Union Fury Over ‘Wilful Disregard for Workers’ Rights’ At World Summit on Information Society

The global trade union movement has reacted angrily over the way government delegations planning the United Nations World Summit of the Information Society have ignored fundamental rights at work in preparation of the Summit, which is to take place in December.

“There is not a single mention of fundamental labour rights on the agenda,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists. “This is a vision of the Information Society that demonstrates a shocking and wilful disregard for working people.”

Global unions representing millions of workers in the information technology, media, and public service sectors, joined leaders of civil society non-governmental groups in condemning the way the World Summit on the Information Society agenda is being overwhelmed by business interests and technocrats.

In response to a new draft declaration issued at the third preparatory meeting, being held in Geneva this week, they say “there is little or no mention of the poor, workers and marginalised groups.” They warn that the summit may fail if it bypasses civil society.

The global unions have demanded that respect for fundamental rights at work and existing international labour standards should apply to the millions of workers who make up the worldwide labour force working with new information and communications technologies. But the draft Declaration and Action Plan for the Summit – which opens in Geneva this year and will conclude in Tunisia at a second event in 2005 – make no mention of social protection or labour rights.

“There is one weak reference to ‘promote labour standards’ in a sub-clause of the text rather than a clear call to apply all core international labour rights,” said White. “In this context promises that this would be an inclusive process in which workers’ rights and civil society views would be fully taken into account have proved to be worthless.”

He warned that the United Nations is “heading for a confrontation with unions and others who have engaged in dialogue for 18 months, but have been ignored.”

“Talk of a citizen-based and people-centred debate on the Information Society has been exposed as window-dressing for a process controlled by business interests, technocrats and the political elite,” said White.

“Even at this late stage, governments must think again,” said White. If not, civil society groups and unions will move “from participation to protest when the summit opens in December”.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries