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IMF and World Bank must expand debt relief program

IMF and World Bank must expand debt relief programmes and increase respect for labour rights

Brussels 23rd April 2004 (ICFTU Online): Ahead of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Spring Summit in Washington this weekend, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today released a statement ( on behalf of the global trade union movement.

Entitled 'implementing a decent work agenda to achieve sustainable poverty reductions', the statement calls on the World Bank and IMF to increase respect for labour rights since this will have a powerful and positive impact on poverty reduction.

To reap the long-term benefits of poverty reduction in the long-term, the international trade movement argues that the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) (i.e. the IMF and World Bank) need to focus on improving the employment prospects and working conditions of those whose only asset is their labour. The international trade union grouping is stressing the consequences of neglecting such issues, for example the continued abuse of women workers' rights which has contributed to the International Labour Organisation's alarming statistics showing that 60% of the 550 million working poor are women. The IFIs' own reports echo this, making the link between rising inequality, the persistence of poverty and the violation of labour rights. Trade unions are well placed to work with the IFIs to draw up relevant policy in this area- targeting employment creation and ensuring that all IFI

Commenting in the run-up to the meetings taking place on 24-25 April, ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder said, "the Global Unions urge the World Bank to institute policies which respect the ideal of decent work. Policies must work towards establishing and enforcing laws which recognise workers' rights to earn a living wage, earned in safe conditions and free from abuse. One way to safeguard this would be to include all four core labour standards* in IFC loan contracts and in other World Bank lending agreements".

Trade union organisations will also be arguing for the IMF policy recommendations to be more consistent with internationally ratified ILO conventions.

In the course of the spring meetings, Global Unions will be calling for substantial additional resources to be allocated to debt relief for low- income indebted countries and underlining the need to increase number of eligible countries covered by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries scheme. Using the example of the Argentinean debt crisis, Global Unions will highlight the importance of introducing a framework for a fair and transparent international debt arbitration and restructuring mechanism.

The ICFTU represents over 150 million workers in 233 affiliated organisations in 152 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

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