More than 200 million workers around the world face being pushed into extreme poverty unless co-ordinated and urgent action is taken to stimulate economic growth in response to the global financial crisis, global unions have warned ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit in London.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow, who will lead a delegation of international unions for meetings with G20 leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, says it is now likely that more than 50 million people worldwide will lose their jobs this year, with the number of working poor set to rise to 1.4 billion.

She will tell the major Put People First rally in London today (Saturday GMT) that the G20 summit must agree to a new sustainable model for economic growth to replace the free market ideology that has led to the GFC.

“If the global financial crisis has taught us anything, it’s that unfettered markets don’t work. They imperil the economy, and they hurt workers,” says Ms Burrow, who is also President of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“The governments of the world must take a more honest look at the impact of the policies of privatisation, liberalisation, and labour market deregulation of recent decades.

“There must be an end to the ideology of unrestrained financial markets, the fraud of self-regulation and the destructive path of leveraging profit from unconstrained debt.

“The loud and clear message to the leaders of the G20 is that there can be no return to business as usual.”

Ms Burrow said that as more jobs and homes were lost, there was growing anger from workers around the world at the greed, incompetence and blind faith in the market that had caused the financial and economic meltdown.

In meetings with G20 leaders, who will also include Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, unions will propose a five-point plan to rebuild the world economy.

It includes:

  • A co-ordinated stimulus and development plan that maximises job retention and protects the incomes of the most vulnerable.
  • Stiffer regulation and stronger intervention by governments to restore confidence and lending in the financial system, including mechanisms for managing toxic debt and the establishment of new rules to control global finance.
  • Laying the groundwork for a sustainable recovery that sees respect for workers’ rights, an end to global poverty, fairer international trade, and action on climate change.

More information

Read ITUC statement

Video: Sharan Burrow speaking at G20 (Pittsburgh)