Conor Cradden    30 April 2018

I’ve just read the April 20th draft of the 2019 World Development Report on The Changing Nature of Work. Duncan Green of Oxfam has already given a useful overall assessment of an earlier draft that you can read here. Duncan picks up in particular on the report’s absolute neglect of questions of power and its rather magical thinking about what might be possible in terms of the creation of social safety nets. An even more critical analysis is posted here by the ITUC’s Peter Bakvis, a longtime World Bank watcher. Peter doesn’t mince his words on the topic of the report’s attitude to labour regulation, but I think he’s still being too diplomatic.

I’ve already taken issue with the Bank’s overall approach based on a look at the concept note that was released in February. Among the other questions I raised in that piece was why the bank has chosen to focus on work and employment in 2019. They know perfectly well that next year is the International Labour Organization’s 100th anniversary and that it will be producing a major report on the future of work. Given that the raison d’être of the ILO is to agree international law on labour and employment, producing a report whose main aim is to attack labour regulation adds insult to injury. What’s even more insulting is that the argument in the report is so breathtakingly bad. The World Bank has a poor record when it comes to work and employment, but this is a new low. Having produced a report that is intellectually dishonest where it is not simply incompetent, the authors have managed the extraordinary feat of rolling their tanks onto the ILO’s lawn only to fire off a series of squibs that are not so much damp as soaking wet.

It’s hard to get into the detail of what the authors do wrong without very quickly running into the thousands of words, so this sort of analysis is not well-suited to a social media format. The short version below is extremely compressed and doesn’t give examples of how the authors do what they do. This is kind of important—a lot of what I want to highlight is the inherent dishonesty of the method—so please take a look at the long version if you can.


dialogThe paper below has been submitted for open discussion by members and friends of the New Unionism Network1. Our conclusions will be presented to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on or before 30th April 2018, in the run up to their centenary ‘Future of Work’ project. In order to join the discussion we suggest you look at this ILO paper first (download). In particular, we are concerned with Chapter 5: The Governance of Work. What do you think? We have a draft reply below and we invite you to share your feedback, thoughts and/or questions. Because many of you work directly with the ILO, at local or global level, our discussion will take place with in an anonymised meeting room here:


Network member Conor Cradden argues that ILO workers’ representatives have employers on the back foot on the thorny issue of the right to strike.

ILO_snapEmployers’ representatives at the International Labour Organization (ILO) have recently started to worry that freedom of association and collective bargaining rights might mean something more than offering workers a seat at the table and then proceeding to ignore them. They seem finally to have realised what the rest of the world has always known: the point of freedom of association rights is to allow workers to challenge unilateral managerial control over business costs and organization. For the last couple of years the employers have been desperately battling to make sure that freedom of association rights mean as little as possible in practice. However, the 2014 report of the ILO’s independent legal advisory body, the Committee of Experts, suggests that this particular battle is not going their way. (more…)