Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

Trade Union Rights March 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


Disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on Women

It was noted by the ILO in late February that the data was abundantly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a disproportionately negative impact on women. It was further noted that, “because more women work in the tourism, retail, and informal sectors, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, their livelihoods have been upended. Understanding the extent of this impact is the first step in reversing course. Yet the pandemic has also exposed and exacerbated data gaps that undermine our ability to act intentionally and craft effective policy responses.”


ILO Turkey’s report reveals home-based work is primarily shaped by gender roles

The ILO reported on 2nd March that a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for Turkey on home-based work as the, “oldest form of work that has become even more widespread in the times of COVID-19 pandemic”, revealed the gender-based dimensions of home-based work. ILO Turkey’s report “Home bounded - Global outreach: Home-based workers in Turkey” establishes that home-based work, regardless of workers’ socio-economic status, is a form work without social security and social protection.


ILO/EBRD assessment report says COVID-19 threatens 245,000 jobs in Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 2nd March, the ILO reported that in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the ILO Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) had jointly assessed the impact of the crisis on the Western Balkan labour markets. The latest impact assessment report was said to be on Bosnia and Herzegovina and it was noted that reports on North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia had been published last year. 

It was further reported that, “in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a decline in working hours during the third quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 170,000 full-time jobs.  With this, the working hours lost are 3 to 4 per cent higher than the average loss of working hours in the six Western Balkan economies.”


A vision for domestic workers

On 3rd March The ILO published an article by Mendy Lerato Lusaba, who is founder of the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe and won the ILO Skills Innovation Challenge in 2020.

In the article Mendy noted that It was a dimension of the economy, a whole side of the everyday life of the country, which she felt was not valued enough.  In her research Mendy had discovered that domestic workers were abused and overworked and that Zimbabwe had legislation that covered domestic workers but there had been little knowledge about it.


COVID-19 widens existing gender inequalities, creates new gaps in Viet Nam

On 4th March a press release by the ILO reported that new a research brief by ILO Viet Nam was calling for a change in the mind set of every woman and man to influence their economic behaviour and achieve gender equality in the labour market.   This was in response to evidence that Covid-19 had widened existing gender inequalities in the country.


 Hong Kong: Activists should be released immediately

On 4th March the ITUC noted that The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the interntaional Transport Workers Federation (ITF) hjad extended their solidarity to the 47 activists from Hong Kong arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the new National Security Law on Sunday, 28 February 2021.


"We Sing" for a better future of work for all women and men

It was reported by the ILO that an original song and music video for International Women's Day, had been created by JONA OAK for the ILO and featuring a collective of artists and musicians from around the world.


ILO launches FORTER'ESS project to promote decent work through women-led social and solidarity economy organizations in Tunisia

The ILO reported that the FORTER’ESS project had been launched.   It was further noted that the project is the result of a partnership between Global Affairs Canada and the International Labour Organization (ILO) that works in collaboration with the Tunisian Government and social partners to strengthen the resilience of women-led Social and Solidarity Economy Organizations (SSEOs) affected by COVID-19.


Resilient women work hand in hand with the ILO to achieve decent work

On 8th March the ILO reported that on International Women’s Day, they were celebrating success stories from resilient Syrian and Jordanian women, who through their determination to create a better life for themselves and their families, and with support and guidance from the ILO, had been able to overcome numerous economic and social challenges.


Sophia Loren: Time to remove the barriers women face in the world of work

Also on 8th March, International Women’s day the ILO also reported that Sophia Loren was calling for stronger social security policies, advancing women in leadership roles and more action to build a better future of work.


Myanmar: Unions call extended national work stoppage

On 8th March, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that it had expressed its full support and solidarity with the call by Myanmar;s unions for an extrtended nationwide work stoppage to protect democracy and end the military dictatorship. 

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, was reported to have said: “We stand with the people of Myanmar in their determination to end the murderous dictatorship of the military junta and restore the country on the road to democracy.

“We call on the entire international community to also stand with them and end any cooperation with, or accommodation of, the generals and to severe business links with the military. Apologists for the regime who are seeking to profit from the violent suppression of a whole country must face legal and economic consequences.”


Brazil: ITUC welcomes overturning of Lula convictions

On 9th March the ITUC reported that “the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has welcomed the quashing of unjust convictions of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the restoration of his political rights.”

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, was reported as saying: “The judicial persecution of Lula, led by discredited judge Sergio Moro, has come to an end. Lula’s only ‘crime’ was to stand up for the marginalised and the oppressed – something that the conservative forces who wield so much power in Brazil could not accept.

“This decision is a boost for democracy in Brazil, in the region and the world. It removes a heavy stain on politics and the judiciary in Brazil and will give impetus to the quest to turn the corner from the truly corrupt government of current President Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s contempt for the people of the country has undone so many of the achievements of the Lula and Dilma governments, and his COVID-19 denialism has cost many thousands of lives.”


What if your pencil was a tool against forced labour?

The ILO reported in a press release  on 10th March that a global cartoon competition would raise awareness of forced labour, which affects 25 million people worldwide.


JONA OAK and fellow artists on women and the world of work

The ILO reported on 11th March that musician JONA OAK, writer and composer of the ILO International Women's Day song "We Sing", had joined her artist collaborators to discuss the qualities women bring to the world of work and the importance of closing gender gaps.

From conflict to recovery: Promoting decent employment in Iraq

The ILO noted on 16th March that they had established its first country coordination office in Baghdad a year ago. Maha Kattaa reflected on her first year in Iraq as country coordinator, and shed light on how the ILO is working with its partners to promote employment opportunities and decent work in the country.

Maha Kasttaa  explained that she had, “arrived in Baghdad as the ILO country coordinator a year ago, when our office was established. The main challenges were related to issues of security and mobility, which quickly worsened with the outbreak of COVID-19. 

But despite the challenges, there were many opportunities to build our country team, to establish new relations with partners, constituents and other UN agencies, to mobilise resources and build new projects, and to leverage our experience from the region to address the labour market needs of Iraq and its people.”

"Thank you" doesn’t pay the bills

It was noted by the ILO on 17th March that globally, women still earned 20 per cent less than men on average for doing the same type of work. It wasx also reported that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to increase the gender pay gap even further, according to ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, in a video message at an Equal Pay International Coalition event, taking place during the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings in New York.


50 for Freedom forced labour campaign reaches landmark target

The ILO reported on 17th March that fifty countries had now shown their commitment to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery by ratifying the ILO Forced Labour Protocol (P.29). It was further reported that the ratifications had met an initial target set by the 50 for Freedom campaign, which urged governments to take action on forced labour. Sudan had become the fiftieth country to ratify.

Ralph Johnson: Act now to protect our children

It was announced by the ILO on 18th March that the Music Against Child Labour Initiative's international song competition would be judged by Grammy Winner and founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, Ralph Johnson.


Help needed for the “heroes” of the road

It was noted by the ILO on 19th March that risks related to infection, theft and quarantine, combined with the closure of welfare facilities and other restrictions, had created complex social and economic issues for road transport drivers and companies during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Qatar’s new minimum wage enters into force

It was reported  by the ILO on 19th March that Qatar’s new non-discriminatory minimum wage was coming into force – adding to the series of major labour reforms underway.


Racism is a trade union issue: ITUC statement on World Day Against Racism

On 18th March, the ITUC noted that over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic had thrown into sharp relief the need to urgently uproot and dismantle systemic inequalities and systems of oppression that have persisted for far too long within our societies and in the world of work.  

It further noted that even before the pandemic, racialised people had been less likely to have adequate access to social protection and quality public health and care services and were disproportionally represented in low-paying and precarious jobs, including in those sectors that were deemed ‘essential’, such as health and care, cleaning, transport, and food-retail with often no or inadequate labour protections.

The statement also said that this World Anti-Racism Day the ITUC stood alongside trade unions everywhere, World Against Racism, and all other anti-racist activists and movements to fight all forms of discrimination against racialised people, including Negrophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, the mistreatment of Roma communities as well as anti-migrant and anti-refugee sentiments.

Myanmar: Financial sanctions must be imposed on junta proxies

On 19th March, the ITUC reported that The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and UNI Global Union, which represents working people in the finance sector, had released the names of 23 people with close connections to the Myanmar military junta who should be subject to financial sanctions to avoid coup leaders, already subject to financial sanctions, using them as proxies.

More countries should ratify ILO Forced Labour Protocol, says Wagner Moura

On 22nd March, the ILO reported that actor and ILO forced labour champion, Wagner Moura, had called on more countries to ratify the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol, after the 50 for Freedom campaign to end modern slavery reached its landmark target.


We all have a role in ending modern slavery

The ILO reporetd on 23rd March, that Humanitarian photographer, Lisa Kristine, had exposed the horrors of modern day slavery through her images. It further noted that fifty countries had now ratified the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, but Kristina had said that we all have a role to play in eliminating modern day slavery for good.


Make modern slavery a political priority

Also on 23rd March, the ILO reported that as we celebrate the 50th ratification of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, activist and 50 for Freedom champion, Leonardo Sakamoto, was calling on governments to make the eradication of modern slavery a political priority.


Freedom from slavery is non-negotiable

On 25th March , the ILO noted that with the target now met of 50th ratifications of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, had said that he refuses to accept that modern slavery cannot be eliminated.


Time to make a difference in the lives of millions in forced labour, urges ILO DG

Also on 25th March the ILO reported that in congratulating the 50 countries that had now ratified the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol, ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, had called on all the other countries who haven’t yet ratified to follow suit.


How Women are being left behind in the quest for decent work for all

On 29th March, the ILO reminded readers that the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals set out a shared vision to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. It voiced concerns that  the pandemic would reverse progress in advancing decent work for all as prescribed under Goal 8 and that that seems likely, at least for women.


Lanao del Sur launches biggest water system with ILO, Japan, MOLE

On 30th March, the ILO reported that a new water system had been built by community members under the ILO Japan Water and Sanitation Project connecting six villages in Lanao del Sur  in the Philippines, to provide clean and safe water, promote decent work and contribute to peacebuilding in the Bangsamoro region amid COVID-19.


ILO Governing Body concludes its 341st session

The ILO reported on 30th March that the March 2021 session of the ILO Governing Body had ended on 27 March. ILO News discussed the key elements with Juan Llobera, Clerk of the Governing Body.

It was reported that the Governing Body had decided to hold a full Conference in 2021, in a virtual format. There would be a formal opening on 20 May, with the main business conducted between 3 and 19 June. The ILC would then adjourn and reconvene later in 2021 or early 2022.

It was reiterated by the Governing Body that all items on the ILC agenda – inequalities and the world of work, social security, and skills and lifelong learning – were of great relevance to a world of work grappling with the impact of the pandemic.

It was further reported that the GB had also provided guidance for a document on the global pandemic response and the leading role of the ILO in achieving a human-centred recovery. It was said that the document was intended to be one of the outcomes of the ILC.

It was also reported that in reviewing the report on Myanmar, on forced labour and freedom of association, the GB had urged the military authorities (who declared a state of emergency on 1 February), to restore democratic order and called for respect for freedom of expression and freedom of association.

It was noted that following discussions on the non-acceptance by the Government of Venezuela  of the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations, the GB had adopted a decision on further ILO actions to ensure compliance.

It was also said that the GB had taken note of the progress made by the Government of Bangladesh  in the development of the time-bound road map of actions to address the remaining matters relating to labour inspection and freedom of association.


Myanmar: US trade sanctions an example for others

On 30th March, the ITUC praised the decision by the US Trade Representative to suspend trade with Myanmar as an example which other countries and the European Union should follow, along with enhanced financial sanctions to stop the flow of money to the military junta.

The ITUC further reported that Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, had said: “The junta generals are child killers and mass murderers. Any government that fails to stand up to them, and any company that does business with them, is complicit in their brutal rule and the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.

“Whether it be oil and gas, commodities exported from Myanmar or financial and other services; doing business with Myanmar today means colluding with corruption. The complicity must end and the military must be completely isolated internationally for the sake of the people of Burma who are paying a terrible price for their brave defiance of the junta.”

The ITUC also said that it was calling on neighbouring countries to provide safe haven for refugees from the military violence, including thousands who have fled to Thailand from Karen State to escape aerial attacks. Manipur State in India has now reportedly reversed a decision to turn back refugees.

This story is real

On 31st March, the ILO showed a video of Mrunal Thakur, Robin Wright, Lindiwe Bungane, Joaquín Furriel, Freida Pinto, Wagner Moura, and David Oyelowo narrating true stories of modern slavery.

The Global Employment Policy Review: Inclusive structural transformation, employment policies and innovative solutions for a better future of work

On 31st March the Ilo also published an interview with Sangheon Lee, Director of the Employment Policy Department, and the co-editors of the report, Dorothea Schmidt-Klau and David Kucera.


Collated by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC, April 2021











View latest posts