Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Trade unions at CSD: Food prices, green jobs and decent work

A 50 member trade union delegation commenced its work at UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in New York this week by asking member countries to consider ‘decent work’ a vital part of any agenda for sustainable agricultural and rural development. Trade Unions, one of nine Major Groups under Agenda 21, are meeting with governments and international agencies this and next week to review progress made towards Sustainable Development since the 2002 World Summit in the following theme areas: agriculture, desertification, drought, land, rural development and Africa.

Initial remarks prepared for the Opening Session, Thierry Dedieu, Confederal Secretary of the ‘Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT) reminded that although world attention is focused on the disastrous effect of escalating food prices, the major players in the agricultural industry, the millions of waged and informal workers that bring the food to our tables, should not be forgotten. “The ILO Agenda for Decent Work is critical for the agricultural sector,” said Dedieu. “Large segments of the industry currently encompass all aspects of precarious employment; unacceptable pay levels, unhealthy & unsafe work, insecure employment prospects, and numerous other substandard terms and conditions. In 2007, for example, over 170,000 agricultural workers died because of their work. During the next two weeks, trade union delegates will report on progress made by trade unions to render industries related to agriculture and rural development more sustainable,” he said. “We have been able to bring health and safety to millions of workers through worksite negotiations and international Framework Agreements, at the same time as we continue to promote such international agreements as ILO Convention 184 on Health and Safety in Agriculture.”

Green & Decent’ employment policies in agriculture and the global food system can yield a high payoff as solutions to deal with drought, desertification and rural development, especially when combined with energy conservation and environmental protection, he said. A progress on a ‘Green Jobs’ report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) will be unveiled in a high-level luncheon with country delegates next week.

Trade unions at the CSD will also highlight the need to integrate climate change, water issues, as well as public and occupational health as key cross-sectoral issues. Trade unions will encourage the CSD to harness the full participation of workers and trade unions in decision-making for workplace solutions and in building support for the aggressive policies that are needed at the community level. See >>> information kit

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