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Trade Union Rights April 2021

This is a quick survey of some of the major trade union issues in the world today, collated from ITUC and the ILO News.

Stories taken from: https://  and

The Future of Work Podcast: The role of digital labour platforms in transforming the world of work

On 1st April the ILO reported that Uma Rani, Senior Economist at the ILO and author of the World Employment and Social Outlook report 2021, was explaining the need for dialogue and regulatory cooperation in order to provide decent work opportunities in the sector.


Overcoming barriers and stereotypes: Social inclusion in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)

The ILO reported on 9th April, that in partnership with the East African Institute of Welding (EAIW) and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), a dual learning industrial welding training programme with low barriers to entry and deliberately targeting female youth and persons with disabilities had been developed and is currently being implemented in Turkana and Garissa Counties, Kenya.


Hong Kong conviction flouts national and international law

On 1st April the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that it had condemned the conviction of union leader Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), under the new National Security Law.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, was reported as saying: “We stand in solidarity with Lee Cheuk Yan and the other defendants today and we condemn this prosecution. He was taking part in a protest organised by the trade unions. To prosecute him for this infringes the legitimate right of trade unions to participate in social and economic affairs and violates the principle of freedom of association.

“We urge the government in Hong Kong to drop the charges against all the activists and respect their obligations under the international labour and human rights treaties they have ratified.”

Belarus: ILO and UN Human Rights Council speak out

On 6th April the ITUC reported that they had welcomed an International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association report that called the Belarus government to account over serious violations of workers’ rights, including freedom of association and the right to strike.

It was further noted that the recommendations of an ILO Commission of Inquiry in 2004 had largely been ignored by the government, which was continuing its campaign of anti-union repression after working people had rejected the falsified election results through which Alexander Lukashenko had retained power last August.

It was also reported that repression of the independent trade union movement in Belarus had continued unabated, with:

  •  union representatives detained;
  •  union offices raided;
  •  threats against protesting workers;
  •  and the confirmation by an appeals court of prison sentences of up to three years against three former employees of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BMZ): Alexander Bobrov, Igor Povarov and Evgeny Govor for supporting strike action and protests.


Protect the mental health of health and care workers in the COVID-19 pandemic

On 7th April the ILO reported that health and care workers had been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year. It was said that it had resulted in heavier workloads and longer working hours, with insufficient time for rest and recuperation while continuously being exposed to the risk of infection. In addition, many faced violence, harassment and stigmatization as they tried to do their jobs and all this was said to be taking a toll on health workers’ mental health and wellbeing.


Juan Diego Flórez: Music offers hope to children

On 7th April the ILO reported that the Music Against Child Labour Initiative's international song competition would be judged by celebrated opera singer, Juan Diego Flórez.


ILO calls for urgent action to create decent jobs in Syria

On 8th April, the ILO reported that ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, had called for a strong push to develop formal employment in Syria as part of the humanitarian efforts deployed in the country. Ryder went on to say in a message to the Brussels conference on Syria that decent work opportunities and decent livelihoods would contribute to creating resilience and to promoting peace.


26 million jobs lost in Latin America and the Caribbean during a year of the pandemic

On 8th April the ILO reported that a new ILO analysis was warning that "ambitious actions" were needed for the regional labour market to recover in 2021 – a year that had begun marked by new waves of contagion. The strong labour impact of COVID-19 said to have been aggravated by pre-existing structural problems.


COVID-19 strategies must invest in human-centred recovery, ILO tells World Bank/IMF

On 9th April, the ILO reported that economic and social recovery from the pandemic would require policies that promoted decent work, address poverty and inequalities, and encourage a green recovery, the ILO’s Director-General had said in statements to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meetings.


Lokua Kanza: We can all act to ensure a better future for our children

On 9th April the ILO reported that Congolese singer and songwriter, Lokua Kanza, would be one of the judges of the Music Against Child Labour Initiative’s global music competition, launched by the youth music organization Jeunesses Musicales International (JMI) in collaboration with the ILO. He was reported as saying that it was time to act to ensure a better future for children, and had called on musicians to raise awareness of child labour by taking part in the competition, which closed on 12 April.

Geneva Peace Week 2020: Improving prospects, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence for forcibly displaced persons and host communities

On 12th April, the ILO reported that an ILO-led panel discussion has highlighted challenges and opportunities in promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence under the PROSPECTS partnership, through improving access to education, decent work and protection for displaced populations and the communities that host them.


New ITUC report on Palestinian workers in Israel and the settlements

On 12th April, the ITUC reported that a new report released by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) had revealed the exploitation of Palestinian workers who work inside Israel and in the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

It was further claimed by the ITUC that high unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza was leaving Palestinians with little alternative to taking jobs in Israel and the settlements and that more than 130,000 people now try to earn a living in this way.

It was noted that the report talked of:

  •  low wages;
  •  poor occupational health and safety;
  •  the humiliation of having to queue at border crossings to enter Israel;
  •  gaps in social protection;
  •  and the oppressive labour broker system that many workers are still forced to use, even though the system has been removed by the Israeli authorities in the construction sector.


Ensuring fair recruitment: What the ILO has achieved

On 15th April, the ILO reported on its scheme to ensure fair recruitment.    It  was noted that the recruitment process is only fair when carried out within the law and in line with International Labour Standards, but most importantly when it respects human rights. 

It was further reported that, building on the ILO’s experience in improving labour migration and preventing forced labour, the fair recruitment Initiative was launched in 2014 to protect  workers from abuse and exploitation, while also responding to labour market needs.    

It was further noted that the Fair Recruitment Initiative was based on four pillars as follows:

  1. Sharing global knowledge on national and international recruitment processes                                   2.  Improving laws, policies and enforcement to protect recruitment                                               3.  Promoting fair business practices                                                                                                           4. Empowering and protecting workers


It was also reported that the initiative was designed to foster strong alliances with international and local partners and to support the Global Compact for Safe Orderly Migration and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.



Now I know the great feeling of having decent work

On 16th April, the ILO reported that Jordanian Omar Abu Noa’aj had struggled to find work for years due to his physical disability, but last year, an ILO employment centre had helped him secure his first formal job at a garment factory, giving him a new sense of independence and purpose.   There followed a short video about this story.



Hong Kong: Union leader Lee Cheuk Yan and four others imprisoned

On 16th April the ITUC reported that Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, has been sentenced by a Hong Kong court to 18 months in prison for organising and participating in pro-democracy events in August 2019. Four other democracy defenders also received prison sentences and five more were handed suspended sentences.

It was also reported that before the sentencing, Lee Cheuk Yan had said: “I am ready to face the penalty and sentences. I am proud I can walk with the people of Hong Kong on the road to democracy. I want to dedicate the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to the Hong Kong people. We will walk together even in darkness with hope in our heart.”

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, was reported as saying: “Lee Cheuk Yan and the others jailed are political prisoners of China’s puppet regime in Hong Kong, which is crushing fundamental freedoms to satisfy its Beijing paymasters. The international trade union movement will continue to stand by the democracy movement in Hong Kong.”

ILO calls for resilient occupational safety and health systems for future emergencies

It was reported by ILO News on 29th April, that the International Labour Organisation were saying in a report, released on World Day for Safety and Health at Work that better national occupational safety and health policies, institutional and regulatory frameworks, that were also integrated into crisis response, were needed.

It was further argued that countries needed to put in place sound and resilient occupational safety and health (OSH) systems that would minimize the risks for everyone in the world of work in the event of future health emergencies.

It was further noted that this would require investment in OSH infrastructure and integrating it into overall national crisis emergency preparedness and response plans, so that workers’ safety and health is protected, and the business continuity of enterprises is.


Military spending rises to US$2 trillion as urgent needs remain unmet

New figures on military expenditure from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reveal an increase in military spending of 2.6% worldwide last year, to a total of US$ 1,981 billion.

On 26th April, the ITUC reported that Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary had said: “Governments have brought shame on themselves by wasting vast sums of money on the military and increasing spending while urgent requirements for public health and economic reconstruction and resilience from the COVID-19 pandemic have not been met.

“This is a scandalous misuse of resources at a time when the whole of humanity is threatened by the virus, and when vital financing to tackle climate change is missing. The fact that governments have prioritised their ability to fight wars against each other rather than confronting existential human crises simply beggars belief.”


The ILO calls for full respect of seafarers’ rights and for the vaccination of seafarers

Seafarers need COVID-19 vaccinations, wherever they are, to avoid delays and disruption in supply chains.

It was reported in a press release by the ILO on 29th April, that the ILO was calling on governments to treat seafarers as key workers and to cooperate to make vaccines available to them at the earliest opportunity, to allow them to pass through international borders and keep global supply chains moving.

It was noted that these appeals were reflected in two resolutions adopted during the Special Tripartite Committee (STC) of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006  (MLC, 2006), which had brought together more than 100 governments, seafarers and shipowners, who had met virtually from 19 to 23 April 2021 to review the impact of COVID-19 on the maritime sector.



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