Workers in 13 countries oppose austerity and are angry for shouldering the blame for causing crash


The first international public opinion polling commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) – the Brussels-based global union representing 175 million union members across the world – shows deep uncertainty, fear and political disempowerment across half the G20 economies, six European countries and four emerging economies.

The poll, commissioned by the ITUC from global market research company TNS, covers a total of 13 countries.

Released just before the meeting of the Mexico G20 summit starting next Monday, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said the poll showed widespread opposition to austerity measures, a collapse in the belief that governments were operating in the interests of their voters, and strong support for labour laws.

The results of the poll, conducted in May in Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, UK and the USA, sounded a warning bell not just for those governments, but for global financial governance, Sharan Burrow warned.

The ITUC poll shows:

·    58% of people think their country is going in the wrong direction;

·    66% think that future generations will be worse off;

·    67% think that international banks and financial institutions have too much influence on the economic decisions of their governments. Conversely, 67 per cent think that voters don’t have enough influence on economic decisions.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “The democratic contract with voters is broken in many countries, and governments must pay heed to their people or we risk increasing political and economic instability.

“Global economic orthodoxy is widely rejected by the populace, and this up-swell of anti-government and anti-austerity opinion across so many nations should cause urgent re-thinking at the global level.

“Given a choice of economic policies, two-thirds of people support government action to invest in job creation to allow economies to grow and pay off debts compared with less than one in four who want debts paid off nowby cutting back on government spending.”

The international union movement will present the views of working people to world leaders gathering in Los Cabos, Mexico for the G20 Summit on 18-19 June. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will lead a union delegation to meet Prime Minister David Cameron, where he will raise some of the issues in the poll.

Commenting on the ITUC research, Brendan Barber said: “This poll shows that people across the world are worried about the direction in which their country is headed.

“Two-thirds of people believe that future generations will be worse off than today – a telling indictment of the failure of global austerity measures.

“But this understandable pessimism needn’t become a reality. Unions are making the case for an alternative to austerity – one that invests in young people and prioritises growth over a discredited economic doctrine that is failing across Europe.”

The ITUC poll also shows growing levels of uncertainty about the family income and job security:

·    One in seven respondents are working poor – without enough money for basic essentials like housing, food and electricity;

·    For 58% of people, their income has fallen behind the cost of living;

·    One in three people think their jobs are less secure than two years ago.

The poll showed strong rejection of the austerity policies being followed by some governments, and support for jobs and investment in infrastructure.

The ITUC believes the poll results suggest widespread anger against those perceived to have caused the global financial crisis, and resentment at who is having to pay for the mistakes of governments and the international banking and finance industry.

Other poll findings include:

·    78% of people think international banks and financial institutions should pay more for the global financial crisis;

·    45% of people think small business should pay less for the financial crisis and 50 per cent think workers should pay less to fix the financial crisis.

The poll also tested support for basic labour laws across the population in the 13 countries:

·    70% think current laws do not protect workers’ job security;

·    89% of people support the right to join a union.

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