106th Session of the International Labour Conference - Speech of Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary

ILC – ILO – Geneva, 9 June 2017

Speech of Luca Visentini – General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation



Thank you chair.

Ladies and gentlemen,


The Report of the ILO Director General this year addresses climate change, while another report analyses the labour migration.

They could seem two completely different topics, but they are not.

Climate change and labour migration are linked, and are features of today’s globalisation: as are other challenges such as digitalisation, automation, international trade, and the consequences they have on the future of work.

Climate change and international trade particularly, together with the global economic crisis and several conflicts around the world, push people to move from their country of origin to seek better life opportunities.

The effects of all this create profound discontent among workers and citizens.

Wide spread dissatisfaction, which finds an outlet in rising xenophobia and populism, together with the recrudescence of terrorism.

Global changes are not negative in principle, but in practice have created major unemployment, social and wage dumping, poverty and social exclusion, high levels of precariousness and fragmentation in labour markets.

We, social partners and governments, bear responsibility to provide solutions to people, who fear that not only their present condition, but also their future and the future of their children, will offer less opportunity than in the past.


The only way to escape this trap is more global governance and regulation, more international solidarity, more social dialogue and collective bargaining, and to assert together that no one country comes first, that nationalism is not the solution.   

We need a global economic, environmental and social pact, to put in place just transition and at the very last compensate the losers of globalisation.

But compensation is not enough, because it comes after the damage is done.

If I was a miner in Poland, or a steel worker in the US, or a self-employed handicraft worker in India, and I lost my job because of climate change or automation or international trade, I should not be obliged to accept a less skilled and less paid job, or an endless training path or a minimum income benefit, or be obliged to migrate.

To these workers, we must offer a better economic future:  sustainable growth that provides quality job opportunities to all, welfare state systems that ensure decent wages and working conditions, efficient social protection and cohesive societies where to live.


The ETUC has ideas for what should be done:

  • More public and private investment, to boost sustainable growth and quality job creation.
  • Higher wages to boost domestic demand and increase sustainability of social protection systems, together with upward wage convergence to beat wage dumping.
  • A level playing field of standards and regulations, for defending human, labour, environmental and social rights.
  • Just transition and integration based on equal treatment, in all environmental, globalisation and migration fields.


But to make all this happening, we must first recognise that that current policies go in the opposite and wrong direction.

So, is this not the time to change? Yes, it is. It’s the time for a global deal.


Something has started moving in the right direction, as for instance:

  • The Paris Agreement, regardless of the recent decisions of Trump.
  • Plans for structural investment on different continents.
  • The ILO initiative on the Future of Work, and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
  • Some Western countries, like Germany, Sweden, Italy, Canada, welcoming and integrating migrants.


Also, multilateral institutions, like the ILO, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the European Union, finally recognise that both the global narrative and macroeconomic governance must become more progressive and fairer.

Now it’s time to move from analysis to action.

We expect the international institutions to change their policy, to help governments, companies and workers to sort out from the trap.

We expect to be involved in realising this change through social dialogue everywhere.

We have a momentum now, and we must use it.

Let’s mobilise together for a better world, before it’s too late.


Thank you very much.