These are uncertain times for global businesses. Built over years of sacrifices, possibly even on the basis of exploitation of workers in some cases, they find themselves under intense scrutiny today. With hundreds of thousands of workers in their collective employment, involvement of the International Trade Union Confederation, and by extension general secretary Sharan Burrow, makes sense.
That these corporations must do the responsible thing, pay decent wage in good working conditions, is incontestable. Even businesses themselves feel they need to do more than simply make money. Some are doing it, some may not be. Perhaps, the business houses must make peace with the fact that there may be pitfalls of being a business that has largely had ‘doing good’ high in its values at the expense of the bottom line.
But the ‘highlighted’ presumption is that businesses cannot be trusted, done so cleverly by ITUC in its manufactured ‘Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies’ multi-media report, a series of videos on top global giants with the objective to portray them as devils. The videos engulfed top names — Apple Inc., China’s ASM International, McDonald’s, Wal-mart, and Samsung, among others.
Sharan Burrow’s relentless and mostly bad-tempered battle with top companies this time led her to engage expensive PR firms to do her bidding, Global Leaks document reveals. She paid them thousands of ‘workers’ dollars’ to bring down decades-old entities.
Documents reveal ITUC engaged and paid Andrew Hercus, director at Hyve Creative, and PR firm Essential Media Communications, thousands of dollars to craft the damaging report on how big companies are making profit at the cost of poor workers. Interestingly, Ms Burrow is known to favour and contract only Australian agencies, perhaps as a show of solidarity with the natives. EMC were paid $4,500 for their digital, production, and advertising services.
Invoices shared by the source also expose how ITUC gave Ben Crowe, another Aussie firm, the mandate to dig deep and construct multi-media reports that was deliberately released just before the start of the just-concluded Economic Forum Conference in Davos. The idea was to use the Davos platform to make noise.
Ben Crowe’s Verity Pictures were paid to produce a scandalous report — ‘Inside the global supply chains of world’s 50 largest companies, covering a period from November 2015 to February 2016. The invoice raised was for € 10000. Gemma Swart, Sharan Burrow’s lieutenant, managed the whole show on ITUC’s behalf. It is only logical to assume that objective-driven Sharan Burrow’s clear mandate to the firms was to dig only for dirt, and ignore any and everything nice and proper.
Dubiously, the ITUC gave Ben Crowe and ERA Films a non-exclusive copyright license in perpetuity to use all audio, photographic and video footage contained within multi-media investigation for ‘commercial’ and non-commercial purposes, but only after its release by ITUC on their website. In effect, ITUC gave Ben Crowe the right to earn and make profit from the damning videos.
Again, means don’t justify ends. This calculated, concerted assault on profit-making companies in the name of workers might lose its value because of its scheming nature.
There is always room for a spirited debate. It might be time for the guardians of workers to take a step back and re-assess their strategy and contemplate the other sides of the matter. It is crucial to evaluate the good and the unfortunate choices of big entities before we point the finger of blame.