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Opening remarks by Mikhail Shmakov, FNPR President, at the panel discussion on the Future of Work
13.07.2016  

Opening remarks by Mikhail Shmakov, President,

Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR)

Session VII. Panel discussion "A Reflection on the Future of Work"

L20 Trade Union Forum – Beijing, 13 July 2016

 

Dear Comrades, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world trade union movement originated with the appearance of wage labour, and will exist until the wage labour disappears. Therefore, the subject of this panel discussion is particularly important for us.

Sigmund Freud, the outstanding Austrian psychoanalyst, argued that “Work represents one's connection with the environment and the reality of life”. Unfortunately, the vector of development of this reality no longer satisfies the majority of workers and is more and more alienated from human freedom and social justice.

Our reality is 200 million unemployed and 20% gender wage gap; it is 232 million migrant workers and over two million workers who die each year in the workplace.

Our reality is when half of the working people live in the countries that have not ratified the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association. Globally, half of the workforce is employed in the informal economy, which increasingly sweeps even through the industrialized nations. This is not the kind of future that the working people are straining after.

As noted in “The future of work centenary initiative”, presented by the ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the recent session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, the factors that I have mentioned, as well as the fight against climate change and low world economy growth rate, for several years now have been forcing to seek for new models of development.

Globalization leads to the fact that goods and services are increasingly produced not in certain countries, but in the world in general. This means that labour regulatory architecture, as it has been developed historically, needs to be reorganized.

National legislations are increasingly coming into conflict with the activities of transnational corporations and financial capital. Global competition results in deterioration of working conditions and failure to respect fundamental human rights.

The development of technologies leads to new forms of industrial engineering, which brings about new forms of employment. These changes may open up new opportunities, but they can also result in growing inequality, injustice and insecurity.

Information technologies are expanding the use of remote work, or homesourcing. New opportunities are emerging to harmonize work-life balance. Some businesses make use of direct hiring on the basis of subcontracting and outsourcing, or use global supply chains. All this has both good and bad sides to it. One important implication of these and other changes is the rethinking of the role of labour in society.

At the same time let us not forget that the Declaration of Philadelphia emphasizes the need for action, which will ensure “…the employment of workers in the occupations in which they can have the satisfaction of giving the fullest measure of their skill and attainments and make their greatest contribution to the common well-being” and notes the right “to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development”.

One of the ILO's fundamental principles is based on the idea that work should be an act of self-fulfillment, inspired by the realization of personal and collective goals.

Needless to say, work must satisfy the material needs, but it should also comply with the ambition of an individual to develop his or her personality and the desire to contribute to something more than just a personal well-being.

In the run-up to its centenary the ILO proposes to focus on four aspects of the evolution of work. They are: work and society; decent jobs for all; the organization of work and production; the governance of work.

The outcome of that debate will be reflected in the ILO Centenary Declaration. Besides, the future of work directly depends on the definition of economic policy by each individual state and by the G20 in general. Some countries use the principle of a “welfare state” as the basis of their policy providing for the creation of new jobs and growth of personal incomes. The majority, however, adheres to the principle of neo-liberalism promoted by the International Financial Institutions (IMF and World Bank), which implies maximization of profits, notably those of the private companies and MNEs.

A new contradiction of capitalism is becoming more and more evident today – the contradiction between financial and production capitals. Jobs are created by the production capital, but the financial capital does not require jobs since the bulk of its profit is derived from exchange speculations and other virtual financial instruments.

This is a casino economy, where the financial capital is dominating all spheres of activity instead of rendering conventional services to production. This is exactly why the ministers of finance, not the ministers of labour, are the “superministers” in all countries. This is exactly why the initiative of holding joint meetings of labour and finance ministers, which first took place in St. Petersburg in 2013, has taken root neither in Brisbane, nor in Antalya, nor here in Beijing. Today, when innovation and inclusive growth are promulgated, it is totally inadmissible for the G20.

In order to be able to develop the world of work in the future and to advance the decent work agenda, we need to build pressure on our governments to change their economic course and overcome the new contradiction of capitalism.

I do hope that our session will be able to make a worthy contribution to that discussion.

Thank you for attention.

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