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Workers' leader warns of union backlash

A leading international trade union leader has warned that there may be a backlash against the movement following the inauguration of George W. Bush as United States President.

Phillip Jennings, the general secretary of Geneva-based Union Network International, voiced his fears in an interview with swissinfo in Davos.

'We have a problem of respect for union rights,' said Jennings, 'There is a vicious anti-union campaign taking part in the United States.'

And Jennings is particularly worried about the incoming Bush administration.

'Last year, people were concerned about the three Ws,' he says, 'This year we're concerned about George W. Bush because I don't see how his policies are going to help change a corporate mindset that's fundamentally anti-union.'

Jennings is an official participant at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort but is nevertheless a critic of many corporations attending.

The main theme of this year's summit is 'Sustaining Growth, Bridging the Divides' and Jennings said he would like to see more corporations take the second part of the agenda more seriously.

'To the majority of the delegates here sustaining growth is probably most important,' he says, 'But global divides are real and they are growing and the community here has to bridge these divides if growth is to be maintained.'

There was no union representation in the Forum until 1995 and since that time Jennings says he has seen some movement towards a more liberal climate in some areas.

'There has been a noticeable change for instance with respect to debt relief and there have been voices raised to get a wider respect for human rights but what concerns me is that the business community in general isn't taking its social responsibilties seriously enough.'

By Michael Hollingdale

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