When the economic crisis broke following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the global banking system seized up, workers began to be laid off, families saw their houses repossessed and banks teetered on the brink of collapse. Financial panic knew no frontiers. It was clear that a coordinated global response by governments and institutions was required to counter what the IMF termed the “Great Recession”. The major economies used the G20 as the forum to coordinate their responses, scaling it up from a low-key Finance Ministers’ Forum into a Heads of Government Summit process – effectively replacing the G8.
The international trade union movement responded rapidly, matching the “heat” of the street with the “light” of policy messages coming out of the G20 Summits. Trade union demands centred on stabilising employment, putting in place social protection for workers hit by the crisis, and effective and coordinated government intervention to support the global economy so as to prevent the “Great Recession” becoming a 1930s-style “Great Depression”. Three years later, with the crisis in a new and even more dangerous phase and major economies slipping into recession, the trade union agenda is as valid as it ever was.