ILO conference adopts strong pandemic call to action

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) annual International Labour Conference (ILC) has concluded with the adoption of a strong and coherent response to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, which was adopted with the unanimous support of government, trade union and employer representatives fast-tracks implementation of the ILO Centenary Declaration.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “This plan puts the new social contract in action with the foundations, for all workers, of workers’ rights, occupational health and safety, decent minimum wages and maximum working hours.

“It addresses the five workers’ demands of job creation, especially for the environment, rights, universal social protection, equality and inclusion. It calls for fiscal, monetary and trade and investment policies that work for people, which is crucial, given the abject failure of austerity to deal with the global financial crisis just over a decade ago. The supply chain responsibilities of multinational companies are also addressed in the plan.

“In addition, the strong commitment to universal access to vaccines, tests and treatments is welcome, along with the need for industrial policy. These and other key elements of the call to action provide the basis for recovery and resilience as we tackle the impacts of the pandemic and work to bring it under control.”

Universal social protection

A key opportunity to press forward this agenda will be through the convening of a major international policy forum, with other multilateral institutions.

The demand for universal social protection was reinforced in the resolution on social security. Important elements in that resolution include:

  • the leading role of the ILO in the international system concerning social protection;
  • social protection as a critical factor for recovery and resilience against future crises;
  • the need for greater international solidarity in funding social protection and the engagement of the ILO in initiating and establishing a Global Social Protection Fund;
  • coverage of all workers in the formal and informal sectors, and increased action to formalise informal work.

The Conference Committee on the Application of Standards discussed ways of promoting employment and decent work and adopted strong conclusions on several countries where workers’ rights are under attack, including Belarus, Honduras, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe. Good conclusions were also adopted on 15 other countries.

Belarus and Myanmar

The Belarusian government openly threatened the ITUC affiliate BKDP and claimed that the issues being debated were outside the scope of the ILO. Employers in that committee continued their efforts to undermine the right to strike as well as collective bargaining.

There was a strong resolution on Myanmar, calling for the restoration of democracy and civilian rule and an end to the military junta’s violent attacks on those who oppose it. The conference also refused to accredit the nominated representatives of the junta.

“This conference underscored the value of social dialogue and the power of the ILO’s unique tripartite structure. It also places the ILO at the centre, leading multilateral action on the pandemic. Any weakening of collective bargaining and freedom of association, including the right to strike, would weaken the ILO itself. We look forward to constructive discussions with employers on this and other key issues,” said Sharan Burrow.

Two further segments of the ILC, with thematic discussions on inequalities and the world of work as well as skills and life-long learning, will take place in November and December.