, are consistent over time,” said Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary. “It is a world where workers are forced into precarious employment with no job security or social protection, and where women and young workers are disproportionately affected. And there is a direct link between equality, decent work and climate justice.
“The multinationals at the top of the supply chain must take responsibility for the millions of workers that move their goods. We need dialogue and cooperation in order to protect jobs, end modern day slavery and safeguard trade union rights.”
Mr Cotton said that the ITF together with industry leaders, faith-based organisations and social partners need to protect and promote human and trade union rights to facilitate the transition from the informal to the formal economy.
“This summit has provided an opportunity to hear from unions and companies who operate around the world. We can find common ground to promote social justice, decent work, equality and trade union rights, but we need to have dialogue, cooperation, trust and mutual respect to collectively respond to the challenges. The ITF can commit to an ongoing dialogue between us, the Catholic Church and the businesses in this room; we hope this is the beginning of a relationship where we take our mutual responsibility,” added Mr Cotton.