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Trade unionists from five continents rally in Vancouver

More than 1,500 trade unionists from around the world rallied at noon outside the Vancouver Convention Centre Wednesday. Delegates were in town for the second world congress of the recently formed International Trade Union Confederation (read a Tyee preview piece here).

Many of the global visitors joined local unionists on a sunny afternoon to celebrate World Public Services Day.

Speakers from five different continents all urged world political leaders to resist pressures from business circles to cut into vital public services in their attempt to deal with the world economic crisis.

Mody Guiro of the national workers' confederation (CNTS) of Senegal told the crowd: "Trade unions want strong public services at the service of the people and social security for all."

"We insist that G20 governments increase economic stimulus to create more jobs. The 34 million workers who have lost their jobs since 2008 need public services," said Barbara Byers, executive vice president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

"Seventy million children around the world are still denied basic education, yet governments are cutting education budgets. This is plain wrong," declared Susan Hopgood, Australian trade unionist and president of Education International, an umbrella group for unionized educators.

The midday rally occurred on the same day the United Kingdom's treasury chief, George Osborne, announced a tough new budget that cut 11 million pounds from welfare and other social benefits, and reduced funding for most government departments by 25 per cent. Britain was only the most recent European nation to face sweeping cuts to public services and public sector wages and pension plans.

The ITUC's week-long meeting in Vancouver is focused on labour demands for "in-depth reform of the global financial system, including the introduction of a financial transaction tax."

Leaders of the international labour organization plan on attending the upcoming G8 and G20 summits in Toronto to make their case there.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy issues . He welcomes your feedback and story tips here.

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