Trade Union Rights September 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://www.ituc-csi.org/violations-workers-rights-seven-year-high https:// and www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/lang--en/index.htm
Kyrgyzstan: ITUC welcomes veto of anti-worker bill
At the end oif August, the ITUC reported that it had praised the decision by the president of Kyrgyzstan, Sadyr Japarov, to veto a new law on trade unions.
It was noted that the law had been drafted by the Parliament without properly consulting workers unions, competent government officials or the expertise of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
It was argued that it largely contradicts the country’s constitution and core labour standards, including ILO Conventions 87 and 98 covering freedom of association, freedom to organise and the right to collective bargaining. In particular, it would have installed a trade union monopoly of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan and would have put all unions under its control.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow was reported as saying: “This is good news, and we welcome President Japarov’s sensible decision. This law couldn’t be allowed to stand, as it is riddled with problems. This is the third time in two years we’ve had to ask the president of Kyrgyzstan to veto a draft anti-worker law, and it’s time to move on.
“The lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan must use the expertise of its workers’ unions and the ILO to assist in any legislative process to regulate labour relations. This will achieve the best outcome for working people in the country.”
ILO and IUCN sign an agreement to harness the interdependence between jobs and nature
The Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies aims to make biodiversity an integral part of the agenda to promote decent work and advance social justice.
On 1st September, ILO News reported that the MOU was intended to formalize the already ongoing collaboration between the two organizations to promote and support, among other things, Green Works , the creation of decent jobs through investments in reforestation, soil and water conservation, environmental rehabilitation and climate change adaptation.
It was further reported that it also underlined the importance of “Nature-based Solutions” (NbS), which use nature to address key societal challenges like increasing agricultural productivity and incomes through the use of more sustainable agro-forestry practices or the promotion of urban greening to reduce temperatures in cities
More than 4 billion people still lack any social protection, ILO report finds
On 1st September, ILO news reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had revealed and exacerbated the social protection gap between countries with high and low income levels.
It was reported that it found that the pandemic response had been uneven and insufficient, deepening the gap between countries with high and low income levels and failing to afford the much-needed social protection that all human beings deserve.
It was noted that social protection includes access to health care and income security, particularly in relation to old age, unemployment, sickness, disability, work injury, maternity or loss of a main income earner, as well as for families with children.
ITUC welcomes ILO World Social Protection Report 2020-22
On 1st September ILO news reported that the new International Labour Organization (ILO) report on social protection exposed the huge gaps in social protection coverage around the world, with 47% of people having no social protection at all, and a further 22% lacking full protection in line with international labour standards.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, wsas reported as saying: “While some countries brought in temporary pandemic measures, this report reveals how little progress has been made overall. It’s a global scandal that so many billions of people lack any form of protection and that only one-third of the world’s population are adequately covered.
“For the least wealthy countries in particular, a global social protection fund is more urgent than ever. All governments need to recognise that social protection is an investment that generates positive returns, socially and economically.
“It’s also a major public health issue, especially during a pandemic, when people have no option but to work in order to survive, exposing them and those near to them to infection.
“In the absence of social protection, COVID-19 will continue to thrive, claiming many more lives and potentially giving rise to new variants that could threaten everyone on the planet. That’s why universal social protection is one of the five workers’ demands under a New Social Contract.”
Korea: Release KCTU President
The ITUC and its Asia-Pacific regional organisation, ITUC-Asia Pacific, are demanding the immediate release of the president of the KCTU Korea, Yang Kyeung-soo, from detention.
On 2nd September, ITUC reported that ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow as saying: “The charges against Yang are wrong and disproportionate, and he posed no flight risk, yet now the authorities have detained him. His detention seems more designed to disrupt the KCTU’s preparations for a national strike on 20 October. He should be released right away and the charges against him dropped.”
Decent work for migrant workers in South East Asia's fishing industry
On 6th September, ILO News reported about decent work for migrant workers in South East asia’s fishing industry: “standing outside a fishing port near Bangkok, Thailand, Chief technical Advisor, Mi Zhou explains how the ILO’s Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia project, funded by the European Union, promotes regular andand safe labour migration and decent work for migrant workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in the region. safe labour migration and decent work for migrant workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in the region.”
Relief provided to 4,500 return migrant workers in Lao People’s Democratic Republic
On 7th September, ILO News reported that the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare would distribute urgently needed food, hygiene items and information about local employment opportunities to returning migrant workers at quarantine centres, with the support of the International Labour Organization, European Union and Australian Government.
It was further reported that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare had received support of US$35,000 from the International Labour Organization to provide immediate relief supplies and information to 4,500 return Lao migrant workers during their two-week stay at quarantine centres. Jointly funded by the ILO’s Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia and TRIANGLE in ASEAN programmes, it was noted that the assistance would target key provinces where returns have increased in recent months due to the third wave outbreak of COVID-19 in Thailand, including Champasak, Salavan, Bokeo, Xayabuly and Vientiane.
ILO: Latin America and the Caribbean face an insufficient labour market recovery with a predominance of informal jobs
On 8th September ILO News reported that around 70 per cent of the jobs created in recent months in a group of Latin American countries were in infor-mal conditions. Meanwhile, it was further reported that unemployment and the decline in labour force participation were persistent and that the International Labour Organization (ILO) was calling for action to face the unequal impact of the crisis with more and better jobs.
It was noted that the economic recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean was still insufficient to recuperate the jobs lost during the pandemic, and had given rise to a labour market characterized by a high unemployment rate and a strong prevalence of informal occupations, highlighted a new ILO technical note released today.
“Neither the quantity nor the quality of jobs that this region requires to cope with the aftermath of an unprecedented crisis are being created. The labour overview is complex and poses challenges of great magnitude,” Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Director for Latin America and the Caribbean was reported as announcing, when presenting the publication.
"In 2021, informal jobs are leading the partial recovery of employment," added Pinheiro. "These are jobs that are generally unstable, with low wages, without social protection or rights."
Ukraine: ITUC concerned about wave of regressive labour laws
On 10th September, the ITUC reported that it had written jointly with the ETUC to senior politicians in Ukraine to raise serious concerns about ongoing regressive labour reforms in the country.
It was noted that several draft laws were being considered by the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) that are incompatible with international and regional labour standards, which had been confirmed by several reports, including by International Labour Organization (ILO) in the country.
It was also noted that the letter to the president, prime minister and chair of the Verkhovna Rada, explains that in their current form, draft laws 5388 and 5371 contain numerous violations, including:
excluding working people in medium and small enterprises from the protection of the general labour law;
a lack of safeguards to ensure work contracts comply with minimum labour standards;
the ability of employers to abuse the system and use successive fixed-term contracts;
a lack compatibility with requirements to guarantee working time, rest periods, minimum daily rest, overtime and leave.
ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, was reported as saying: “The officials in Ukraine must not ignore this serious criticism of these laws that comes directly from the ILO technical assistance programmes, including with the European Union, which the government benefits from, as well as from labour law experts and Ukrainian unions. The draft laws are simply not compatible with international labour standards.
“We call on the government and parliament to respect these standards, to fully utilise ILO expertise and assistance, and sit down with the Ukrainian social partners to work on this together and ensure that all working people benefit from economic, social and democratic change in Ukraine.”
Global COVID-19 vaccine deficit is a scandal
On 13th September, ITUC reported that the the revelation in a World Health Organization (WHO) statement that just 20% of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries would have been vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this year was a scandal of epic proportions.
It was further reported that around 80% of people in high- and upper-middle-income countries had already received a first vaccine dose, according to the WHO.
Sharan Burrow, the ITUC General Secretary, was noted as saying “This represents a monumental failure that could have been avoided and must be fixed without delay. Many lives will continue to be lost, many will fall sick in countries that lack adequate healthcare provision, livelihoods will continue to be disrupted and it adds enormously to the potential for new variants of concern to emerge.”
It was furtehr reported that US$10 billion had been raised to date by the COVAX facility through which countries could access vaccine supplies, while nine Covid-19 billionaires had amassed a total of US$19.2 billion between them, while another eight existing billionaire investors in Covid vaccine production had increased their wealth by a total of US$32.2 billion.
WHO/ILO joint estimates of the work-related burden of disease and injury reveal numbers of deaths related to work
On 14th September, ILO News reported the launch of the first joint estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on work-related disease and injury burden.
Uzbekistan ratifies the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention
On 14th September, ILO News reported that on that day the Government of Uzbekistan had deposited the instrument of ratification of the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187) .
It was further reported that in depositing the instruments of ratification, H.E. Ulugbek Lapasov, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan in Geneva, had stated: “I am glad that Uzbekistan joined the family of ILO member states that have already ratified the instrument. Ratification of ILO Convention No. 187 by the Republic of Uzbekistan will serve to further improve national legislation and to effectively implement international standards in occupational safety and health. We stand ready to effectively implement this instrument in cooperation with ILO experts. This work has already been started at a national level.”
Tunisia: ITUC backs UGTT call for early election
On 14th September, the ITUC reported that it is supporting a call by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) for early parliamentary elections to break a democratic paralysis.
UGTT Secretary General Noureddine Taboubi was said to have called for a national vote to bring in a new legislature to provoke a debate about the political system that could lead to a referendum, if needed, on political reform.
It was noted that in July, the Tunisian president, Kais Saied, suspended Parliament, sacked the prime minister and assumed executive power. He is yet to appoint a new prime minister or announce a road map out of the crisis.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow was reported as saying: “The UGTT demand is reasonable and essential to begin the process of restoring Tunisian democracy.
“All the groups involved need to sit down and agree on the next steps for Tunisia, but that cannot happen until this current impasse is solved through early elections.”
Entrepreneurship skills for Venezuelan migrants and refugees
On 15th September, ILO news reported that well over five million Venezuelans had become refugees and migrants in recent years, the majority of whom are living in neighbouring countries in Latin America. It was noted that ILO Chief technical advisor, María Olave, was explaining how the ILO had provided entrepreneurship training to Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Ecuador and Peru during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ITUC welcomes UN Secretary-General’s report “Our Common Agenda”
On 15th September, ITUC reported that a much-anticipated report from UN Secretary-General António Guterres backed the call for a renewed social contract, setting out an ambitious plan for multilateral action to address the multiple crises facing the world.
It was noted that the report contrasted two possible futures: a world heading towards breakdown and perpetual crisis, or a positive outlook based on solidarity and cooperation to secure a better, sustainable, peaceful and secure future for people and the planet with a renewed social contract.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, was reported as saying: “António Guterres has laid out the challenge with a clear and comprehensive agenda with sustainability and social and economic justice at its heart. He has set out the direction the world must take with his call for a new social contract with decent jobs, social protection, Just Transition, the labour protection floor set out in the ILO Centenary Declaration, and global solidarity to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control.”
It was reported that the report points to:
the benefits of a global social protection fund for the least wealthy countries as a centrepiece for universal social protection;
the need for active and equal participation of women and girls; and
investment in the green, care and digital economies.
Myanmar: Action for the National Unity Government
On 15th September, ITUC reported that, to mark the International Day of Democracy the Global Unions were stepping up their campaign in support of democracy in Myanmar.
It was noted that on 1 February, the military had seized power and that more than 1,000 peaceful, pro-democracy protesters had been killed, and more than 7,000 had been arrested, detained and sentenced since the coup started.
It was said that in a statement the Global Unions were calling for recognition of the National Unity Government (NUG) at the current 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and:
rejection of the credentials of the military State Administration Council in all UN functions, along with severance of diplomatic ties;
an arms embargo on Myanmar;
an end to direct or indirect business, commercial, or financial ties to the Myanmar military regime; and
ensuring that all humanitarian and other assistance goes through the NUG.
Interview with Ms Sonya Mohamed Janahi
On 16th September, ILO News showed a video about Ms Sonya Mohamed Janahi, Chairperson of the ILO technical meeting speaking on the future of decent and sustainable work in urban transport services (30 August - 3 September 2021), as she shared her views on the vital role of the urban transport services.
Canada will host the XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work
Delegates from more than 125 countries will convene online for The World Congress on Safety and Health at Work under the theme, Prevention in the Connected Age: Global solutions to achieve safe and healthy work for all. The Congress is hosted by Canada with the ILO and ISSA.
It was reported by ILO News on 17th September that Canada would host the XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work under the theme of Prevention in the Connected Age: global solutions to achieve safe and healthy work for all.
It was said that the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) would host the Congress, together with the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
It was noted that participants from around the globe would attend virtually from September 20 – 23, 2021. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, high-level government officials, trade unions, workers and their representatives, communicators, representatives of social security organizations, filmmakers, journalists, speakers, thought leaders, occupational experts and decision-makers were said to be going to explore critical occupational safety and health issues and that the Congress program features over 200 speakers in six technical sessions and 21 symposia. It was further noted that the International Media Festival for Prevention would take place during the Congress, as well as hundreds of virtual poster presentations and an International Safety and Health Exhibition.
WHO/ILO: Almost 2 million people die from work-related causes each year
It was reported by ILO News on 17th September that the first WHO/ILO global estimates on disease and injury in the workplace outline the level of preventable premature deaths due to exposure to work-related health risks had been released.
It was noted that work-related diseases and injuries had been responsible for the deaths of 1.9 million people in 2016, according to the first joint estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO).
It was further noted that according to the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury, 2000-2016: Global Monitoring Report , the majority of work-related deaths had been due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
Only half of workers worldwide hold jobs corresponding to their level of education
It was reported on 20th September that over the years, considerable effort had been invested in improving the educational attainment of people worldwide, especially as part of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. It was argued however, that the enormous progress achieved in raising levels of education, especially among women and girls, had not translated into corresponding improvements in labour market outcomes.
It was maintained that many people are working in jobs that do not match their level of education nand at the same time, many employers claim to have difficulties in finding workers with the skills that they need to expand their business and innovate successfully. It was arued that this phenomenon points to a significant disconnect between the world of education and the world of work.
It was said that drawing on labour force survey data on the level of education and occupations of all employed workers in over 130 countries, the ILO estimated that only about half of these workers hold jobs corresponding to their level of education, while the remainder were either overeducated or undereducated for their jobs.
ILO takes part in UN General Assembly
Discussions on social protection and poverty on the ILO agenda at the 76th UN General Assembly in New York.
On 21st September, ILO News reprted that the ILO was participating in a series of events at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), which had opened on 14th September in New York.
It was noted that the theme for this year’s UNGA was “Building resilience through hope – to recovery from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations.”
It was also reported that on 22 September ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, would take part in a side event in the Sustainable Development Goals Action Zone on social protection and jobs . Against the backdrop of rising inequalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was said that Ryder would discuss how changes in working conditions and social protection can be realized and the path out of the crisis that needs to be followed.
On 21st September ITUC announced that they were are all saddened by the death of Professor John Ruggie and that his commitment to human rights and business responsibility changed the future.
It was noted that the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, with the three pillars of due diligence, grievance and remedy, had brought hope to millions that corporate impunity for violations of human and labour rights would be challenged.
It was argued that Ruggie’s six years as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative had allowed us all to witness his quiet determination accompanied by a brilliant mind and the quiet but relentless leadership that ensured enormous progress towards realising the dignity of decent work
New ILO/WHO work fatality figures must spur action
On 21st September ITUC reported that new figures jointly released by the ILO and the WHO identified that 19 work-related risk factors cause some two million deaths each year.
However it was also reported that, adding in causes of death by risk factors not included in the joint report and filling in information gaps from poor record-keeping brought the real world total closer to three million deaths, and even that was likely to be an underestimate.
It was noted that in a speech at this week’s World Congress on Safety and Health, ITUC Deputy General Secretary Owen Tudor had said: “The mounting toll of deaths due to work will only be stopped by making occupational health and safety a fundamental right at work along with the other ILO Fundamental Rights – freedom of association, collective bargaining and freedom from discrimination, child labour and forced labour.
“This must be finalised at the annual ILO Conference next year, to spur stronger action by governments to prevent death and disease at work, in both the private and public sectors.”
Hong Kong: ITUC affiliate HKCTU to disband
On 21st September the ITUC reported that the ITUC was deeply saddened by the decision of the ITUC-affiliate the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) to commence the procedure to disband itself.
It was noted that in recent months the HKCTU and its member organisations had faced unprecedented attacks, intimidation and allegations of offences under the national security law. The personal safety of union leaders was also said to have also been threatened.
It was noted that the HKCTU’s decision was part of the process of the dismantling of civil society in Hong Kong since the enactment of the national security law in July last year.
It was reported that UN human rights experts had stated that China’s law on ”Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” does not conform with international human rights treaties and that the use of national security terminology in the law criminalises rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
World Bank “Doing Business” report goes out of business
On 22nd September the ITUC reported that the annual report for the past 18 years had graded and ranked countries according to whether their regulatory or tax regimes were sufficiently pro-business. It was furtehr reported that the report’s notorious labour market indicators had been suspended and then discontinued a decade ago.
It was said that in 2006 it had ranked the Pacific island country of Palau as “best performer” on labour issues due to the absence of virtually any legal protections for workers and the removal of minimum wage regulations.
It was noted that nevertheless, the report had continued to aggressively push a low-tax, free-market deregulation agenda, including giving tax havens high rankings and the end of this report removed an important obstacle to development and the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow was reported as saying: “The belated demise of this ideologically driven report is welcome. The World Bank should focus its efforts on supporting a business environment that is based on respect for international labour standards, due diligence in supply chains and sustainability.
“Responsible companies increasingly recognise that businesses benefit from ensuring rights and dignity for their employees and by providing greater certainty for, and ensuring compliance by, their suppliers across global value chains.”
ITUC condemns wave of attacks on Belarusian trade unionists
The ITUC has condemned the latest attacks by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus on the independent trade union movement there.
On 23rd September ITUC reported that earlier in September, senior activists from the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BITU) and members of the ITUC-affiliated Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) had been arrested, detained and subjected to searches by the state security services.
It was noted that this continued the widespread repression against BKDP members that had intensified one year after Lukashenko’s flawed presidential election victory in August 2020.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow was reported as saying: “The news coming out of Belarus is horrifying. For too long the working people there have suffered under this corrupt regime that denies their fundamental labour rights and freedoms.
“Instead of implementing the reforms recommended by the clear and unequivocal judgements of the ILO, the government again turns to repression in an attempt to silence the voice of the independent trade union movement in the country.
“We expect to see further pressure from governments to force the Lukashenko regime to respect international labour standards, including the right to freedom of association and the right to strike. And we call on the Belarusian government to release all the unionists, to stop this policy of repression and to listen to independent unions, instead of harassing them.”
Transformed food systems can help achieve sustainable development goals
On 23rd September, ILO News reported that the ILO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are to co-lead a new international coalition to advance decent work for people working in food systems.
ILO warns of a recovery with high unemployment and worrying informality in Latin America and the Caribbean
At the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour, the Director-General of the ILO said that it is necessary to move towards a sustainable and resilient inclusive recovery in the face of a pandemic that “has brought the world of work to its knees”.
On 24th September, the ILO announced that it had told the 21st Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour (IACML) that there is a need to seek an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery from a crisis that has left a legacy of high unemployment and worrying informality in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Speaking at the opening session of the two-day meeting , hosted by Argentina, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder was reported as saying that that it had been a dramatic 18 months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis.
UN Secretary-General calls for accelerated action on jobs and social protection
On 28th September, ILO news reported that deeply diverging recoveries would undermine trust and solidarity and make the world more vulnerable to future crises, including climate change. It was said that new ‘Global Accelerator’ would create 400 million jobs and extend social protection coverage to 4 billion people currently left unprotected..
It was fiurther reported that at least US$982 billion in fiscal stimulus measures is needed to respond to the immediate labour market shocks of the crisis and to support a just transition, as well as US$ 1.2 trillion annually for social protection floors in low- and middle-income countries. It was argued that no advanced economy haf achieved economic and social progress without investing in social protection systems and quality public services that provide people with the necessary support to navigate the vicissitudes of their lives.
The future is already here
On 30th September ILO News asked; what had been the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women or migrant workers? Had we taken a step back on the progress made in recent years in terms of inclusion? What was the ILO doing about it? Can remote work help people with disabilities? Are algorithms more biased than humans?
“The future is already here. If we don’t tackle the already existing inequalities, they will only be exacerbated by the rapid pace of change we are seeing in the world of work,” Chidi King, new head of the Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Branch (GEDI) of the ILO. Was reported as saying
Germany ratifies the Maternity Protection Convention
On 30 September 2021, ILO New streported that the Government of Germany had deposited the instrument of ratification of the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) ,
In so doing it was noted that Germany became the 40th country to ratify Convention No. 183, the ILO’s most up-to-date and comprehensive standard on maternity protection.
In depositing the instrument of ratification, Ms. Kerstin Griese, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Germany, was reported a stating: “Many women around the world still very much face the reality of discrimination, of violence and harassment based on pregnancy, maternity and their family responsibilities. In ratifying Convention No. 183 Germany is sending a strong signal reaffirming its commitment to fight against discrimination of working women worldwide.”
Compiled by Peter Sagar, A Living Tradition CIC, September 2021