Trade Unions made the difference in the Assembly on Labour and Environment

From June 11th to 13th was held in Rio de Janeiro the Second Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment with 465 participants from 58 countries. The Assembly showed that it is possible to join north and south workers’ sensitivities in a real union internationalism and that the proposals from the world of work are integrating the needs and interests of the society as a whole.

Just before governments were set to begin the Rio+20 negotiations, trade unions from all over the world gathered at an Assembly to launch an urgent call for action for sustainability and decent work in order to transform in a fundamental way, the current profit-based model of production and consumption.

But the Assembly was not only an internal act, many players came from different backgrounds shared their views and listened to union demands. Together with those coming from labour leaders we had contributions from Achim Steiner (Executive Director UNEP), Helen Clark (UNDP Administrator) or Michelle Bachelet (Executive Director, UN Women).

Unionist attending received also messages from former presidents like Lula da Silva or Tarja Halonen.

The plenary sessions had a wide and varied participation of unions, governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and social movements, and academia representatives. To see video of interventions click here.

In addition, participants worked in five working groups: Green jobs and just transition, Climate Change and Energy, Chemicals and Occupational Health and Safety, Collective bargaining on Sustainable Development and Sustainable access to resources.

The Assembly resolution proposes an ambitious agenda of trade union commitments and concrete proposals for governmental action.

  • We must break last years’ shameful trend of rising global inequality and we must urgently provide access to food, energy and water to millions of people on the planet who do not have it, and being respectful with environmental boundary.
  • The world's unions proposed an ambitious agenda for climate action, willing to hold governments a maximum increase of 1.5 ° C in global temperature average, an investment of at least 2% of GDP in sectors that reduce environmental impact and natural disasters and the prohibition of the use and trade of extremely hazardous substances such as asbestos, endosulfan, paraquat, benzene, cadmium, mercury and lead.
  • A sustainable world is not possible when 60% of the workers have no safe employment contract, 75% are not covered by any social protection system and neoliberal adjustment policies have resulted in the violation of trade union rights and labour. Thus, the unions demand progress on social security for all citizens and in the implementation of the recent ILO recommendation for 2030 on social protection floor, agreeing the resources needed to transform it into reality.
  • The transformation requires responsible and democratic governments to ensure public control of the commons for a fair distribution and environmental preservation and to urgently reform tax systems to make this possible. The rich and the biggest polluters have to pay taxes. It is at this point that strong and effective public services should play their role to ensure social cohesion, equitable distribution of wealth and access to education, health, social services, and other essential and necessary services for whole societies.
  • The financial transaction tax is part of their demands: it would help immediately to raise funds to sustainability policies and would reduce the scandalous speculation of financial systems.

To read the Resolution, click here.

The Assembly, organized by ITUC, CSA and Sustainlabour, was funded by Paz y Solidaridad, CC.OO Foundation (Spain) and AECID (Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development), and cofinanced by ITUC and UNEP.

Working Groups

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