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Tackling inequality and promoting workplace democracy crucial to democracy say unions

30 June 2023

Photo by IndustriAll Global Union, May Day 2023

A report by the OECD on trust in Government and safeguarding democracy – launched today – analyses recent public opinion surveys carried out by the OECD, contains much useful information and makes a series of recommendations to build, strengthen and protect democracy.

The OECD’s ‘Government at a Glance’ report acknowledges

  • a fall in living standards in many OECD countries after the global financial crisis in 2009 and during the recent surge in inflation,
  • inequality in OECD countries, is “now at its highest level for the past half century”.

It fails however to link these directly to any threat to democracy and fails to make recommendations to reduce inequality or ensure that living standards are maintained.

Similarly, despite multiple references to inclusion and participation, the OECD does not take the opportunity to promote social dialogue, collective bargaining, consultation of workers or workplace democracy as means to achieve more inclusion and participation.

“Trade unions are a pillar of democracy but freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining is under attack in several OECD countries. Social dialogue is about workplace democracy and enshrines key principles of democracy, namely the right to representation and participation. The OECD can and should do a lot more to promote workers’ rights, collective bargaining and social dialogue”

— Veronica NILSSON, General Secretary, TUAC

Among the findings highlighted in the report are that

  • only 30% of people say the political system in their country allows people like them to have a say in what government does. In Austria, Belgium and Colombia results are below 20%,
  • in 11 countries a majority say they are not confident that they have a say in government decisions,
  • citizens view governments as relatively reliable in providing public services, there is considerable room for improvement in how they provide such services, incorporate user feedback, and respond to people’s needs,
  • the level of trust in public institutions among those who feel they are in a financially precarious situation (34.6%) is much lower than among people with fewer financial worries (over 50%).

“A stronger focus by the OECD on social dialogue, collective bargaining and the right to join a trade union and go on strike will be needed as it discusses its ‘shared values’ and prepares for a new Ministerial Meeting on ‘Building Trust and Reinforcing Democracy’ in 2024”.

— Veronica Nilsson, General Secretary, TUAC