Trade Union Rights January 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

‘Voices’: Real people, true stories from the world of work


It was reported on 4th January that the International Labour Organization (ILO) was launching a new multimedia platform that brings to light first person stories of people at the heart of the world of work.
it was noted that, “through video, photo, audio and text these stories reveal the value, passion and dignity that work b
rings to our lives – reflecting the human-centred approach of the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work .  Some show the critical work that the ILO is carrying out on a range of issues, from child labour to skills training to employment creation and more. Others feature people who, through their work, are making a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable populations.”


ILO to release report on home workers


It was reported on 7th January that the International Labour Organization (ILO) would release a new report analysing the situation of home workers worldwide and that their numbers had increased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working from home. From invisibility to decent work was said to provide the latest global estimates of home worker numbers, including by gender; gives a breakdown of sectors, working conditions, and the risks they face working from home.

It also compares the wages of home workers and non-home workers, examines home worker regulations, and makes a series of recommendations and assesses the likely impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the home working sector.


Hong Kong: arrest of activists seriously violates fundamental human rights   On 7th January, the ITUC condemned the arrest of 53 of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists, including the chair of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) Carol Ng.


A refugee mother determined to provide despite COVID-19

On 11th January we were told the story of Fatima Hussein Al Ahmad. Fatima is from Syria and is a farm worker and a mother. Fatima and her husband Abdel Kahar and four young children live on a farm with 50 other farm workers in Sahba, Mafraq, in the north of Jordan.  She was said to be determined to provide for her family, despite the terrible Covid-19 disease.


Child labour in Myanmar’s jade mines is a deadly gamble

The following was reported on 11th January, along with the story of Min Min a jade picker:

  • Jade picking is hazardous work. Nearly 200 people died in a mudslide at a jade mining site in Hpakant on 2 July 2020.  
  • 1.13 million 5- to 17-year olds are trapped in child labour in Myanmar. This means one in every 11 children is deprived of their childhood, health and education. 
  • As of 2020 both ILO core conventions on child labour, Conventions 182 and 138, have been ratified by Myanmar.
  • Child labour has declined by 55 per cent over the last three years in three target pilot communities with support from the ILO Liaison Office in Myanmar and its partners, including the United States Department of Labor (USDOL).
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated pressure on vulnerable families. The ILO in Myanmar is working closely with communities in targeted areas to help families deal with income loss due to the pandemic and ensure children are not sent to work.
  • In 2021, countries around the world will mark UN’s International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and the Government of Myanmar will work closely with the ILO and employer and worker organizations to strengthen its National Action Plan to eliminate child labour.
  • There is a real opportunity to protect children like Min Min if everyone plays their part


Towards decent work for all homeworkers

It was noted on 13th January that working from home had long been an important feature of the world of work. However it was also noted that, “the institutions that govern the labour market are rarely designed with the home as a workplace in mind. The dramatic increase in working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to address the issues facing homeworkers and their employers, and to pave the way to decent work for all who work from home.”

It was also reported that a new report from the ILO was saying that those working from home, whose number had greatly increased due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, need better protection.

It was also stated that, “since homeworking occurs in the private sphere it is often “invisible”. In low- and middle-income countries for instance, almost all home-based workers (90 per cent) work informally. They are usually worse off than those who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions. Homeworkers earn on average 13 per cent less in the United Kingdom; 22 per cent less in the United States of America; 25 per cent less in South Africa and about 50 per cent in Argentina, India and Mexico.”


Cambodia: global unions demand immediate unconditional release of Rong Chhun

It was reported on 13th January that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) had called for the immediate, unconditional release of Rong Chhun, ahead of his expected court appearance on 15th January.    It was also noted that it was part of a wave of solidarity from the global union movement in support of the jailed union leader.

It was noted that Rong Chhun is the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and a prominent union activist, who in July 2020,  was arrested for his comments on Facebook about Cambodian farmers on the border losing land to Vietnam.   Subesequenty, Sor Saknika, president of the Cambodian Informal Labourers’ Association, had also been arrested and detained after calling for Rong Chhun’s release.

It was further reported that Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, had said: “The arrest of Rong Chhun, and the detention of more than 20 other rights activists in Cambodia, is a blatant case of repression of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

“And it’s not just the ITUC and Education International saying that. Six United Nations special rapporteurs have intervened in the case, the UN High Commission For Human Rights is seriously concerned and 5,876 people have joined the LabourStart campaign demanding freedom for the union leaders.”


2021: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour

It was noted on 15th January that  child labour had decreased by 38 per cent in the last decade but 152 million children were still affected. The COVID-19 pandemic had considerably worsened the situation, but joint and decisive action could reverse this trend.

It was reported that the International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the Alliance 8.7  global partnership, was launching the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour , to encourage legislative and practical actions to eradicate child labour worldwide.

The International Year had been unanimously adopted in a UN General Assembly resolution in 2019. A main aim of the year is to urge governments to do what is necessary to achieve Target 8.7  of the UN Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs).

It was further reported that, “Target 8.7 asks Member States to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 to end child labour in all its forms.”


Decent work for fishing and seafood migrant workers in Asia Pacific

It was reported on 20th January that migrant workers in South-East Asia’s fishing and seafood processing sectors would benefit from a new programme that continued efforts to promote regular and safe labour migration throughout the industry.

It was also noted that, “"Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia ” is a four year (2020-2024) programme implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The €10 million (US$11.29 million) initiative is funded by the European Union (EU).”

“The objectives of the programme include strengthening legal frameworks, protecting labour rights, and empowering workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.

“The programme will build upon the work of the EU-funded Ship to Shore Rights project, which came to an end in March 2020. By bringing together the three UN agencies it will draw on the partners’ experience in the region, to protect the rights of migrant workers and address issues such as forced labour, human trafficking, illegal recruitment practices, and poor access to information.“


ILO to release new report on the effects of COVID-19 on labour markets


It was reported on 20th January by ILO News that the International Labour Organization (ILO) would publish the 7th edition of its Monitor report series that tracks the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers and businesses worldwide.

The ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Seventh edition, and accompanying press release, was to be be published on Monday 25 January.

It presented the latest data on workplace closures and losses in working hours, labour income and employment in 2020, comparing the findings with the previous year. The report also gave labour market projections for 2021, including an assessment of the type of recovery we are likely to see in the coming year and recommendations for the way ahead.

Data by region, age, gender, income group and sector, are also included in the report, as well as some country-specific statistics.


Chile ratifies the Protocol to Convention No. 29, reaffirming its commitment to fight against forced labour


It was reported on 20th January that Chile ahd ratified the ILO Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 . With the culmination of this process, Chile became the second country in South America to take on the challenge of moving forward to become a country free of forced labour.


Belarus: Right to strike setback, but world championship withdraws

It was reported on 20th January that the right to strike in Belarus had been further undermined by a Supreme Court decision, 19 January, that an August strike at the Belaruskali fertilizer giant had been illegal.  

In another development, it was reported that the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) had been forced to withdraw the Ice Hockey World Championship from Belarus after the main sponsor, vehicle maker Skoda, intervened on human rights grounds, along with other sponsors including the cosmetics maker Nivea. Belarus had been due to co-host the championships with Latvia in May.

ILO: Uncertain and uneven recovery expected following unprecedented labour market crisis

It was reported on 25th January that the latest analysis of the labour market impact of COVID-19 by the ILO, recorded massive damage to working time and income, with prospects for a recovery in 2021 slow, uneven and uncertain unless early improvements are supported by human-centred recovery policies.


ILO and FAO join forces to prevent and control the COVID-19 pandemic in logging

It was reported on 26th January that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a significant impact on logging operations around the world, with direct and serious implications for workers and enterprises. #It was further noted that as economic activities restart, companies and workers must find ways to adapt to new realities. It was reported that the ILO and FAO had joined forces and released a practical and participatory checklist to help companies, workers and customers stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, while mitigating the social economic impact of COVID-19.


ILO becomes member of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)

On 27th January it was reported that The International Labour Organization (ILO) had become a full member of the International Aid transparency Initiative (IATI),  joining a growing number of United Nation agencies and international development bodies in committing to promote greater transparency in the use of development and humanitarian resources to address poverty and crises.

It was further reported that by making data easily accessible and comparable, the IATI Standard supports improved accountability on the use of resources and what they achieve, which will benefit both the ILO’s constituents and the international development community more widely.

It was also noted that as a full IATI member the ILO would continue to strengthen its information, monitoring and reporting to IATI, as well as evaluation of progress towards achieving decent work outcomes and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 



Construction: Building blocks to recovery after crisis

It was reported on 28th January that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a significant impact on the construction sector, as it is sensitive to economic cycles. Yet it was also noted that, “construction holds much potential to stimulate recovery, thanks to its potential to create jobs. Recovery measures can support the sector’s transformation towards sustainability and digitalization.”


Collated by Peter Sagar, February 2021

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