2020 was the year when a pandemic stopped the world; however, we have seen some of the greatest acts of worker solidarity ever.
As we look forward to 2021, we know we will need even greater acts of global solidarity to restart economies – with rights and protections for all workers.
The full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic crisis it has unleashed, are yet to be felt. Millions more people will become unemployed, and inequality within and between countries will deepen to previously unseen levels unless governments continue to intervene in a co-ordinated way.
Rapid testing could help stop the yo-yo between lockdowns and partial reopening. Read the ITUC briefing here to find out why governments need to invest in rapid antigen testing along with masks, social distancing and sick pay for everyone who tests positive, as well as social protection and job and business support measures.
We have been continuing to plan for how the world should deal with this situation. At the General Council meeting, 24-25 November, we adopted an ambitious, directed programme for the coming year. You can find here our Frontline Campaigns and Four Pillars for Action. This will form the framework for realising an urgently needed New Social Contract with reconstruction and resilience based on jobs – climate-friendly jobs, rights, just wages, universal social protection and inclusion. The work of the global trade union movement is vital to meeting these challenges.
This year, major global institutions have failed all working people in their response to the crisis. The G20 Leaders’ statement lacked the urgent, globally coordinated boost the world needs for jobs and social protection. Furthermore, the advice given by the leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) needs to include pressing for further action on debt relief and debt elimination while eliminating damaging economic and social conditionality. The World Bank has failed to take the action that the developing world desperately needs as the crisis hits working people there hardest. They must target the funding for sustainable jobs and social protection in partnership with multilateral development banks. And the World Bank, working with the ILO and the OECD group of nations, can build a global social protection fund.
The emergency response to Covid-19 is no longer adequate; it is time to build a plan for recovery and resilience that includes a global social protection fund as part of a new social contract with investment in care and climate-friendly jobs with Just Transition in all key sectors.
The collective failure to act and stall the climate emergency must also be exposed as we mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on 12 December. By now, 136 countries should have submitted their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – their commitment to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
However, many countries have failed to submit their NDCs. But we will not let them off the hook: we are monitoring their progress here and we will expose the governments who are failing to take even this simple step to tackle the climate emergency.
The results of climate change will not affect everyone equally, with poor people being hit hardest. We must stand against inequality in all its forms. This month, as we mark International Migrants Day on 18 December, please show your solidarity with people who have to move across the globe because of environmental, social or economic factors.
Finally, seasons greetings, and a happy new year to everyone. As many countries have national holidays over the next few weeks, I hope that you have a chance to rest and reflect and come back refreshed and ready for the challenges of 2021.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary