Union Leader Sharan Burrow: How to Get Governments to Really Change
– Sharan Burrow, Joint Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation
On how to talk about local climate change with employees in affected industries, such as coal mines
“You cannot lie to workers. We must base our demands for a secure future on what is real. This is why we fought for a good 15 years to achieve a “just transition” in the Paris climate agreement: we failed in Copenhagen (the 2009 United Nations climate conference). And now, of course, we educate, train, promote partnerships, join movements to bring workers and their unions to the table to design the transition with fair transition measures, so that no one is left behind. People make the mistake of thinking that if we do the coal work, it’s done. Each sector must make the transition. … We must secure our future with climate and jobs.
On what underlines his fight for employee rights
“Work-life balance is essential. It sounds really lousy, but having people you care about and people you care about is central to what a decent life is. So unionism for many, many millions of us is an extension of that. If you really care about others, if you sincerely believe that we should build an inclusive future, then it comes in a dime, frankly. ”
Option A: On trade unions fighting modern slavery
“Where are the workers at risk? Where do you have to fight and demand rights? In the Gulf States, a group of countries that perpetuate modern slavery, we used the FIFA World Cup as a lever to bring this to the attention of the world. Now that doesn’t mean it was worse than in the United Arab Emirates, which still leads a kafala system and is currently located at our target sites, or in Saudi Arabia or other parts of the Gulf States. But the Qataris have decided that they will negotiate with the ILO, the International Labor Organization, which is the parliament of world standards and of course, ourselves. And since then the laws in Qatar have been very different. The kafala system has ended… It could not have happened 10 years ago, but now it shows you the trust and the relationships that unions build with employers and with governments where you are making progress on rights, rule of law, social justice, whatever the problems might be. Qatar still struggles to implement all of its laws, but the goodwill and the partnerships are there. “
Now Burrow is interested in the United Arab Emirates.
“They will tell you that in fact they have made progress. We just saw, you know, an incredible number, hundreds of deported African refugees, some being tortured to get on planes with cattle prods and tasers. Yeah, so they’re in our sights. It is that simple. So, you know, it’s about building awareness, establishing the basis of rights, having relationships to actually negotiate or in this case, ask for help for those who are fighting for democracy and rights in other countries.
POLITICO has contacted authorities in the United Arab Emirates for a comment on its appeal against the employees, but has not received a response.