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Campaign for fair labour standards launched

Trade unions and non-governmental groups attending the World Social Forum in Nairobi are making a new attempt to create fair labour conditions.

The campaign, backed by Switzerland’s centre-left Social Democratic Party, the Trade Union Federation and Swiss Labour Assistance, wants to put the issue at the top of the global political agenda.

“United we stand,” said Mamounata Cissé of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) at the launch in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday.

An estimated 500 people had gathered in a tent for the event to witness the start of a three-year campaign dubbed Decent Work for a Decent Life.

The organisers want to raise public awareness of labour issues in general and lobby for the creation of more jobs and better social policies. The aim is to make freedom from exploitation and union rights guiding principles of international development aid.

“It is crucial to make decent labour conditions a top priority in politics,” said Assane Diop, senior representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Last year the Geneva-based organisation put the fight against poor labour standards for casual workers high on its agenda.


Campaign organisers point out the number of jobless people has increased over the past decade despite global economic growth. Many people who have work don’t earn enough to make a living.

“Two point eight million people across the world have a job, but half of them live in poverty,” says Ruth Daellenbach of the Swiss Labour Assistance.

The United Nations wants to cut by 50 per cent in 2015 the number of people who live in poverty as part of its millennium goals.

“It won’t be possible to achieve this aim if we don’t create a sufficient number of new jobs,” Daellenbach told swissinfo.

“The economy itself will benefit if millions of consumers have more purchasing power. And this in turn will create new jobs,” said Julia Gerber Rüegg of the Social Democratic Party.


The new campaign is seen as a long-term alliance between trade unions, centre-left parties and non-governmental groups.

It is the brainchild of the Global Progressive Forum (born from Europe’s Social Democratic Parties and Socialist International), the ITUC and Solidar – an umbrella group of 34 NGOs in Europe.

Narobi was chosen as a platform for their campaign for a number of reasons.

“It is very important for the unions to cooperate with the civil society. The Social Forum is the perfect place to meet and to develop new ideas so they can be turned into reality in the various countries,” said Vania Alleva of the Swiss Trade Union Federation.

As part of the Decent Work campaign the organisers plan to invite young people from around the world to a camp in Germany. It will coincide with a G8 summit of the leaders of world’s most powerful nations in June.

Other activities include information campaigns and a “charter for decent work”.

swissinfo, Andrea Tognina in Nairobi

The world economy grew by an average 4.1% every year over the past decade, according to the ILO.
The unemployment rate soared by 11% in the same period.
An estimated 1.4 billion workers, half the world’s working population, live on less than $2 per day.
500 million people have less than $1 a day.
There are about 300,000 so-called working poor in Switzerland.

The Trade Union Federation has called on the government to base its policies on the main ILO conventions. They are aimed at protecting the rights of employees and granting fair working conditions.

The centre-left Social Democrats want the government to accept the ILO conventions as a guiding principle for the purchase of goods and services by the public sector.

The Swiss Labour Assistance highlights the Fair Play campaign in the construction industry for the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR