The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the weaknesses in the global economy that hurt working people the most.
Whether it is the 495 million jobs lost in the last six months, low wages, no social protection, precarious conditions, two billion people in informal work or dangers in the workplace – not enough people have decent work.
That’s what made this year’s World Day for Decent Work so important. It was an opportunity for people to demand of their governments a New Social Contract for recovery and resilience.
Now is the time to put in place the building blocks of a New Social Contract that ensures recovery from this crisis and resilience for the next one. We have inspiring examples of unions that, even during these hard economic times, have won big advances towards a New Social Contract.
We will be taking this call to the meetings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the G20 Finance Ministers, all of which will take place this month.
Covid-19 has forced these dominant financial institutions to stop burying their heads in the sand. We want decisive action to deal with this economic crisis, and we want further backing for debt relief and a global social protection fund to support the most vulnerable people. It must happen now because things are bad enough, and they are getting worse.
The ITUC has been monitoring the number of jobs cuts as they are announced, before they enter the official figures. Our job cuts tracker analyses news articles from 20 countries, all important economies across the world, and covers hundreds of millions of working people. The tracker looks for threatened and actual jobs cuts. We can clearly see that job losses are continuing and will accelerate if governments do not continue measures to protect incomes and jobs.
As jobs are being lost, the pandemic has also accelerated changes in the way people work. More than 59 countries have introduced telework as a measure to ensure social distancing. The ITUC’s new Legal Guide on Telework outlines nine principles for regulation and social dialogue about teleworking arrangements.
We must engage with the changes brought about by Covid-19. The shortened agenda for the virtual International Labour Organization (ILO) governing body meeting fails to meet the needs of working people. The exclusion from the agenda of occupational health and safety and of the demand that it be recognised as a fundamental right is a dereliction of duty by the ILO.
It is time to think big and change the rules. It is time to change the dominance of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the pre-eminent measure of economic success. Our new report, What Really Matters: Measuring Government Accountability and Moving Beyond GDP, is a call to action to all governments who claim to respect democracy to prove it by making it their number one priority. The report includes examples of how this is already happening: in Bhutan, Belgium, Australia and other countries.
We cannot take democracy for granted. It will be tested this month in high-profile general elections in the US and New Zealand. Make a pledge to do your bit to defend and reinforce democracy – because democracy relies on individuals standing up to be counted, and it is strengthened when we act together.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary