||Issue No. 323||08 September 2006|
Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
Unions: Industrial Wasteland
International: Two Bob's Worth
Economics: National Interest
Environment: The Real Dinosaur
History: Only In Spain?
Review: Clerk Off
Catch a Tube
World Bank Hollers for Marshalls
The 2007 edition of Doing Business, prepared by the Bank's private sector development department, has declared the Marshall Islands to be the world's “Best Performer” for their almost total absence of labour regulation, displacing last year's champion, Palau.
The Marshall Islands and Palau are tiny Pacific island nations that have no labour codes and are not members of the ILO.
Both states were recently granted "independence" from the US but are largely funded from Washington.
The Australian government's AusAid website, says this about the Marshall Islands. "The living standards of the population are poor, the infant mortality rate is high and school enrolments are low."
The World Bank's online Doing Business database explains it is a labour market star because, among other features, it allows workers to be forced to work up to 24 hours per day and up to seven days a week, and requires no holidays or advance notice for dismissals.
Not being among the 179 member countries of the ILO, the Marshall Islands and Palau, population 20,000 across eight inhabited islands, are among a handful of countries not obliged to abide by the core labour standards (elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination, and respect for freedom of association and right to collective bargaining) required of ILO members.
World Bank presidents say the core standards are consistent with the Bank's development mission.
ICFTU general secretary, Guy Ryder, said it was ironic that the World Bank's most highly-promoted annual publication holds up countries that offer almost no protection for their workers as star performers on labour standards, while another division of the bank, the International Finance Corporation, stipulates it will not lend to firms that do not apply core labour standards.
"The World Bank should get its message straight. If the Bank truly believes that the ILO's core labour standards are good for development, it can't turn around and praise countries that don't join the ILO and don't respect the core standards," he said.
Ryder noted that earlier editions of Doing Business have been used in World Bank and IMF country-level strategy documents to force countries to do away with various kinds of workers' protection.
In South Africa, the IMF recommended in a recent policy report, that the government improve its Doing Business indicators by "streamlining" its hiring and dismissal procedures.
The changes would have required doing away with affirmative action rules that post-apartheid governments put in place in order to correct the legacy of several decades of racial discrimination.
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