UNI General Secretary to CNBC: “Europe must snap out of austerity and focus on jobs”
UNI Global Union’s General Secretary, Philip Jennings co-hosted CNBC’s morning news programme, Squawk Box and did not shy away from its theme of the week, How to put the swagger back into Europe?
How Does Europe get its confidence back?
Addressing the challenge of how Europe can get its self-confidence back directly at the end of a combative two-hour show, Jennings said, “We have to change the narrative, change the dialogue. Europe has been through hell. Working people have been through hell. We have been through one of the most difficult economic and financial crises in history.
“There has been a massive effort that has gone on recovering some financial integrity and to build more economic cooperation. Now what has to happen is that people have to start to feel the benefits of all the sacrifices. For me, the narrative should be about Including You and Making It Happen (the theme of UNI Global Union’s upcoming World Congress in Liverpool 2018). Get off the austerity case – let’s talk about jobs. Lift the share of wages. If we can lift the share of wages by just 1% and if we can match that with an increase in investment, the European continent would be in a much better place.
“The European trade union movement thinks that Mr Juncker is being too modest we need far more investment than he is suggesting ($315 bln – if we can get those wheels turning off austerity, then we can get the swagger back, and your confidence back.”
Human rights and business
Earlier in the programme, Jennings strongly disagreed with CNBC presenter, Steve Sedgwick, who suggested that CEOs such as Sir Martin Sorrell were worth their massive multimillion pay packets and bonuses.
Jennings said, “CEO pay is excessive and unsustainable. We must raise up the 3 billion who are surviving on one dollar a day. What we want is for nurses and teachers to get a pay rise and an investment in education. Not what we have now which is the wealth going to the 1%.”
When asked what he wanted companies to do to help remedy the situation, Jennings said they should sign global agreements that reflect the Ruggie Principles of applying human rights to business. Jennings said that UNI has more than 50 of these agreements and was working on others. Primark released healthy quarterly figures today and Jennings pointed out the company one of more than 200 that had signed up to the Bangladesh Accord, which is changed the rules of the game in the garment global supply chain. He urged Primark and other companies to sign up to global agreements and show their commitment to workers’ rights and a sustainable business model.
Watch the video segment on human rights and business here
Jennings used Qatar and the well documented problems of virtual slave labour around the World Cup preparations as a stark example of what happens when there are no unions and no right to organise.
“Give them a say on the job, the right to organise, then health and safety will improve,” he said.
In contrast he said it was positive that there were unions in Kuwait, where oil workers are taking action over conditions as an example of democracy in progress. Jennings admitted that the road of change was a hard one but said there were positive signs around the world such a minimum wage in Germany and the success of the ongoing Fight for $15 minimum wage in the United States.
However, when discussions turned to Brazil and Argentina, Jennings said there was real cause for concern. In Brazil he said that the attacks on Former President Lula and President Rousseff were unacceptable and threatened a move in the direction of the neo-liberal model and austerity.
Jennings said, “There has to be due process. It’s gone from corruption to the management of the economy. And let’s not forget the workers’ party has brought millions of people out of poverty.”
“What we are seeing is a modern coup. Rousseff is the target of media companies connected to the right wing opposition who have drip fed allegations on a daily basis in order to undermine her.”
Watch the video segment on Brazil here
On Argentina, Jennings said President Macri was exercising authority with decrees and putting the people through economic shock therapy while the Wall Street vulture funds circled around ready to strip assets.
Jennings said, “Utility prices have increased by 300%, working people are suffering and inequality has risen. Only strong trade union movement can make sure that profits do not go to the wrong places.”
“Ordinary people are hurting – investment must make a difference to working Argentinians. 150,000 people are losing their jobs. Is Macri representing the people or Wall Street?”
Watch the video segment on Argentina here
When asked whether Europe had gone through its own economic shock therapy after the crisis with the European-wide austerity measures, Jennings agreed it had.
“It’s true Europe has been through its own shock therapy - people have been through the wall because of the economic crisis, and they deserve better.” he concluded.