World's largest trade union rejects ITU overtures

Unswayed by a meeting with the ITU Secretary-General, ITUC head tell us: "We will continue to oppose these proposals"

Burrow: Trade union federation will 'stay the distance' in opposing WCIT proposals.

The world's largest trade union organization, the ITUC, has rejected efforts to explain concerns over the WCIT conference next month as "misunderstandings" and will continue to oppose its proposals, Secretary-General Sharan Burrow told us.

Warning that the implications for e-commerce and jobs were "extraordinary" and slamming the conference proposals for "having been kept secret until a month ago", Burrow has promised that the ITUC will lobby hard within the United Nations to prevent was she termed "mandate creep" on the part of the ITU.

"This has never been a core business for the trade unions," she told .Nxt. "But after much pleading, people pressured me to read a copy of what was in a leaked document and I saw some of the ambitions from, on the one hand, self-interested telecommunications companies who haven’t adjusted their business models, and on the other hand, self-interested governments who want control of the Internet."

That is what led her to sign a joint letter with Greenpeace last week urging the United Nations' Secretary-General to intervene in the WCIT process. The conference sought to "impose solely governmental control" over the Internet, it warned, and could "undermine the current free, open and inherently democratic governance of the Internet".

Following publication, Burrow was invited to meet with ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. According to a subsequent press release and blog post put out by the organization Touré was able to "dispel some widespread misunderstandings".

Burrow tells a different story. The meeting was "incredibly defensive" and she "left even more concerned than when I entered the building." She had asked Dr Touré three things, she told us, each of which was rejected.

  1. That he use his position as Secretary-General to take proposals off the table that were beyond the ITU's mandate and were behind much of the concern.
  2. That the discussion of the proposals be deferred until a later date.
  3. That the process be opened up and the "multi-stakeholder" model be adopted for the conference, with all documents made public and non-government representatives allowed to speak.

Calling his responses to each request "either deliberately or provocatively naïve", Burrow says Touré refused on each count.

Burrow stresses that the ITUC is not opposed to discussing some of the issues under debate at WCIT but argues that "this is not the organization with the mandate to do so" and so wants governments to delay their review of the issues until "there is a much broader, considered and researched process" for impacting the Internet.

"It is most important that this global tool is managed in the most effective and open way," she argued. "We will continue to oppose these proposals."