Support to the Make Poverty History coalition (MPH) is a natural step in unions further addressing international development and social and economic justice.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions and
affiliates have played an active international role through providing financial,
political and organisational support for trade unions and affiliated
organisations in developing countries. Since 1984, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA has
been the humanitarian and development arm of the Australian trade union
movement, providing direct assistance to hundreds of thousands of workers and
their families in developing countries.


May Day 2005: Make
Poverty History:

trade union movement is international. Through our bilateral links and
affiliation to bodies like the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
(the ICFTU which represents national union centres in 149 countries), the Trade
Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and individual unions’ affiliations
to their Global Union Federations, unions are in daily contact with workers
representatives in both the developed and developing world.

Poverty History” encapsulates the core values of trade unionism – the
struggle for social and economic justice. The key message, that the structural
conditions of the global economic system are rigged against the developing world
in relation to trade, debt and aid, is a straightforward one for trade unionists
used to negotiating in their own workplaces.

As unionists we believe
that we, in the developed, industrialised world have an ethical responsibility
to meet the urgent needs of the world’s poorest, to address the structural
causes of poverty and to foster sustainable development. As part of “Make
Poverty History”, unions are calling on Governments and international
institutions, including the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide trade justice, cancel debt,
fund health and education projects and secure employment rights for all, so that
the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs)[1] can be met.

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) is coordinating the
Global Unions campaign. “This year, trade unions are joining with others all
around the world in the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, demanding that
the grand promises made by governments at the United Nations and elsewhere
should be put into action urgently.”

“Creating decent jobs for all has
never been more important, as divisions between the haves and the have-nots in
the global economy grow ever greater. One billion people are unemployed,
underemployed or working poor: 60% of these are women. In the Global Call, we
demand debt relief to the poorest countries, greatly increased development aid
and justice in the global trading system.”

More than a billion people
live on less than US$1 per day. In Australia we are campaigning for the Federal
Government to make a proper contribution to the goal of halving global poverty
by 2015. According to the non-government overseas aid agencies, doing our fair
share means:

  • Significantly increasing Australian government aid towards the
    internationally-agreed target of 0.7% of our national wealth (more than double
    the current level of 0.26%)
  • Focusing our aid on basic rights such as education, health, clean water, and
    sanitation for the poorest people
  • Cancelling the debts owed to us by poor countries who can’t adequately
    support their own people while they have to repay the rich
  • Working for trade justice to help the poor trade their way out of
  • Actively participating in international initiatives to increase global
    finances for aid and development.
  • The moral argument for
    international trade union solidarity has always existed. However in an age of
    ever-increasing globalisation, the direct economic consequences to Australian
    workers of unfair patterns of development and underdevelopment are increasingly
    clear. The gap between the world’s richest and poorest people has never
    been wider. Never has the International Labour Organisation’s maxim,
    ‘poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere’ been more

    When countries desperate to attract foreign investment set up
    Economic Processing Zones in which national laws and standards are waived
    (including Core Labour Standards[2])
    workers in these countries lose out, as do other workers including those in
    developing countries who try to maintain decent standards.

    international trade union movement advocates the view that job creation and
    decent work is an essential part of any sustainable poverty reduction strategy.
    We have seen that increases in global trade have not led to an equal reduction
    in global poverty and know that organising workers is vital in the long term to
    protect and promote workers rights and to ensure a fairer distribution of

    Union Actions in 2005:

    Australian unions will join
    with other civil society groups to hold a national launch of the campaign in

    A key aim of the MPH coalition is to vastly increase the level of
    awareness of development issues and the structural problems that underlay world
    poverty with the public. We plan to get this message to as many of
    Australia’s workers as possible.

    Through articles in union
    journals, mailings to branches and running specific events. Members will also be
    encouraged to actively participate by wearing the white band, sending letters to
    Members of Parliament and taking part in a series of union events to be
    organised throughout the year. The issues of trade justice, debt and aid are
    also being raised at the regular meetings between unions and relevant government

    By the end of 2005 we aim to have raised awareness and
    prompted action at all levels of the Australian trade union movement around
    issues raised by “Make Poverty History”, to have made the Australian
    government aware of the trade union’s commitment to these issues and to
    have built the strength of the alliance between the trade union movement in
    developed and developing countries and with development NGO’s, church
    groups etc.

    We are committed to work with the ICFTU and Global Union
    Federations to ensure that the “Global Call to Action Against
    Poverty” is an effective international campaign.

    For more

    MAKE POVERTY HISTORY is a campaigning
    coalition of over 350 trade unions, NGOs and religious and faith groups. To find
    out more visit

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    Website of GCAP:
    APHEDA May Day
    2005: Make Poverty History:

    In 1997 the ILO designated 8 conventions as fundamental workers rights/core
    labour standards. These are regarded as basic human rights and are applicable to
    all ILO member countries regardless of levels of development. They can be summed
    up as freedom from child labour, freedom from forced labour, the right to
    non-discrimination in the work place and the right to join and a union and
    bargain collectively.