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Ban child labour, raise wages: Global trade unions

More than 300 union activists accused corporations of ignoring workers' rights amid the global push to a free market economy.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 20:34 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Top trade unionists meeting on the sidelines of an anti-globalisation forum on Friday demanded an end to child labour and higher corporate taxes and workers' wages before further integration of the world economy.

More than 300 union activists from across Latin America, Europe and Asia met near the World Social Forum (WSF) and accused corporations of ignoring workers' rights amid the global push to a free market economy.

Juan Somavia, director general of the International Labour Organisation, said the focus should be on child labour "which is devastating humanity and depriving millions of children of basic rights such as education and good life".

"Look at Latin America today. The buying power of workers has reduced more than 25 percent now from what it was in 1980, thanks to aggressive multinational policies," Somavia told AFP after the meeting.

"Most of the families affected by this sharp reduction of income are forced to get their children working at an early age."

Willy Thys, secretary general of the World Confederation of Labour, said that before the global trade talks can make progress, "one must look at the gaping inequalities across the world."

"First the level of the economy has to be equalised, only then can you integrate," Thys told AFP.

"This can be done by raising corporate taxes which can be then distributed by the governments to the society at large. Simultaneously, wages of workers need to be hiked also."

But he charged that a nexus between corporations and governments hindered the type of reforms he wanted. "It's a seduction process between the two (governments and companies). This has to stop," Thys said.

Meeting in India, which began liberalising a strictly protectionist economy in 1991, European trade unionists stressed they shared in the struggle against big corporations.

First Published: Jan 16, 2004 20:34 IST