We have some victories: Unions and the IMF

Last year I wrote a report for the Washington office of the International Confederation of Trade Unions on how unions around the world have successfully fought back against privatization and other schemes pushed on their countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Here’s the overview and a link to the full report, which was released in April. It IS possible to win a few.

Over the past five years, unions and their civil society allies in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia have successfully organized to win important victories over the private interests that depend on IMF and World Bank loans to set the conditions for corporate control over water, electric power and other basic services.

This paper focuses on six such victories, starting with an analysis about how trade unions in Uruguay took the lead in organizing that country’s historic referendum on water. The other case studies focus on:

● South Africa, where trade unions led the opposition to the privatization of the country’s largest freight rail line and negotiated with the government to keep the reorganized line in public hands.

● Croatia, where five labour federations set aside their differences to rally opposition to an IMF-World Bank proposal for labour reform designed to make it easier for employers to fire workers.

● Argentina, where the government, backed by its labour unions, cancelled the privatization of the postal service, which had been turned over to a private company at the behest of the World Bank and the IMF.

● Indonesia, where the nation’s constitutional court ruled against the IMF-backed privatization of a major utility after labour unions and civil society groups filed a lawsuit contesting the government’s right to privatize the utility.

● Tanzania, where the government cancelled a water privatization project, also demanded by the IMF and World Bank, with the strong support of the trade union at the water utility.

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