United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Major Group: Workers & Trade

Trade Union Statement
CSD IPM 03/03/2005
David Boys, Public Services International
Challenge to CSD 13
Involve Workers and Unions in Meeting MDGs
Relating to points 3-4 of the chair's questions . I will abbreviate, but distribute my full
statement .
Our positions are premised on the fact that the best way out of poverty is a decent job . The
private sector generates most jobs . But the private sector depends on solid public
infrastructure, including WSS . Unfortunately, it has become evident over the last decade that
the private sector can't (and won't) build that public infrastructure, especially not in poor
countries . So, it is back to the governments to assume their role in providing quality public
services, and the international community must help . Our purpose here is to develop
mechanisms for helping this process .
One aspect that receives much attention is the fundamental role of human resources in all of
these sectors . Without the right mix of skills and dedication of people on the ground, no
amount of money will solve the problems. We are eager to integrate the social pillar of the
MDGs . Given the centrality of human resources, the trade unions are fairly astounded that
the international community has not called on us to help, has not challenged the trade unions
to become part of the solution .
This is a big challenge . As most of you know, trade unions are organisations built by
workers, financed by workers, to help workers defend their rights and improve their
conditions of work . Unions exist at the workplace, at the national level, and at the global
level . For example, the union federation that I represent, Public Services International, was
built 100 years ago, and now consists of more than 650 unions representing 20 million public
service workers in 150 countries. These workers have each committed a portion of their
salaries to build our global federation .
So, what can the workers and their unions do to help meet the MDGs? First of all, we know
a lot about the operations of our utilities, and if a serious reform effort is needed, we have
much to contribute . And in the broader productive and service industries, we can point to
practical measures to reduce the environmental footprint . But we won't do this if our rights
are not respected, or if reform processes are blindly looking to cut our jobs . I don't pretend
that working with the unions is easy . But we do know our jobs, and we do know about
negotiations and about change processes .
So I want to challenge this body and the chair to take a hard look at the potential offered by
the trade unions in working with management, with government, with the UN and with our
communities to this common effort of meeting the MDGs .
We will need the policy recognition here, in the chair's text and in the final CSD13 document
in April . And to those governments that don't like unions, I say to you, don't block this
opportunity for others . We all need to take some bold risks, we all need to work to build trust
and cooperation, if we are to meet the MDGs .
The strength of the labour movement lies in our membership, our knowledge of the
workplace, and our role as community leaders . It regrettably does not lie in our financial
muscle . So, if I am to take back proposals to our national unions that we get involved in the
MDGs, I am sure the treasurers of the unions will ask with whose money? We are ready to
work in partnership to build up the competencies required for quality public services . We call
on the international community, national and local actors to work with us to identify
mechanisms, including financial, to unlock the potential that clearly exists .