Global Unions Call for “Stronger and Deeper” Action to Protect Workers in the Information Society


The international trade union movement today welcomed the fact that new jobs are being created through the introduction of new communication technologies, but said that governments attending the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, which opens tomorrow in Geneva, must do more to protect rights at work.

“Millions of workers are being drafted into forms of new economy employment that are clearly unfit for the information age,” said Philip Jennings, General Secretary of Union Network International. “But the question of action to ensure that fundamental workers’ rights are respected has been side-stepped.”

Global union federations representing millions of workers in the information technology, media, and public service sectors, fear the Summit is being overwhelmed by business interests and technocrats. While unions welcome calls for fairness and equality, they say that the proposed declaration and action plan do not go far enough to protect workers.

“There is no mention of the fundamental right to freedom of association and no clear commitment to respect for existing core labour standards,” said Jennings. “It is not enough to talk about ‘relevant international norms’ when information society workers are being routinely dismissed for trying to form trade unions or while companies are denying workers the right to social benefits and employment protection.”

“There should be programmes for job creation and trade union development that give people the right to work in decent conditions. If the information society doesn’t bring prosperity and decent jobs, there is likely to be an erosion of popular support for technological progress,” said Jennings.

“If the Summit is to deliver a citizen-based and people-centred design for the Information Society, governments must strengthen their commitment to rights at work, including the important role that trade unions and international bodies such as the ILO have to play in securing fairness at work for all.”

Global Unions are also concerned that groups of creators are not adequately protected. “There is hardly any useful reference in the final declaration and action plan to the rights of authors and creators – the very people whose talent is vital to the success of the Information Society,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists. “The very least we might expect is recognition of existing intellectual property protection under Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but even that is absent.”

Philip Jennings, whose union represents millions of workers in the communication industries, will address the Summit plenary on Thursday with a call to governments to guarantee social inclusion and rights at work for all employees. Aidan White and Jennings will also speak at a side meeting being organised by the ILO, the UN body which monitors and defines labour standards, on the same day.

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