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ICFTU Campaign for Labour Rights in the WTO kicks off in Seattle


Union campaign for labour rights in WTO kicks off in Seattle

Seattle, November 25 1999 (ICFTU OnLine): "There can be no fair trade
without fundamental labour standards", said Bill Jordan, the general
secretary of the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions (ICFTU) addressing today an assembly of top union leaders
gathered in Seattle on the eve of the third ministerial confederate of
the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Today's event which celebrated the
ICFTU's fiftieth anniversary is kicking off a series of international
trade union activities directed at the WTO and which will culminate in a
march organised by the US trade union centre, AFL-CIO, on November 30.

Among the participants at today's ICFTU celebrations where prominent
union leaders including Dieter Schulte, head of the German trade union
federation (DGB), Etsuyo Washio of the Japanese organisation Rengo, John
Monks, general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC),
Sanjeeva Reddy from the Indian trade Union Congress and more than one
hundred union senior representatives from both developing and
industrialised countries.

"Globalisation may be the world's most powerful force, but it is
disfigured by gross inequalities. It needs a social dimension" insisted
Bill Jordan , who in his speech reviews the achievements of the ICFTU
over the last 50 years. "Colleagues, we have fought for economic freedom
and dignity for 50 years. The fight continues, in many fronts", says
Jordan. One of them is next week's ministerial conference of the WTO
where the ICFTU will be pressing for a linkage to be established between
trade and labour rights.

Opening the conference, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney presented the
ICFTU with its George Meany/Lane Kirkland human rights award. Next on
the ICFTU's Seattle agenda is a three day session of its Executive
Board. It will be followed by an international conference on "trade and
labour standards" on November 28-29 at Seattle Bell Harbor Centre, the
AFL-CIO march on November 30 and intense lobbying activities during the
ministerial conference.

The ICFTU will be pushing for the establishment within the WTO of an
entity to deal with trade and labour rights where there would be a
special role for the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO). Yet,
stressed Bill Jordan "our ultimate aim is for workers' rights to be
solidly anchored in WTO procedures and mechanisms".

The ICFTU is the world's largest trade union body. Founded in London in
December 1949, it has since been based in Brussels and has a membership
of 213 national trade union centres in 143 countries representing more
than 124 millions workers world-wide.

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