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TUC Congress 2020 ‘GDP growth will not improve people's lives or create jobs,’ trade unionists hear

THE trade-union movement must move away from the ideology that GDP growth is beneficial to society, the TUC heard yesterday. 

Speaking at a fringe meeting on the case for a radical green new deal after Covid, author and Goldsmiths, University of London, lecturer at Jason Hickel argued that the pursuit of GDP (gross domestic product) is driving ecological breakdown. 

“The idea that we need more GDP growth to improve people’s lives and create jobs is a lie,” he said at the event, organised by War on Want. 

Mr Hickel explained that other countries have better social indicators such as higher life expectancy and lower levels of poverty despite having a lower GDP than Britain because they invest more in public services and share existing incomes more fairly. 

Instead of calling for new jobs through economic growth, trade unions should stand behind measures such as shortening the working week, he said. 

“Let’s get the trade unions to back away from the ideology of growth and organise the economy not around accumulation and exploitation but around human wellbeing and ecological sustainability.”

The event heard from speakers in the global south who voiced their vision of a “just transition”to a post-Covid world that prioritises global and climate justice. 

Trade unionists highlighted how governments, instead of moving towards a more just world, are using Covid-19 to crack down on workers’ and human rights. 

Sri Lankan trade unionist Anton Marcus spoke about the plight of 500,000 garment workers in the country, 90 per cent of whom are women, who were left without wages during the crisis. 

Mr Marcus stressed that the brands, not just the employers, must be held to account for the exploitation of workers in the global south — and pay their wages. 

Joshua Mapha, a trade unionist in the Philippines, agreed that trade unions should adapt in order to fight for environmental and social rights after Covid. 

He argued that trade unions in the Philippines should go “back to their roots” as social movements to “fight beyond the bread-and-butter issues.”

“We also need to fight for structural changes in society,” he said.

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