Sun, February 01, 2009
Business > Economy > World Economic Forum 2009 Annual Meeting

Labour leader slams Davos

2009-02-01 08:49:18 GMT2009-02-01 16:49:18 (Beijing Time)  SINA.com

International Trade Union Confederation President Sharan Burrow is pictured in 2006. Burrow, a leading labour leader who has been a fierce critic of business leaders at this year's Davos forum, slammed the event on Saturday for failing to address the "social timebomb" of unemployment. (Agencies)

DAVOS, Switzerland– A leading labour leader who has been a fierce critic of business leaders at this year's Davos forum slammed the event on Saturday for failing to address the "social timebomb" of unemployment.

"There's still an overwhelming focus on the fact that this is just a financial crisis," the head of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow, told AFP.

"There is almost no acknowledgement that it's actually a crisis of unemployment which is a social timebomb."

She added: "If there was a real understanding about the impact of this crisis you would have heard everybody here saying 'jobs, jobs, jobs' and how do we pay for a safety net for everyone?

"I reckon you could count on two hands the number of people who've actually had a voice about what the real impact is.

"Unless we see some morality and decency, some rules that work for people back in the system, then Davos just looks like part of the problem for our members."

The combative Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has taken several panels of business leaders to task here over their perceived disregard for workers and complacency.

"Now the party's over, where's the remorse, where's the mea culpa, where's the behaviour that says we're going to get some morality and some decency back into the system?" she said.

In one instance, she harangued the chairman of British bank Barclays Marcus Agius who in her opinion had not acknowledged the anger at the exorbitant salaries paid to bankers who were now being bailed out by governments.

Agius had defended the need for incentives for bankers to take risks.

In another instance, she took the microphone during a debate about trade and protectionism to demand that politicians accept that workers had a voice and would demand social and environmental protection in any new global trade deal.

At this year's Davos, few bankers have shown up and many of the previous stars here, such as the former boss of now-defunct US investment bank Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld, are out of a job.

The agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos caters for its high-paying members, who are mostly titans of industry and leaders in the financial world.

One session was entitled "Addressing the Employment Challenge," but the majority of debates about the economy were dedicated to financial reform, trade or the macroeconomic policy response to the crisis.

Other sessions addressed climate change, advances in technology, food security, and even cancer.

(Agencies)

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