LabourStart Solidarity Campaigns
People Over Profit...
Public Services International
Justice for Fishers - Fishers' Rights Network...
International Transport Workers Federation
Pharmacare: A Plan for Everyone...
Canadian Labour Congress
Union Member Candidate Program...
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations
Campaign to Organize Digital Employees...
Communications Workers of America
U.S. Mail Not for Sale...
American Postal Workers Union and National Association of Letter Carriers
Fight for $15...Low Pay is Not OK
One Fair Wage...
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
Committee for Better Banks...
coalition of labor, community and consumer advocacy organizations
Making Change at Walmart...
United Food and Commercial Workers
Robin Hood Tax Campaign...
it's not a tax on the people, it's a tax for the people...United States
Justice for Port Drivers...
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
ILO Labor Standards
The International Labor Organization (ILO) labor standards take the form of International Labor Conventions which are ratified by member countries. Of the total number of ILO Conventions, eight are considered core labor standards, fundamental to the rights of workers. The ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
Malaysian unions fight for workers during lockdown
3 April, 2020: Trade unions in Malaysia have lodged complaints over factories remaining open during the lockdown, jeopardizing workers' health and safety.
On 21 March, IndustriALL affiliate Electronics Industry Employees' Union Southern Region (EIEUSR) lodged a complaint with the police against MFS Technology (M) Sdn. Bhd. The company defied the Movement Control Order of the Malaysian government instructing all non-essential companies to shut down between 18-31 March, due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Idawati Idrus, deputy general secretary of EIEUSR and co-chair of IndustriALL Malaysia women committee, says: "Together with the union members, mostly women, we lodged complaints with the police and the Ministry of International Trade and Industries (MITI). Direct action can empower our members and make them brave. "Although the police closed the factory immediately, the factory resumed operations after two days by obtaining approval from MITI. But only ten per cent of the workers returned to work; they were scared of being infected.
IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary Annie Adviento applauds the action. "Workers have the right to refuse to work if the work environment is unsafe and unhealthy. The government and the employer must respect occupational safety and health."
The National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW) sent a letter to the headquarter of Robert Bosch, disputing the company's decision to continue production. "Our members are dissatisfied because products of the company, mainly automotive accessories, are not regarded as essential services. Despite this, the company got approval from MITI. We demand that the factory close during the lockdown, which has been extended to 14 April," says Nadesan Gopalkishnam, NUTEAIW general secretary.
A broad coalition of 58 trade unions and NGOs, the Labour Law Reform Coalition, has put forward a demand that the Prime Minister introduce 80 per cent guaranteed wage subsidy as a step to save jobs and transform the Malaysian social protection system.
Taiwan and South Korea Covid-19 response a lesson for all
APR 01, 2020: Drawing experience from the SARS and MERS outbreaks, the two countries were prepared for the new coronavirus and their quick action has saved lives.
As governments around the world continue to take measures in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, there are lessons to be learnt from the successes of Taiwan and South Korea in curtailing the spread of the virus.
Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, lauded South Korea earlier in March. And Taiwan's response to the crisis also shows that swift action and widespread healthcare can prevent an outbreak. Most fundamentally, universal access to healthcare makes sense, not only for crisis preparedness, but also in people's everyday lives.
The cases of South Korea and Taiwan show why it is exceedingly important for governments to draw the correct lessons from public health emergencies, by putting necessary measures in place to avoid or at least mitigate the impact of subsequent outbreaks. Taiwan's well-staffed healthcare system and public emergency services wasted no time in implementing 124 safety protocols.
During the 2002-2003 SARS-CoV outbreak, there were 346 cases in Taiwan, with 73 deaths. In the wake of that epidemic, the Taiwanese government established the National Health Command Center (NHCC) as part of a disaster management scheme to focus on large outbreak response and act as the operational command point for direct communications among central, regional, and local authorities in the event of another outbreak.
This proved invaluable during the country's COVID-19 response. There were projections of a high impact on Taiwan when news of the new coronavirus filtered out of Wuhan in late 2019. Such fears were due to the country's proximity with mainland China where 850,000 of its 23 million citizens live. But Taiwan's well-staffed healthcare system and public emergency services wasted no time in implementing 124 safety protocols. These protocols were put in place along with the establishment of the NHCC, based on the SARS outbreak experience.
The government set up 633 testing sites across the country with 100 laboratories which worked around the clock. Over 300,000 people were tested, with up to 20,000 persons screened every day. This efficient testing and diagnostic network enabled authorities to quickly identify and isolate infected persons. This greatly curbed the virus's spread, breaking transmission chains and bringing down infection rates.
Governments across the world need to urgently learn from the steps taken by countries like Taiwan and South Korea to face the global pandemic. Proactive testing and big data analysis must be added to the social and physical distancing which is the main means of protection in most countries. And all these have to be rooted in strong, well-resourced and adequately staffed public health systems.
As Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus noted, governments now need to:
Governments must never forget lessons being learnt from the COVID-19 response. The most fundamental of these, which we will hold every government to, is the implementation of universal public healthcare, once and for all. This means massive improvements of health sector employment, working conditions and training, to fill the projected shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030, as recommended back in 2016 by the United Nations' Secretary General's High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth. The world can wait no longer.
ACT brands commit to responsible business practices in Bangladesh
31 March, 2020: ACT signatory brands have expressed their commitment to maintain responsible business practices and social dialogue with union representatives from IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), amid the corona virus outbreak.
In majority of garment factories in Bangladesh, workers are yet to receive their due payments for March. Union leaders in the IBC stress that workers are vulnerable, as many factories are closing over fears of the virus outbreak, and in some cases laying off workers. The IBC is urging brands to pay for orders that are wholly or partially completed, and if possible to consider paying in advance.
According to BGMEA, 907 million pieces of apparel worth US$2.87 billion have been cancelled or suspended by brands and buyers that source from Bangladesh. This has a direct impact on the 2.09 million workers in the country's textile industry.
If brands don't take ownership of items already produced and ready to be shipped and pay at least the production cost of orders in the process of being manufactured, it will be nearly impossible for employers to pay workers' wages, according to the BGMEA.
The majority of the stores of the ACT brands, including H&M, Inditex, PVH, C&A, Primark, Next, Lidl, Tesco, Tchibo and others, are closed in Europe and North America, leading to liquidity crisis. However, most agree in principle to pay for completed orders, and are discussing various incentive and stimulus packages for suppliers to ensure workers are paid.
The government of Bangladesh will make available 50 billion Bangladeshi Taka (US$581,000) late April. However, this will be enough to pay workers' wages for one month and it is a loan, which the employers have to pay back with 2 per cent interest.
IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, Apoorva Kaiwar, says: "We would like a written agreement with trade unions on how the government's allocated fund can be used for paying workers. We are also urging the brands to contribute to that fund."
UNI GS: Unions Worldwide are Advancing Workers' Rights in a Time of Crisis
30 March 2020: A message from the General Secretary of UNI Global Union
Dear friends, For all of us, this is an especially stressful time. We worry about our families, our friends, our communities. We wonder what a post-COVID-19 world will look like. For those without income security, health care and safe work, it is a nightmare. And a large--and growing--portion of our UNI family is now under some form of "lockdown," without knowing when this will end. Some have been told to work at home, others, that they don't have any work at all.
Many UNI members are on the front lines and face great risks. Workers caring for the elderly, cleaners and security officers, workers in grocery stores and all centers, postal workers, are all essential for society. They bravely face the risk of infection every day. Others are seeing their careers and futures put on hold. In television and film production, activities have ground to a halt. And the World Players have lost entire seasons in some sports.
UNI has been busy in the recent weeks reaching out to affiliates to hear the word from the ground up. We want to share your successes and support you in your battles to protect your members. We want to bring our collective power to bear in our sectors in order to achieve standards which apply to workers across the world. The coronavirus does not respect borders and our challenges require global solutions.
About two weeks ago, before the virus had spread so widely in all continents, UNI initiated a survey of its affiliates to take the pulse and better understand where things stand. Surpassing our expectations, over 170 unions participated in the survey, representing nearly 5 million workers, from over 60 countries, five continents and every sector. What we learned is not so surprising: unions are making a difference for workers around the world. You can read the survey report here.
We know that you are rising to the challenge to fight for your members during this perilous time. Ninety per cent of you said that you are taking an active role through communication with your members to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. (And many of you had not yet been touched by the virus).
Many millions of workers have already lost their jobs and in this situation, income security is crucial and having a union makes an important difference. Over 90 per cent of you answered that some of your affected workers get full pay thanks to a collective bargaining agreement in case of workplace closures, quarantines, or other disruptions. We know that many of you have also pushed your employers to add to the amount that unemployed or furloughed workers will receive through government programs. And many unions in our MEI sector have negotiated different forms of income security for freelancers.
The pandemic also means that millions of union members are working from home. Over 50 per cent said that your members, when working from home or working remotely because of COVID-19, specifically had the right to disconnect, meaning that they aren't expected to be "always on" during the crisis.
Many of your members are working either in large centers of employment or in public facing jobs. More than 60 per cent of you said that your members were facing shortages of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. This includes cleaners, retail employers, call center workers, and care professionals. And among those still at work, there are demands for long hours and weekend work. Fifteen per cent of you reported a demand for an increase of hours, including in grocery, cleaning, call center, postal, and healthcare sectors.
Lastly, unions around the world are working tirelessly to enforce collective agreements as well as to push governments and employers to enact new protections for workers' health and livelihoods. Over 70 per cent of respondents said they are currently campaigning for paid sick leave, additional sanitation and health training, and/or protective equipment.
We must also insist that the gains we achieve today are made permanent, especially when it comes to sick leave and healthcare. A resounding 83 per cent of you plan to push for permanent reforms such as health and safety legislation and expanded paid sick leave.
Almost the entire UNI staff and leadership team is now "working from home." But that doesn't mean that we stop representing the interests of our large and diverse membership. Our sectors are collecting best practices and actively negotiating with employers to establish global standards. Last Friday, in fact, we signed an agreement with the Universal Postal Union. Many sectors have published guidelines for employers.
We are standing together to push employers for fully paid sick leave and demanding enough space at work to enable "distancing." We are organising non-union workers to come together to demand safe conditions. It is not too much to expect hand sanitizer in a call center or masks at the grocery store. And care workers should never be forced to work without protection. This is not work to be taken lightly. Already, at least three members of UNI affiliates, all working in public facing jobs, have passed away after contracting the coronavirus: a postal worker, a grocery store worker and a security guard. There are likely to be many more.
And when this crisis is over, we will need to pick up the pieces of a broken economy and construct a new green economy with a new social contract at the core. We will stand together through this crisis, and we will emerge stronger. Thank you for the work that you do every day to improve the lives of workers. Please stay safe and stay in touch.
In solidarity, Christy Hoffman, General Secretary
Women bear the brunt of COVID-19 impact, say UNI unions
27 March 2020: The coronavirus pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on women workers, say UNI Global Union affiliates as they propose measures to protect and support women during the global health crisis.
According to the ILO, the majority (58.6 per cent) of employed women worldwide work in the service sector, which is represented by UNI. But women are also the primary caregivers to children, the elderly, and the ill, with many putting in a second shift when they finish their paid work.
"Women who are single mothers, widows or divorced are particularly affected by the closure of schools. Taking care of their families and complying with their work responsibilities creates very difficult home environments," says Nawja Lekhaila from UMT, Morocco. For those who can work from home, cultural and social norms often impose on women the burden of household work, which in turn has an impact on their performance.
"The biggest need for many of our women workers is that employers understand that workers cannot be measured on their performance. Working from home is not the same as working in our regular workplaces," says Stella Dinyake from SASBO union in South Africa.
Women workers also make up the majority of precarious workers, a situation that exacerbates the vulnerability of this group in times of crisis.
"In Chile, childcare services are collapsed and many women, who are the heads of their household and/or single mothers, do not have the means to leave their children to go to work," explains Viviana Catalan from CONAGRA, Chile.
This is a situation that repeats itself throughout the world for women who hold jobs in industries and sectors without protections such as paid family leave and paid sick leave, leaving them unable to miss days of work to care for children or elderly relatives. The inability of women to stay home when sick with the coronavirus clearly creates an additional risk for everyone.
UNI General Secretary, Christy Hoffman, says: "Now, more than ever, is the time for unions to stand up for women and bargain collectively with employers to ensure that women are not putting themselves, or their families at risk, as they struggle to cope with the combined commitments of care and work."
Unions around the world are mobilizing to protect workers and work with employers and governments to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19. But more needs to be done to make sure that existing gaps affecting marginalized groups, such as women, youth, the disabled, migrants and minorities, do not continue to grow.
"During crises, marginalized and vulnerable groups suffer the most and the possibility of widening existing gaps such as the gender wage gap, is ever growing. If we, as unions, can help raise awareness on the impact this pandemic has on women, if we can help protect them and minimize the impact by adding a gender perspective to our work, we will succeed in protecting the most vulnerable and even help in narrowing existing gender gaps," says Veronica Fernandez Mendez, Head of UNI Equal Opportunities.
In a survey carried out by UNI Equal Opportunities, women representatives from UNI affiliates have highlighted a series of measures that could be taken in order to help to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Source: UNI Global Union--UNI represents more than 20 million workers from over 150 countries
Education unions in Nordic countries join forces with public authorities to fight COVID-19 pandemic
27.03.2020: Educators in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden are using well-developed social dialogue channels and information technology to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Denmark: Online assistance for union members
Finland: Dialogue about distance learning, day-care, and duties
In the meantime, most education is now being delivered via distance teaching/learning. Significantly, educators retain their salaries and rights when they transfer to distance-based teaching. Opetusalan Ammattijärjestä (OAJ) is fully supportive of the Government's decisions in this regard and, indeed, partook in discussions with the government in the run-up to the decision to close schools. Close dialogue with the government is ongoing, with two key issues to the forefront:
In addition, most of the OAJ's own staff are now working remotely.
Norway: Cooperation and communication
Unions and their members believe in the need to stand together, build trust and show social responsibility. Communication is also vital and the unions are cooperating with the education ministry and employers to provide professional advice to educators. Students and teachers also all have access to whatever equipment they require and are using educational and school-based platforms.
Sweden: Mix of open schools and distance learning
Education International's affiliates - Lärarförbundet, Lärarnas Riksförbund and the Swedish Association for University Teachers and Researchers - also provide up-to-date information on developments with links to the website of the education directorate (Skolverket).
PSI raises alarm with WHO on urgent need of PPE
Mar 26, 2020: The world is applauding the commitment and courage of health workers during the Covid-19 pandemic and the public's expressions of solidarity are uplifting. But it's not enough. PSI has called on the WHO to ensure they have personal protective equipment (PPE) to guard against transmission of the virus.
In a letter to Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli calls on him to address the severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff who are spending long hours in direct contact with infected patients. Coupled with the shortage of ventilators, and medical supplies - including disinfectants - this issue presents major obstacles to the urgent response to the virus.
"We do not want health workers to become dead heroes. And we need as many health workers as possible to be alive and healthy to keep up the good work they are doing."
Pavanelli continued: "We have been in daily touch with members of our affiliates across the world, united in commitment and taking action in their different ways at this grim historic moment. This has included our organising a series of webinars during which members on the front line in countries most hit, such as Italy, South Korea and Japan, have shared their experiences".
"They repeatedly identified the severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff who are spending long hours in direct contact with infected patients, and the shortage of ventilators and medical supplies -including disinfectants -as major obstacles to the response. This crucial problem is also being stressed by health workers in other countries as they prepare to combat transmission of COVID-19 infection."
"Extraordinary measures are urgent to avoid an even bigger tragedy. I thus would urge you to call on WHO Member States to, without delay, take all possible initiatives (requisition, contingency alert or conversion of production) to order factories in their countries to expand local manufacture of PPE and medical supplies."
"Spain has taken the bold step of requisitioning private hospitals across the country. Italy and France have ordered private hospitals to accept and treat COVID 19 patients. This is a step we strongly believe countries across the world should take. Governments must put the people's health first without any equivocation. And that is why PSI is calling for 'Public Health, Once and for All'. The arrowhead of this stand presently, is a "Safe Workers Save Lives" campaign."
"We do realise that at this juncture all hands must be on desk to defeat the pandemic. But as you have rightly pointed out, it is not enough to "throw money at an outbreak and when it's over we forget about it". If world leaders continue this way, we would be "dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic". And achieving universal health care might remain an aspiration that is never attained."
Thank you transport workers for keeping the world moving
23 Mar 2020: Dear friends, I am proud to be the general secretary of an organisation that represents transport workers at this time of need. The outbreak and spread of Covid-19 has once again served to highlight just how reliant humanity and global supply chains are on transport workers keeping the world moving.
Transport workers are often the unseen heroes, who are not always recognised for the sacrifices they make. But this crisis has shown the incredible contribution our members are making in the fight against Covid-19 around the world. Transport workers are the lifeblood of a global economy linking supply chains and keeping the world moving, and vital to successfully responding to the challenge of Covid-19.
We must also recognise the risk that transport workers face on the frontlines. For many of our members the public need is often put before their own personal safety and, at times, their families. Without this dedication, we would see workers, including doctors and nurses, struggling to get to work, supply chains failing, and passengers stranded across the globe.
Yet, when I talk to a flight attendant, a bus driver or a docker, I find it incredible humbling that the last thing that ever gets mentioned is themselves and their needs. Their focus is on getting the job done and ensuring that all our lives can continue in the best way possible. For many families and communities, I know that there is genuine concern for their loved ones working in the transport sector. This is only natural, especially as government's around the world have ordered lockdowns and advised people to remain in doors.
But I want to reassure you that the ITF and its affiliates are committed to ensure that we do everything possible to protect our workers, their families, and shine a light on the contribution so many transport workers are making. It shouldn't matter whether you are a seafarer or aviation worker, bus driver or tourism worker, your right to return home safely has to be the priority. This is an incredibly important issue as our members try to keep the global economy moving.
I remind every member of our community to stop and think about how the food in grocery stores and the medicine in pharmacies got there. Think about the other transport workers who now need your support given the uncertain future they face given the huge challenges that the tourism and aviation sectors face in the near future. Consider the thousands of jobs and communities that rely of these vitally important sectors.
I hope that you come to the same conclusions as I do. The world's transport workers deserve the same commitment and support as everyone of us who are reliant on them to get us through this pandemic. It's time for us to ask not what transport workers do for us, but what we can do for them.
In unity and solidarity, Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary
COVID-19 - an existential crisis for the garment industry
23 March, 2020: As retailers close shops around the world, garment factories are shutting down at an alarming rate with devastating impacts for garment workers.
IndustriALL has written to all its affiliates that organise garment workers, asking for information on the numbers of factories that are being closed down, the number of workers affected, and any measures being taken by governments and employers to mitigate the impacts.
The picture that is emerging is devastating. Social distancing measures taken in countries currently most affected by COVID-19 are driving wholesale closure of thousands of garment factories with millions of workers being laid off without a social safety net. As the virus spreads within the garment-producing countries themselves, more factories will be forced to close, putting potentially millions more workers out of work.
While garment retailers are shutting up shop in affected countries, garment workers are expected to pay the price for the clothes they have already made. Not only are major brands and retailers cancelling future orders, they are refusing to take responsibility for garments that have already been produced, using emergency provisions in contracts to stop shipments and avoid paying for the goods they ordered. This leaves factories holding the goods, unable to sell them to the customer that ordered them, and in many cases unable to pay the wages of the workers who made them.
Measures announced by companies to protect the wages of retail and other direct workers are to be welcomed, but the security and wellbeing of the workers in their supply chains, who have made the products on which their business is built, must not be ignored.
There are three critical stages for which interventions are needed, and many countries have already reached stages 1 and 2:
Once the crisis has passed and global brands and retailers are able to start trading again, how many factories will still be in business and have a workforce ready to restart production?
Unless measures are taken now to protect factories and workers to enable them to survive the crisis, the short-term decisions being taken by brands and retailers to renege on existing contracts will end up destroying the very businesses they are seeking to protect. Brands, employers and governments must come together urgently with trade unions to find ways to support garment workers during this unprecedented period to ensure the future viability of the industry once the crisis has passed.
COVID-19: UNI Commerce unions stand up for workers in time of crisis
20 March 2020: UNI Commerce affiliates are engaged in an unprecedented effort to protect their members during the coronavirus global health crisis, showing unions are more important than ever to guarantee workers' protection and health.
"We are talking to our affiliates every day and we are bowled over by the number of initiatives commerce unions around the world are putting in place to help their members," said Mathias Bolton, Head of UNI Commerce. "We are collecting all the good practices and sharing them so we can help and learn from each other." In Italy and Spain, two of the first countries to impose a total lockdown, unions sprung into action to help workers who continue to serve in the face of COVID-19, as well as other commerce workers who have been sent home.
Italian affiliates, FILCAMS, FISASCAT and UILTUCS, together with the employer association, Federdistribuzione, united to demand health authorities provide the necessary protective equipment for workers. They have also been successful in persuading the government to ensure financial support for workers whose contracts have been suspended, and achieved a reduction in shop opening hours to alleviate pressure on supermarket workers. Spanish unions, CCOO and UGT, sent common demands to the government and all commerce companies, calling for the urgent implementation of critical safety measures.
UNI Commerce has identified a number of common demands across countries and regions to protect workers in supermarkets and grocery stores.
Firstly, unions are asking all workers to be equipped with the necessary protective equipment, such as face masks and protective gloves, and that customers observe a safe distance with cashiers and pay without using cash.
Secondly, many unions have called on customers to show respect for workers and refrain from panic buying.
Thirdly, unions are demanding workers are entitled to paid sick leave and not forced to work if they believe they are at risk of being infected or belong in a vulnerable category.
The call for respect and acknowledgment for the outstanding work of supermarket employees has come loud and clear from unions, including SDA in Australia: "We understand that many people in our community are worried at present, but we also need to remember that the workers you see at the supermarket and other places are in the same boat as you. We're all in this together."
Just this week, the UK government passed new legislation following union demands to protect supermarket workers: "We understand this is a stressful time and remind customers that shopworkers deserve respect and that no level of abuse is ever acceptable. It should never be a part of the job," said British union USDAW. UNI affiliates ver.di in Germany, Mandate in Ireland, and UFCW in the USA are also calling for workers be protected from a possible infection by ensuring the highest safety standards.
While food stores are experiencing a peak in sales, the fast-fashion industry is going through an extraordinary time with sales dropping drastically since the beginning of the crisis. As more countries go into lockdown, shops not selling food or providing essential services, are being forced to close and workers told to stay home.
This week, governments in Italy and Spain issued an emergency decree ensuring all workers, regardless of the years of service, will be entitled to extraordinary unemployment benefit through special funds. These funds will also be used to help companies in need. Elsewhere, in Austria, Belgium, France and Peru, unions have been successful in lobbying the government to secure workers' salaries during shop closures. However, there is concern over guaranteeing workers' income in the long-term and a question over whether companies would be ready to make up the difference between unemployment benefit workers' full salaries.
"We face an extremely uncertain future and the economic crisis that will follow, even after the spread of the virus will be contained, will put many jobs at risk," said Mathias Bolton. "We call on all global retailers to enter into dialogue with unions and to safeguard their workers in every country they operate. As workers put themselves on the frontlines, companies need to act now and step up to their social responsibilities."
Spain nationalises all private hospitals, UK rents hospital beds
MAR 17, 2020: Spain's decision is a step in the right direction, and confirms that universal healthcare can be achieved only within a public health system; meanwhile in the UK, private hospital beds will be rented by the British government for £300 a day.
The Spanish Ministry of Health has announced that the government is putting all private hospitals in the country under state control indefinitely, to combat the spread of COVID-19 infections. On 16 March, there were 9,191 confirmed cases in the country with 309 deaths linked to the outbreak. This makes Spain, which declared a COVID-19 state of emergency on 14 March, the third most affected country outside China. The government's decision is a step in the right direction, and confirms that universal healthcare can be achieved only within a public health system.
Crisis situations help reveal deeper realities to societies. Universal public healthcare is essential not only to curb outbreaks, but also to ensure crisis preparedness and full realisation of the right to health. This pandemic must serve as a wake-up call to Spain and governments all over the world on the crucial need to roll back a decades-long history of privatisation and commodification of health.
The Spanish healthcare system has witnessed several waves of privatisation since the mid-1980s. A series of laws and policies promoting PPPs and "new public management" of the public health system were introduced in the 1990s. This was part of the global neoliberal attacks through which the profit interests of business were lauded over the human interests of people.
In the aftermath of the 2007-2009 global recession and EU fiscal crisis, the commercialisation and marketisation of health across Europe, and particularly in Spain and other countries most affected by the fiscal crisis, took a turn for the worse. Governments became determined to slash budgets at any cost. Public healthcare has been most hard hit by the consequential austerity measures. Thousands of jobs were lost and public healthcare workers' salaries frozen, while private healthcare delivery was promoted.
The Spanish government attempted to push through the largest phase of healthcare privatisation in the country's history despite widespread opposition, including strikes and protest marches by healthcare workers and communities, seven years ago. But the people prevailed with unwavering political and legal action, forcing the government to stop further privatisation in the health and social care sector. Requisition of the private health sector at this grim hour validates the argument of health workers in Spain and PSI for universal public health care.
Beds for profit in the UK
Many of the beds were "lying empty waiting for the wealthy to fall ill, while people are left in dying in hospitals for the want of a bed". The government's response has been to rent these beds at the cost of £2.4m per day (that's £300 per bed per day)! This is taxpayers' money that should be used for fighting the outbreak. The British government and governments all over the world should draw a lesson from Spain's decision to nationalise private hospitals, and the demonstrated failure of neoliberal policies in healthcare and generally.
Workers and the people will demand similar actions which put people before profit to effectively stop the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak in its tracks. Our health is not for sale.
Flag states must protect seafarers and passenger's health during coronavirus crisis
17 Mar 2020: The impact of rapid and worldwide spread of Covid-19 throughout the maritime industry, in particular the cruise ship industry, has made global headlines since the outbreak of the global pandemic.
The Diamond Princess was quarantined at the Port of Yokohama in Japan in February, dominating international coverage. Last week the Grand Princess was generating headlines after it was refused permission to dock in California amid speculation that some passengers and crew had tested positive for Covid-19.
This week the coronavirus stricken Braemar made global news after being turned away from several Caribbean ports and spent days searching for somewhere to dock until Cuba agreed to allow the offloading of passengers and crew. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines confirmed that the Braemar is achored approximately five miles off the coast of Havana, awaiting a charter flight from the UK where they will offload the British guests and crew only - no other nationalities. The rest of the passengers and crew are reportedly still in limbo.
Now the Guardian are reporting that more than 100 Australian doctors and medical professionals are stuck on cruise ship off Chile aboard the Roald Amundsen after Chile banned cruise ship from docking in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dave Heindel, chair of the ITF seafarers' section today called attention to the failure of flag states to protect seafarers' and passenger's health during this humanitarian crisis. "Attention needs to be called on the failure of the governments of Bermuda and the Bahamas in the cases of the Grand Princess and the Braemar for not accepting their responsibility to remedy the problem for its sovereign vessels," said Heindel. "In each of these cases, the US, and following a diplomatic scramble, the Cuban government, have been working directly with the cruise liners to address the situation. But there has been little or no mention of the responsibility and duty of care of flag state governments to assist seafarers employed on these vessels," Heindel added.
Under international law, the onus for the health and safety of the crew and passengers, and for the wider public that could be impacted, is on the flag state governments. Flag states should ensure that companies whose vessels fly their flag abide by national and international legislations since flag states have sovereignty over their vessels.
"Flag states have sovereignty over their vessels, but for the coronavirus-affected cruise ships responsibility has fallen on the port states, national governments of the passengers and crew or even a third country. For instance, the Braemar was refused to dock in its own territory, with the vessel sent Cuba after the government authorised the offloading or passengers and crew," said Heindel. "This is simply insane and unsustainable. If the world continues to accept the Flag of Convenience system in its current form, it should be pointed out for its failures. The world should be concerned about the lack of policies and inability of flag states to react and enact measures in line with their responsibility to protect workers and tackle the transmission of the Covid-19 virus," he said.
The ITF, and our maritime affiliates representing seafarers and dockers around the world, urged flag states to take responsibility and account for the health and wellbeing of all workers and passengers onboard their vessels, especially the seafarers that live and work onboard for many months at a time.
"Protecting the health of transport workers is our first priority. The ITF will continue to advocate for the health and safety of crews on ships, port workers, along with passengers, and that they are protected from any potential risks of COVID-19 as well as ensuring that flags states are adhering to their duty of care to their health and safety," said Heindel.
COVID-19: Urgent economic stimulus and workplace measures required
The International Trade Union Confederation and its Global Unions partners have today called for urgent action by governments and employers on the COVID-19 Crisis, with a statement adopted at the Council of Global Unions (CGU) meeting today in London.
12-03-2020: ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: "Governments must act to put in place urgent economic stimulus plans and workplace measures to protect the health and the income of workers and their families and stabilise the real economy."
The huge strains on health systems caused by COVID-19 are provoking massive public health challenges. Health workers are on the front line of the economic, social and health impacts of the crisis, and while workers in every sector are exposed to risk, we recognise the courage of health and care workers bearing the immediate brunt of mitigation and treatment.
Urgent economic stimulus packages must include the following: paid sick leave; maintenance of income to cover the cost of housing, electricity, food and other essential items; and extension of social protection for all workers regardless of their employment status. This is the only way to sustain jobs and the economy, protect wages, the welfare of workers, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The lessons of the 2008/9 crisis must dictate that the income support that working families need and businesses benefit from is the target, and not a bailout of banks and financial institutions. Governments will need to cooperate and engage with multilateral institutions and monitor the devastation for countries less able to respond - as well as ensure vital aid necessary to guarantee the capacity to deal with the threats posed by COVID-19.
Steven Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and Chair of the CGU, said: "We acknowledge that this pandemic is a difficult environment to do business in, but employers must act decisively and responsibly to provide protections for workers throughout their supply chains. This must start with their duty of care to protect workers from transmission of COVID-19 and extend to protecting the wages of all employees regardless of their employment status, guaranteeing sick leave and flexible working conditions during the crisis. We call on employers to prioritise the rights and welfare of workers as we collectively respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19."
Fresenius Healthcare Workers Unionize in Colombia
11 March 2020: Employees of the Clínica Prado in Medellín joined Sintrasass on Tuesday in what many consider a historic breakthrough in a country where union campaigns are often met with resistance from employers. Sintrasass already represents workers at Clínica Las Vegas and Clínica Medellín The three clinics are all part of German multinational Fresenius.
"We made the decision to join Sintrasass because of the poor working conditions we have been suffering from for years. Low wages, harassment at work and fair pay for overtime and night-time are just one example of these problems," said one of the union members.
For months, workers have been informing their colleagues of the need to create a union to improve working conditions by sharing leaflets and initiating contacts in the workplace but workers report that the company's management has been holding anti-union meetings to try to stop the effort.
"This new union is proof that workers in Colombia and throughout the Americas are demanding the right to have a voice at work and will not stop until they get a decent job. It is time for Fresenius to act responsibly and accept this decision without putting pressure on the workers," said Alke Boessiger, Deputy General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
Bangladesh: Perfetti van Melle workers fighting for their rights keep up the protests
11.03.20: Workers at the Perfetti van Melle (PvM) factory in Gazipur are keeping up their fight for collective bargaining rights with continuous daily protests at the factory. More than a year after their union was legally certified, local management of the Netherlands-based maker of Mentos and Chupa Chups insists on unilaterally setting basic terms and conditions like wages and leave.
PvM factory workers in Gazipur struggled to overcome massive management resistance when they formed their union, eventually receiving legal collective bargaining status from the government in early 2019. Their bargaining demands included negotiations for a collective agreement setting basic terms and conditions of employment, permanent status for the many outsourced contract workers and an end to child labour in the factory. In response, thugs organized by Rahat Corporation, the contractor supplying the contract workers, including the children, launched an organized attack on union members at work. PvM management stood by as over 20 goons entered the factory, beat and intimidated union members with bats and wooden sticks. Negotiations for a collective agreement have not advanced due to management's ongoing violation of the union's collective bargaining rights.
As of August 2019, 25 children were working at the factory. When the IUF exposed this exploitation, the children disappeared. Some have been located working in nearby factories; PvM refuses to discuss appropriate measures to remedy the harm inflicted on them.
The PVM Union and the IUF are committed to ensuring that the Gazipur workers' rights are fully respected. PvM must take responsibility for the ongoing human rights violations at the factory and respect the union's collective bargaining rights. The company claims that "Ever since 1958, Chupa Chups has brought happiness to children of all ages." Agreed action is needed to remedy the harm caused to the child workers.
Breakthrough for aviation workers in India
09 Mar 2020: The Aviation Industry Employees Guild (AIEG), a union for all aviation workers in India, has started welcoming outsourced ground staff as members, after years of hard work.
Around 400 ground-handling workers attended a 'mega workers meeting' at Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport, Mumbai, to mark the new branch in AIEG for workers from Air India Air Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) - a ground-handling subsidiary of Air India working at 74 Airports in India. Over 800 workers have already joined the new ground-handling section of the union. However, the AIEG plans for all 14,000 AIATSL employees to join the union within one year.
AIEG general secretary, George Abraham, said: "Despite resolving many issues for ground staff over the years, they've been unwilling to join the union because of fear of victimisation and apathy. It's notoriously hard to organise workers who are not on permanent contracts, but we didn't give up. However, we signed a good collective bargaining agreement for ground staff last year and that made many more receptive to joining the AIEG.
"We hope that we can reach our target of 100 percent membership of AIATSL so that we can face the threat of privatisation of Air India with greater numbers and greater strength."
UK: Coffee giant JDE threatens entire workforce with dismissal to ram through attack on conditions
09.03.20: With support from the IUF, Unite the Union, with 300 members at the Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee plant in Banbury, Oxfordshire, is campaigning to challenge the company's plan to unilaterally dismiss the entire workforce and reemploy workers who submit to inferior pay and conditions.
At the end of February, management issued an ultimatum to all workers: employment contracts would be terminated and those unwilling to accept undefined new terms and conditions would be considered to have resigned: take it or leave it.
Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: "In nearly 30 years of union work I have never encountered such a negative approach from an employer to ignore the established consultation and negotiating procedures." IUF General Secretary Sue Longley has written JDE CEO Casey Keller to demand that management withdraw the letters threatening dismissal and reemployment and enter into good faith negotiations with Unite. The IUF is organizing global support for Unite at Banbury.
JDE, the world's second-largest coffee roaster, was formed in 2015 by merging DE Master Blenders and the Mondelez coffee brands. Its brand portfolio includes Jacobs, Tassimo, Moccona, Senseo, L'OR, Douwe Egberts, Kenco, Pilão and Gevalia. JDE is in the process of combining with US-based Peet's Coffee; a planned public listing for JDE Peet's would make it the world's largest publicly listed coffee company. The Banbury plant produces Kenco, Tassimo and Millicano.
Parent company JAB Holdings is a Luxembourg-registered private equity fund. Its aggressive approach to union rights and collective bargaining have previously brought it into conflict with IUF affiliates in Germany and Italy.
U.S. Bank Workers Win Historic Union
3 March 2020: For the first time in decades, bank workers in the United States have formed a union. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced yesterday that a majority of employees at Beneficial State Bank in California successfully won union rights.
"After nearly two decades at big banks, I was proud to join Beneficial State Bank because of its commitment to invest in its communities," said Desiree Jackson, an Assistant Vice President in Oakland, California and member of the Committee for Better Banks. "With this historic move to form a union, we're seeing that commitment to community in action -- and I'm proud to be a part of it. All workers should have a voice on the job to advocate for themselves, their colleagues, and their customers. It's the right, and fair thing to do."
One hundred thirteen Beneficial State Bank employees will join the Communications Workers of America, a coalition member in the Committee for Better Banks - gaining them a voice on the job and crucial tools to speak out for better working conditions, higher wages, and protection from retaliation.
Employees across the U.S. banking industry, from bank tellers to call centre workers, have joined the Committee for Better Banks to demand better labor standards and consumer protections to avoid the disastrous 2008 financial crisis and the 2016 fraudulent accounts scandal at Wells Fargo, which Wells Fargo employees in the Committee exposed.
IndustriALL urges Madagascar to ratify C176
24 March, 2020: IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates in Madagascar are intensifying demands for the ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 176 on safety and health in mines.
Last year, the affiliates wrote to the Minister of Labour, Employment, Public Services, and Social Legislation urging the government to ratify C176. None of the ILO conventions signed by Madagascar protects mine workers safety and health. The concerns regarding the regulation of the state of health and safety in the mining industry came under the spotlight at a well-attended panel discussion organized by IndustriALL in Antananarivo on 11 March.
Mining in Madagascar, which has vast deposits of ilmenite, graphite, limestone, gypsum, dolomite, silica, mica, titanium, quartz, gold, platinum group, silver, iron, copper, zinc, nickel, cobalt, chromite, is a huge source of foreign direct investment. Considering the magnitude of the mining sector, mining's contribution to the country's GDP and the growth of the extractives relative to the primary, secondary or tertiary sector, Madagascar is potentially a resource-rich country.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director of mining, diamonds, gems, ornaments and jewellery production, said: "Occupational health and health and safety in mining in Madagascar is hopelessly unregulated which is inconsistent with mining's role in the economy."
Brian Kohler, IndustriALL director of health, safety and sustainability concurred: "Convention 176 provides the necessary basis for a sustainable mining industry that ensures that its workers return to their workplaces safe and healthy."
The panel discussion event, moderated by Hanta Andrianasy from Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Madagascar, followed a two-day training workshop on 9-10 March for IndustriALL affiliates. Kohler ran the training workshop.
The panellists included the IndustriALL directors and representatives from the two major global multinational mining companies, Rio Tinto's QMM ilmenite mine and Sheritt International's Ambatovy Sherritt Madagascar. Government of Madagascar representatives from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Public Service and Social Legislation, director-general, Jerson Razafimanantsoa and Yvan Rakotomalala, the director of health and social action also presented.
The panellists were unanimous on the importance of ratification to ensure the safety and protection of mineworkers. Razafimanantsoa made a positive contribution to the panel discussions, committing the government of Madagascar to eventual ratification of C176. The ratification due process will include a gap analysis of the legislative occupational health and safety regime and will involve all tripartite stakeholders.
Mexico must ratify ILO C176
18 February, 2020: On 19 February 2006, 65 workers died following a methane gas explosion at the Grupo Mexico mine in Pasta de Conchos, Mexico. Only two bodies were recovered before the company sealed the mine. As the 14th anniversary of the mining tragedy approaches, IndustriALL is calling on the Mexican government to ratify ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines.
At the time of the tragedy, the leader of Los Mineros, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, accused Grupo Mexico of "industrial homicide". In response, the authorities unleashed a campaign of political persecution that forced Gómez into exile. In 2018, Gómez was elected to the Mexican Senate on the ticket of the Morena party led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and returned to Mexico where he is now President of the Senate Labour Commission.
Mexico is now working with international experts to attempt the recovery of the 63 workers whose bodies remain in the mine. Grupo Mexico continues to control its Mexican workforce through company-imposed protection unions; it also faces a four-month strike by unions at its US subsidiary Asarco in response to the company's unfair labour practices. In November 2018, the Mexican Senate approved a point of agreement presented by Senator Gómez requesting the Executive to submit ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines for ratification, but this has yet to be acted on.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches says: "IndustriALL and its predecessing organizations have supported Los Mineros' fight for the families' right to rescue the bodies of the 65 mineworkers that were killed in Pasta de Conchos. Although we recognize that the Mexican government has made important progress on workers' rights, many challenges still remain. This is the case for the mining industry, dominated by corporations like Grupo Mexico with a long history of violating workers' rights, including the right to secure and safe workplaces at its operations around the world.
"IndustriALL is calling on Mexico's government to ratify ILO Convention 176 as soon as possible in order to guarantee occupational safety and health in the mining industry."
Uruguay becomes first country to ratify ILO Convention 190
16 January, 2020: Uruguay is the first country in the world to ratify the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Convention 190, which recognizes that violence and harassment in the world of work can constitute a human rights violation.
The new Convention and Recommendation were adopted at the International Labour Conference in June, 2019. The Convention recognizes that violence and harassment are a threat to equal opportunities and are unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.
The government of Uruguay submitted the ratification bill to Parliament in September 2019, and the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the bill on 17 December 2019, making Uruguay the first ILO Member State to ratify C190.
"As it has now ratified the ILO Convention, Uruguay will have to adopt an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to preventing and eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work. This will apply to both the private and public sectors, to the formal and informal economy, and in both urban or rural areas," said an official statement released by the Office of the President of Uruguay. The statement also said that legislation will require employers to take appropriate steps to prevent violence and harassment in the world of work.
The ratification process was facilitated by the fact that Uruguay already has laws in place to address some of the issues covered by C190, such as legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace and concerning student-teacher relationships, as well as on gender-based violence against women.
In November last year, IndustriALL Global Union launched a campaign to encourage affiliates to work together to ensure the ratification of the Convention and incorporation into domestic law. Through the gender office of Uruguay's central union PIT-CNT, IndustriALL's affiliates in Uruguay were actively involved in the tripartite talks on the ratification process.
Gender office representative and UNTMRA member Fernanda Ceballos says on the recent ratification: "We promoted the ratification of C190 in Uruguay from the gender equality and diversity office of PIT-CNT. We have worked on the issue of sexual harassment and zero tolerance of violence in the workplace for a long time, and we are very aware of the issue of raising awareness with the different unions through workshops on gender violence.
"In turn, we work on gender clauses, in conjunction with companies and the labour ministry. Once C190 was ratified, we held assemblies with UNTMRA to inform people of its scope. Many workers affiliated with UNTMRA have faced of sexual harassment at work, so we believe that ratification is very important to fight for a world of violence-free work."
IndustriALL's regional secretary, Marino Vani, says: "Convention 190 is an important tool for fighting discrimination and inequality in the workforce. We congratulate our affiliates in Uruguay for their tireless efforts to tackle gender-based violence, and the government for ratifying the new convention, which will help to create a world of work that is free of violence and harassment."
190 reasons and more for ratifying ILO C190
25 November 2019: Today we commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The strongest message and best possible way of celebrating this International Day would be the announcement by several governments of the ratification of ILO Convention C190 on Violence and Harassment.
This new international instrument - Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 - on violence and harassment in the world of work was adopted at the Centenary International Labour Conference in June 2019.
Much progress has been made but we still have a long way to go. It is exactly two decades since the United Nations officially designated 25th November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in memory of the three Mirabal sisters, assassinated in 1960 in the Dominican Republic. Public Services International (PSI) celebrates the adoption of Convention 190 as a major milestone and strongly urges all ILO Member States to ratify and implement it.
Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary: "Violence and harassment is not part of life, it is not something you have to go through because you are a woman. The campaign for C190 was initiated by women trade unionists many years ago, fighting for the elimination of gender-based violence at work. It gathered momentum and obtained global consensus culminating with adoption of a new international instrument for everyone, dealing with violence and harassment in the world of work. This goes to show that the struggle for women's rights can advance the rights for all".
Call for ratification of ILO C87 in Malaysia
16 September 2019: Together with other unions in the country, IndustriALL's affiliates in Malaysia are calling on the government to immediately ratify ILO convention 87 on freedom of association and the right to organize.
Unions are saying that since the new government has taken steps to reform the Trade Union Act (1959) and the Industrial Relations Act (1967) by removing restrictive provisions that violate the principle of freedom of association, there are no obstacles for the government to ratify the convention, as domestic laws will soon be in compliance with the convention.
"The Malaysian union movement has been been urging the government to ratify the convention, and past leaderships of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) have tirelessly campaigned for its ratification. Saying that unions don't support the ratification is wrong and the call for a ten-year moratorium doesn't make sense," said Gopal Kishnam, general secretary of IndustriALL affiliate National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industry Workers (NUTEAIW) and Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC) co-chairperson at a press conference during an LLRC Symposium on Freedom of Association on 8 September. Around 100 national union leaders and worker organization representatives attended the meeting.
"There is a misunderstanding that C87 promotes multiplicity of trade unions in workplaces and would add to disunity among Malaysian workers, but in fact the convention is instrumental in protecting workers' right to organize without interference from governments and employers. Effective and democratic unions will definitely have the unanimous support of workers," added Gopal.
"We believe that with the implementation of C87, Malaysian workers will prefer to join industrial union rather than enterprise union, as industry-wide bargaining has greater leverage safeguarding workers' interest and general well-being."
The LLRC was established in the wake of the first regime change at federal level in Malaysia in 2018, and is a coalition of 58 trade unions and NGOs and formerly known as the decent work working group. The coalition organizes consultation meetings with union leaders on reforming the Employment Act, Trade Union Act and Industrial Relations Act.
Trade Unions in South Korea for Ratification of ILO Core Conventions
15 April 2019 Today the Korean Construction Workers' Union (KCWU) affiliated to the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) held a rally demanding the government guarantee construction workers basic labor rights in front of Namdaemun on April 13th. Then they marched to join more than 20,000 at the main rally organized by its national center, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). The key demands of the main rally included ratify ILO core conventions including conventions 87 and 98; amend Article 2 of the Labour Union Act; and guarantee specially-employed workers such as self-employed, contractor, and "misclassified" workers basic labor rights."
In addressing the protesters, KCTU Chairman Kim Myeong Hwan stated, "President Moon Jae-in promised to guarantee specially-employed workers basic labor rights even before he took office, but he has failed to do so after three years from in office and now he is attempting to eliminate the right to association for specially employed workers. We call on President to keep his promise to workers in South Korea."
Lee Young Cheol, Chair of the Specially Employed Workers' Association and the Vice President of the KCWU added, "We must not forget the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the rights of workers for the past two decades. We will continue to fight and mobilize until the ILO General Assembly in June to ratify the ILO core conventions and revise the labor union law. The specially employed workers, will take the lead in this important struggle."
Following the rally, participants marched to the Presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
The BWI along with UNI and ITF sent letters to the South Korean government this week calling for the immediate ratification of the ILO core conventions to ensure basic labor rights.
In the letter, BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson urged President Moon Jae In to live up to his campaign promises to South Korean workers. He stated, "This is the 100th anniversary of the ILO. It would be only fitting that South Korea shows its commitment to abide by international standards by ratifying the core ILO conventions."
PSI supports KCTU's general strike for ratification of ILO Core Conventions without regression
05 March 2019: Social dialogue towards ratification of ILO Core Conventions 87 (freedom of association) and 98 (collective bargaining) in the Republic of Korea appears to be moving in the direction of actually weakening fundamental labour rights.
Public Services International (PSI) expresses its support for the KCTU General Strike and concern that social dialogue towards ratification of ILO Core Conventions 87 (freedom of association) and 98 (collective bargaining) in the Republic of Korea appears to be moving in the direction of actually weakening fundamental labour rights.
Discussions on ratification of ILO conventions and revision of labour law are currently taking place in the Committee on Improvement of Labour Relations Law and Practice of the Economic, a subcommittee of the Social and Labour Council (ESLC), a social dialogue body established by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The committee is scheduled to issue recommendations on labour law revision on March 7.
Public interest members of the committee have already issued recommendations on labour law revision, which fall well below international standards by failing to guarantee trade union rights for self-employed workers, maintaining restrictions on freedom of association and political activities for government employees and teachers, and calling for new concrete limitations on the participation of dismissed and unemployed workers and officers of unions formed above the company level. Legislation based on these recommendations, but that is even more restrictive, has already been proposed in the National Assembly.
Further, PSI has learned that employers' representatives involved in the ESLC process have called for further revisions of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act (TULRAA), which put even greater restrictions on trade union rights, particularly the right to strike, while granting employers new powers, such as to make claims of 'unfair labour practices' against unions. The Moon Jae-in government has indicated willingness to accept many of these demands, claiming this is necessary to win support for ratification of ILO conventions.
PSI is particularly concerned that throughout committee discussions, guarantees for self-employed and precarious workers are being side-lined. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has, on several occasions, recommended that the South Korean government take the necessary steps to protect the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining for these workers. The European Commission, which is currently engaged in formal consultation over the Korean government's failure to live up to obligations under the EU-ROK FTA, has also raised the issue of the exclusion of self-employed, unemployed and dismissed workers from the right to freedom of association as an essential issue the South Korean government must address.
The question of a system of minimum services in line with ILO standards has been left out of the discussion. As it now stands, the broad and vague definition of 'public interest businesses' in South Korean labour law means that many public institutions and other sectors not considered 'essential services in the strict sense of the term' have set excessively high levels of minimum services to be maintained during strikes and that employers may freely use replacement workers to break strikes.
The ILO has also recommended on several occasions that restrictions on the right to strike in workplaces that are not 'essential services in the strict sense of the term', such as railway, airlines and energy companies be keep to a minimum and that unions be granted the right to participate on equal footing with employers in deciding these minimum levels.
PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli has expressed her concern over these developments, stating: "Since 1996 when South Korea joined the OECD, the government has made repeated promises to the international community to ratify ILO Core Conventions and improve the legal framework on trade union rights. PSI welcomed President's Moon promise to live up to these commitments when he first took office, but has been disappointed by what has followed since. The current discussions that tie regressive revision of the labour law to ratification of ILO conventions and ignore past ILO recommendations are unacceptable. Dialogue concerning ratification of ILO conventions should take place following a strict commitment to the principle of non-regression in existing laws and with a view towards actually improving the rights of workers in South Korea."
International Labour Organisation - 50 for Freedom
Malta has become the 30th country worldwide to ratify the ILO Protocol on Forced labour, thereby committing to take effective measures to prevent all forms of forced labour, including trafficking in persons, protect victims and ensure their access to justice and compensation.
The Government of Malta has ratified the legally-binding treaty that requires countries to take new measures to tackle forced labour and modern slavery with a keen focus on protection, prevention and compensation.
"As the International Labour Organisation (ILO) celebrates its Centenary, we are faced with the realisation that the work and values that the organisation stands for remain relevant and applicable more so in today's world", Ambassador Olaph Terribile, Permanent Representative of Malta to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva said. "Malta shall continue to seek and promote the enhancement of labour conditions both at a national level as well as within the appropriate multilateral platforms, confident in the belief that decent work is undeniably linked to sustainability and prosperity", he added.
The Government of Malta has taken significant measures to develop the legal and institutional framework for combatting trafficking in persons, including by criminalizing all forms of trafficking as well as forced labour, with penalties of four to 12 years imprisonment. Malta has also strengthened its efforts towards the protection of victims of trafficking in persons by enacting the "Victims of Crime Act" in April 2015, which includes provisions regarding access to assistance services and compensation. Moreover, the Anti-Human Trafficking Monitoring Committee was set up in 2011 for drawing up and monitoring the implementation of anti-trafficking policies. A National Referral Mechanism has also been active in Malta since 2013 and is mainly involved in the identification of victims or potential victims of trafficking.
The ILO Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryder, welcomed the step: "With the ratification of the Protocol, Malta once again confirms its commitment to promoting and implementing fundamental rights and principles at work".
This ratification supports the effective promotion of the ILO's Decent Work Agenda and achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Target 8.7 to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour, and represents a significant contribution to mark ILO's centenary. The ILO estimates that about 24.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour, with 16 million people exploited in the private sector in activities such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million in forced labour imposed by state authorities. The ILO also estimates that this exploitation generates some US$150 billion a year in illicit profits.
In November 2017, during the Global Conference on child labour and forced labour in Argentina, the European Union pledged to "promote actively swift ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol among EU members". Malta is the 14th EU member state to ratify the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour.