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Trade Union Rights July 2021

A look back at the June session of the 109th International Labour Conference

At the end of June, ILO News featured video highlights from the June session of the 109th International Labour Conference, including coverage of the adoption of the Global Call to Action outlining measures to create a human-centred recovery from the pandemic.


Mauritius ratifies the Violence and Harassment Convention

On 1st July, ILO News reported that Mauritius had become the seventh country in the world, and the third African country, to ratify the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190).

It was noted that honourable SOODESH S. CALLICHURN, Minister of Labour, Human Resource Development & Training and Minister of Commerce & Protection of Consumers, had deposited these instruments of ratification with ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, in a virtual ceremony.


ILO: At least 23 million people have transitioned to teleworking in Latin America and the Caribbean

During the pandemic, teleworking enabled the continuity of businesses and jobs. It was an unexpected leap into the future of work that has opened a scenario of opportunities and challenges for the region, the ILO said today.


It was reported by ILO News on 5th July from Lima, that teleworking had permeated the labour markets of Latin America and the Caribbean as a way to cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the continuity of activities in some sectors in the context of a devastating drop in economic activity marked by employment, falling income and business closures.

It was noted that preliminary estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) indicated that at the worst moment of the crisis, in the second quarter of 2020, some 23 million people transitioned to telework in the region. It was also noted that as in other parts of the world, this modality had emerged as a mechanism to guarantee the continuity of certain economic activities and, with it, employment.


Yemen: Authorities violating union rights

On 6th July, the ITUC reported that it was calling on the authorities in Yemen to cease interfering in trade union activities and to return properties that are owned by the General Federation of Yemeni Trade Unions (GFYTU) and had been confiscated.

It was further noted that the government had also been trying to set up organisations under its control, which purported to be trade unions, in an effort to weaken the GFYTU.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow was reported as saying:

The people of Yemen continue to suffer in appalling conditions with the armed conflict besetting the country and the COVID-19 pandemic causing further devastation. The authorities should stop interfering in the affairs of the GFYTU, return the properties it has taken from the union centre and engage in dialogue and negotiation in line with international labour standards”.

Dialogue and respect for international law must be the way forward, not confrontation and violation of international standards.”


Eswatini: ITUC condemns violence and repression of peaceful protesters

On 6th July, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that it had written to the acting Prime Minister of Eswatini calling for an end to the violent repression of peaceful protesters in his country.

It was noted that protests had begun on 26 June when campaigners had been prevented from delivering a petition to the government calling for a constitutionally established democracy. It was also reported that since then the government had used brutal force to stamp out pro-democracy protests, with reports that many people have been killed, while others had been injured, some seriously with gunshot wounds, and many more detained.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary was reported as saying: “Pro-democracy demonstrations have persisted in Eswatini for decades and they will continue until the government listens to the will of the people.

We condemn the use of violence against peaceful protesters and we are deeply concerned that the government crackdown is disrupting people’s working lives. This could plunge thousands of households into crippling poverty with no social protection to support them.

We implore the Eswatani government to stop the violence, release all prisoners of conscience, respect the right to peaceful assembly and engage in meaningful dialogue with the people of Eswatini to build a democratic and resilient society. To enable this we call on the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to intervene and facilitate dialogue between all side.”


Work together to end preventable deaths from toxic chemicals

ILO News reported on 7th July that millions of workers around the world lose their lives every year or suffer from chronic diseases due to toxic chemicals in the workplace. In a video message to the Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability, ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, was reported as saying global cooperation is needed to end these preventable deaths and illnesses.


Centre for Sport and Human Rights Appoints New Directors, incorporates as an independent entity in Switzerland


On 8th July, ITUC reported that the Centre for Sport and Human Rights (CSHR) had that day appointed a nine-person Board of Directors as it marks the transition to an independent non-profit organisation, based in Geneva.

It was further reported that having been launched in 2018 as a subsidiary of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), CSHR had constructed a unique governance structure to ensure full independence and robust oversight and controls.

Now established as a Swiss association, it was noted that CSHR’s governing Members are the Government of Switzerland, the Commonwealth Games Federation, the International Organisation of Employers, the International Trade Union Confederation, the World Players Association, Human Rights Watch, and IHRB.


ILO statement on factory fire in Rupganj, Bangladesh

On 10th July, ILO News reported that the ILO was deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life of at least 52 workers from a fire in the Hashem Food and Beverage factory in Rupganj area of Naranyanganj, and to see reports of underage workers among the victims. It was stated that the ILO extended their heartfelt condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims and others injured at this factory.

It was argued that this incident illustrated the urgent need in Bangladesh for authorities and building owners to ensure that buildings in which thousands of workers spend the better part of their day, are built and operated in compliance with national code requirements. It was noted that if the fire safety measures required by the regulations had been properly implemented, it would have provided for safe evacuation of occupants in this type of emergency.



Hashem Foods factory fire: Bangladesh government must establish inquiry

On 13th July, ITUC reported that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) was supporting the call for an independent public inquiry into the devastating fire at the Hashem Foods factory in Rupganj, Bangladesh.

It wasnoted that an unknown number of people had died in the blaze and that the police and fire service had confirmed that the factory exits were locked and that children were working there.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, was reported as saying: “Firstly, our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy, and we’re horrified by the loss of life and the reports that people couldn’t escape because doors and gates were locked. Medical treatment must be provided to injured workers, and they must be fully compensated, along with their families, without delay.

It’s appalling that children were working there and, due to the hidden nature of child labour, we may never know the number of children who died in the fire or their names.

The ITUC stands with our affiliate, the ITUC Bangladesh Council, and the IUF in their fight for justice for the victims of this disaster.”


Missed schooling opportunities spur Iman to reach new learning milestones

On 14th July, ILO News reported that a multi-agency programme hasdprovided hundreds of vulnerable Yemenis with life skills, financial literacy, theoretical instruction and on-the-job training, providing them with the means to secure a sustainable income.

It ws noted that Iman Mohammed comes from a family of 11 in the village of Bani Quis in the north-western Yemeni governorate of Hajjah and that the family is financially supported by the father, a daily wage labourer and a motorcycle delivery man.

It was said thsat Iman had dropped out of school at an early age because she lacked the means to reach her school some six kilometres away from her village and now 18 and only semi-literate, she wishes she had had the chance to learn at school.


The skills young job seekers need

On 15th July, reported that on World Youth Skills Day 2021, ILO Senior Youth Employment Specialist, Susana Puerto, spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s education and job prospects and the skills that were in demand by employers and a changing world of work. The ILO was said to have published a new Global Framework on Core Skills for Life and Work in the 21st Century, which would be launched at an event for World Youth Skills Day on 15 July.


ILO welcomes BRICS Ministers support for human-centred recovery from COVID-19

On 15th July, ILO News reported that the ILO’s Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, adopted by the membership at the International Labour Conference in June, had been endorsed by the Labour and Employment Ministers of the five BRICS economies.

New poll shows expectation that women are much more likely than men to face violence at work

On 15th July ITUC reported that a new poll commissioned by the ITUC had found that one in three people think that women are more likely to face violence and harassment at work.

It was noted that the respondents, in ten countries, had been asked “Do you think men or women are more likely to face violence and harassment, or are they equally likely?” for nine professions: teaching, nursing, doctors, journalism, law, sport, politics, finance and banking, and building and construction.

Excluding building and construction, it was said that fewer than one in ten people thought that men were more likely to face violence and harassment across each of the industries.


Fewer women than men will regain employment during the COVID-19 recovery says ILO

On 19th July, ILO News reported that a new policy brief showed that the disproportionate job and income losses suffered by women during the pandemic would persist in the near future.

It was noted that the inequalities between women and men in the world of work that have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic  would persist in the near future, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

It was said that a new policy brief found there would be 13 million fewer women in employment in 2021 compared to 2019, while men’s employment would have recovered to 2019 levels. It was also said that even though the projected jobs growth in 2021 for women exceeded that of men, it would, nonetheless, be insufficient to bring women back to pre-pandemic employment levels.

It was further reported that only 43.2 per cent of the world’s working-age women will be employed in 2021, compared to 68.6 per cent of working-age men.



ILO estimates reveal heavy job losses in the first half of 2021 in Myanmar

With an economy already weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, a rapid assessment by the ILO reveals a deep employment crisis following the military takeover in Myanmar.

On 19th July, ILO news reported that employment in Burma/Myanmar had contracted by an estimated 6 per cent in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, reflecting 1.2 million job losses. It was said that in the first half of 2021, an estimated 14 per cent of working hours had been lost, which is equivalent to the working time of at least 2.2 million full-time workers.

In terms of both working-hour and employment losses, women were said to be estimated to have been impacted more than men.

“Myanmar was already facing economic stress with jobs and livelihoods under threat as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However the estimates show a serious and rapid deterioration in employment in the first half of this year on a scale that could drive many in Myanmar into deep poverty,” Mr Donglin Li, ILO Myanmar Liaison Officer/Representative was reported as saying.



The European Commission and the ILO join forces to support young people

A new EC/ILO Technical Assistance Facility set up to pursue youth employment in the Western Balkans.

On 20th July ILO News reporoted that the European Commission (EC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) had joined forces to support the institutions responsible for youth employment policy in the Western Balkans in introducing a youth guarantee (YG). The European Training Foundation (ETF) was also said to be a partner in the realization of interventions. Inspired by similar schemes in the EU Member States, a youth guarantee is said to be a commitment to support every young person under the age of 30 who is not employed, in education or training (so-called NEETs). It was argued that this commitment entitles young people to receive a good quality offer of employment, traineeship, apprenticeship, or continued education within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

The EC/ILO support was said to include the adaptation of the youth guarantee to the Western Balkans through policy, programming and monitoring support, advanced training, and peer-learning across Western Balkans and EU.


Preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage, create decent work

On 20th July ILO News reported the first video story of their ILO in Action series, Chief Technical Adviser, Bashar Elsamarneh, was reported as explaining how a joint ILO/UNESCO project in Iraq’s historic Erbil City is preserving its cultural heritage, while teaching skills and promoting decent work for local people and Syrian refugees.


The Global Informal Workforce: Priorities for Inclusive Growth

On 23rd July ILO News reported that more than 60 per cent of the world’s adult labour force, or about 2 billion workers, operated in the informal economy and displayed a video of IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and ILO Director-General Guy Ryder discussing ways to tackle the issue.


Global Call to Action for a human-centred COVID-19 recovery

On 23rd July, government, ILO News reported that worker and employer representatives at the109th session of the International Labour Conference had unanimously adopted a Global Call to Action that set out the world of work response to the COVID-19 crisis and recommendations on how to build a human-centred future of work.


Trade unions in transition: What will be their role in the future of work?

It was noted on 26th July on ILO News that just as the future of work was uncertain, so was the future of trade unions. It was argued that globalization and demographic, environmental and technological changes were changing the labour markets of today and would determine those of tomorrow. In addition, it was noted that the COVID-19 crisis had exposed and aggravated existing challenges and that globally, trade union membership had been going down over time, and with that trade unions’ ability to organize and service workers.

It was asked, among all the possible scenarios for trade unions, which one is most likely? It was argued that for sure, the most favourable scenario is their revitalization, wherein trade unions find innovative tactics and form coalitions to represent all workers. 


Pandemic increases support for social protection, poll shows

On 26th July ITUC reported that the pandemic had led to increased support for many types of basic social protection, according to a new ITUC-commissioned poll.

IT was noted that more than 12,000 people in ten countries had been asked: “Thinking back to before the Covid-19 pandemic (March 2020), do you think the following worker rights are more, or less, important now, or has there been no change?”:

  • the right to join a union”;

  • the right to a decent minimum wage”;

  • the right to strike”;

  • the right to collectively bargain”;

  • affordable access to healthcare”;

  • access to unemployment benefits”;

  • paid sick leave”.

It was found that the top three rights with the largest backing were affordable access to healthcare (58%), access to unemployment benefits (53%) and a decent minimum wage (51%).

It was also noted that if you included the number of people who believe these rights have always been important, the support rises to 82%, 77% and 79% respectively.


Strong labour laws make decent work a reality

On 27th July ILO News carried the latest in their ILO in Action video series spotlights Georgia, where the ILO had worked with the government to draft extensive amendments to its labour code and a new law on labour inspection. Without strong labour laws there can be no decent work, Chief Technical Advisor, Cătălin Ţacu was reported as saying.


Cartoonists from all over the world draw their visions of forced labour

It was reported on 30th July by ILO News that to mark World Day Against Trafficking in Persons the International Labour Organization and Human Resources without Borders had announced the winners of an international cartoon competition on forced labour.


It was said in a press reelase that three cartoonists from Portugal, Turkey and Uzbekistan had won top prizes in an international cartoon competition aimed at raising awareness about modern slavery.

It was further reported that they had been chosen by a panel of judges and the general public, out of 460 entries from cartoonists in 65 countries, who responded to the challenge “What if your pencil was a tool against forced labour?”



ILO Observation Mission Announcement in Mexico

On 30th July, ILO News reported that the Governments of Mexico (GoM) and the United States (USG) had invited the International Labour Organization (ILO) to participate as the international observer during a vote to confirm a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the General Motors (GM) plant in Silao, Mexico.

It was said that this request was part of the agreed GoM/USG course of remediation, announced on 8 July 2021. It was noted that it addresses a request by the USG to review whether workers were denied the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining and relates to concerns of irregularities preceding, during and surrounding an earlier vote at the plant.


Stories compiled by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC, August 2021

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