“It’s an ambitious agenda – but the world is relying on us”


A week-long meeting of the biggest democratic movement in the world ended on Friday with the re-election of Sharan Burrow as General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 176 million workers worldwide.

Unions also made a strong commitment to expand trade union membership, to support a living minimum wage and to continue the fight against modern-day slavery, while passing emergency resolutions on Turkey – following the Soma mine disaster – and Thailand, where the armed forces seized power in a coup on Thursday.

In addition, a new sub-regional structure to help build democratic and independent trade unions in the Arab world was established by the ITUC General Council.

Burrow, who secured 87 per cent of the vote against challenger Jim Baker, current head of the Council of Global Unions, will continue to lead the ITUC until 2018.

João Antonio Felicio from CUT Brazil was elected as President of the ITUC, taking over from Michael Sommer who retires from both the ITUC and the DGB Germany, which he led for 12 years, next week.

Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson of LO Sweden and María Fernanda Carvalho Francisco of UNTA Angola were both elected Vice Presidents of the ITUC, while Jaap Wienen and Wellington Chibebe will continue as Deputy General Secretaries.

At the Congress, unions pledged to organise 27 million new members over the next four years and to end the cycle of poverty wages in the supply chains of multinational corporations.

They also committed to continuing the campaign to end forced labour, as demonstrated by the global trade union action on Qatar, as well as to call for an ambitious climate deal at the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015.

On learning of her reelection, Burrow said told delegates “this is not a vote for a single person but for an agenda to build workers’ power around the globe.”

“Before this Congress, the world’s workers gave us an agenda. They wanted secure jobs and a decent minimum wage. They wanted to tame corporate power. They wanted a voice.

“It’s an ambitious agenda,” she continued, “but working together, locally and globally, we will do it. The world is relying on us.”


World’s Worst Boss

But while Burrow celebrated being endorsed for another four years, another boss won a less favourable vote.

On Thursday, Jeff Bezos of the US e-commerce juggernaut Amazon was named the World’s Worst Boss.

Over 20,000 votes were cast from a list of nine CEO, chosen for their abuses of workers’ rights, for flouting national laws and for tax evasion.

Bezos won with 22 per cent of the vote, closely followed by Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corp and the head of a major Gulf airline carrier who cannot be named for legal reasons.

C. Douglas McMillon of Wal-Mart and Ivan Glasenberg of Glencore Xstrata were amongst the nine shortlisted bosses.

Amazon has been involved in everything for tax avoidance to the widespread use of temporary work contracts to draconian conditions for workers at its ‘fulfillment centres’ in Europe and in the United States.

“Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who are promoting the American corporate model,” said Burrow at a press conference announcing the World’s Worst Boss.

“The message to big business is ‘back off’ – you are not going to mistreat workers.”

On the same day that Bezos won the award, Amazon announced plans to use 10, 000 robots to work in its ‘fulfillment centres’ by 2015 .

Burrow said this proves exactly why Bezos deserved to win.

“Amazon operating in Germany treats its workers as if they are robots. The company makes no secret that within just a few years they will replace workers with robots.

[Amazon is a] rich American corporation operating globally with disdain for dignity, for rights for working people.”