#ILO; #Umployment, #TradeUnions, #SocialProtection, #IncomesPlicy, #multilateralSystem, #SafetyManagement; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, May 30 (Canadian-Media): For workers, what risks and opportunities has the COVID-19 crisis brought about? Catelene Passchier, Chair of the Workers’ Group of the ILO Governing Body shares her views on the policies needed to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. She also calls for more regulation of digital work and enhancement of social dialogue and tripartism to provide social justice and decent work for all, ILO reports said.
ACTRAV INFO: How would you assess the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on workers and their organizations and what key policies should be applied to recover from the Covid-19 crisis?
Image credit: ILO
This week, the International Labour Conference (ILC) was supposed to start its work. The issues on the agenda would have been very important to discuss, especially in today’s Covid-19 crisis. They include social protection and inequalities in work, as well as the important tasks carried out by the Committee on the Application of Standards. We will now have to make sure that these issues feature prominently in next year’s ILC agenda, and that the risks and challenges laid bare by Covid-19 will be taken into account in future work.
The Covid-19 crisis has greatly affected everyone worldwide. But workers in healthcare and other fields of care, as well as those working in vital services and sectors like retail, food production and transport, have been shouldering the most. They have also taken the biggest risks, with their health and safety at work insufficiently protected too often. This shows the fundamental importance of this issue that the ILO should address as a high priority.
At the same time, millions of workers at the lower end of our labour markets, in precarious jobs or the informal economy, have suffered from lockdowns everywhere. They are paying a high price, losing their jobs and livelihoods without enjoying proper protection in social security. This leaves many of them in poverty, unable to feed their families. Universal social protection is therefore needed more than ever. There is an urgent need for a global, coordinated effort to implement universal social protection, with major investment in funding it, especially to help the poorest countries and regions provide their populations with concrete support.
Let me stress that this crisis includes a prominent gender dimension. Most of the ‘heroes’ of the crisis are women: females make up the majority of workers in healthcare and essential services. Many of them are also migrants. Yet most of them are still suffering from poor wages and poor working conditions, while the crisis has increased their burden of unpaid work. In the informal economy and at the lower ends of global supply chains hit hardest by the crisis, such as the garment industry, it is mostly women who are losing their jobs without enjoying access to any social protection. Add to that the reports we are receiving from around the world about a crisis-induced increase in domestic violence against women and girls, and it becomes clear that any policy package for dealing with consequences of the crisis and recovery from it must feature a strong, inclusive approach to gender.
For millions of workers, the effects of today’s crisis are already devastating. But the prospect of a quick, fair recovery are likewise gloomy, with the crisis making existing inequalities even worse. Yet ever more unions in various countries and regions are standing up for workers’ rights and protection and claiming a place at the table to discuss relief measures and recovery plans. The ILO is well placed to remind the international community of the key role that social justice, social dialogue and respect for workers’ rights must play in any plan to deal with the current crisis and the recovery from it.
In its May 1 solidarity message, the Workers’ Group called upon governments and employers to address a number of key issues without delay.
One central issue is certainly the need to strengthen the public sector. The crisis has exposed how decades of austerity and neo-liberal policies have left public services and the public sector incapable of properly responding to the crisis. It is high time to improve public services and the public sector, with huge investments to make sure people enjoy universal access to healthcare, water, sanitation, food and shelter, with guarantees in adequate staffing and respect of workers’ rights, including decent wages.
Furthermore, we now clearly see how vulnerable the global model of trade and production is, and that there is a lack of properly paid work in global supply chains. This issue, which has already been on the ILO agenda since 2016, must be addressed with new, strong tripartite commitment, ensuring that governments and businesses take responsibility for their supply chains beyond national borders.
The fourth ILO Covid-19 monitor shared figures on young workers. Its shocking statistics are a warning about the emergence of a lost ‘lockdown generation’. Although it is right to draw attention to the very high number of young workers in ‘informal jobs’, the analysis does not sufficiently differentiate between informality and precarity. Our unions everywhere know that even before the crisis many young workers were stuck in all kinds of precarious jobs, including on-call work, temporary contracts, agency work, undeclared employment and bogus self-employment. For too long, the debate in the ILO has been paralyzed when it comes to so-called ‘non-standard forms of employment.’ Now is the time to act and effectively follow up on the issue of the ‘Labour Protection Floor’, which was addressed in the Centenary Declaration and seeks to protect all workers, regardless of their employment status.
An often-forgotten dimension of this crisis is its impact on migrant workers, many of whom work in vital sectors and services that ensure our societies can continue to run properly. But because of the precarious nature of their employment contracts or immigration status, they stay without the protection needed against the virus. Reports worldwide also tell us about migrants being forced to work in unsafe circumstances in jobs and sectors that cannot be considered ‘vital’ at all, or about special ‘shipping’ of labour migrants to meet urgent seasonal needs in agriculture. Often housed in overcrowded, unhygienic communal or worksite accommodation, and transported to and from the workplace packed in small buses, they are an easy target for the coronavirus. For example, there have been major outbreaks in meat production in some countries, which has suddenly brought the issue to the public’s attention. Yet the focus is mostly on how to balance economic interests and public health risks, without even considering migrants’ human rights, including protection of their health and safety. The pandemic has also led to forced repatriation and migrants being stranded at borders, without any support given to them. The ILO must address all this urgently , based on its clear, renewed centenary mandate for a human-centred future of work where labour is not a commodity.
ACTRAV INFO: Some trade unions want Covid-19 to be recognized as an occupational disease. What is your view on this?
In the centenary declaration adopted last year , we made the first steps towards recognizing the protection of workers’ health and safety as a fundamental right. This is now more relevant than ever: we need greater ambition and commitment to ratify relevant standards, and a higher level of monitoring and enforcement that Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards require. At the same time, we have to give a timely follow-up to the recommendations of the SRM (Standards review mechanism), pointing to the need to fill important gaps in the ILO’s body of OSH instruments. This crisis has clearly shown the need to protect workers against the impact of viruses. So, the priority must be to include on the ILO Conference agenda a draft convention on the protection of workers against biological hazards. But already today, steps can and must be taken at national and international levels to recognize Covid-19 as an occupational disease, ensuring that workers enjoy proper protection of their health, job and income.
ACTRAV INFO: What are the lessons to be drawn from the rise in teleworking and where are the gaps in protection and regulations if teleworking is going to be more widely practised in the future?
Lockdown policies everywhere have had a huge, ever-growing impact on the use of new technology in work practices like teleworking. This has exposed the general lack of a regulatory framework, leading to new risks and lack of protection in health and safety, excessive working hours and precarious working conditions, made worse by the increased use of platforms as intermediaries. As we can expect this development to stay and even expand further, the need for ILO action in this area – as already mentioned in the Centenary Declaration – is clear.
ACTRAV INFO: Finally, how can we enhance the role of the ILO and the multilateral system to mitigate the impact of Covid-19?Recently, many people have rightfully spoken about the ILO’s central role in the multilateral system. The world at large will be in dire need of leadership in social and economic affairs, a role that the ILO must be take up with convincing authority. The ILO can only play this role if there is a sense of urgency on all sides, with agreement that there can be no going back to ‘business as usual’ but that there needs to be a joint commitment to a future that is more sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms.
This is the moment to remind everyone that social justice and the fight against inequalities must be a top priority, with a central role for governments in tackling the employment crisis and its fallout: starvation and social unrest. This issue is an accident waiting to happen, with millions of workers in the formal and informal economy losing their jobs and millions of SMEs going out of business. This may not be so far from how the world was in around 1919, when governments, businesses and unions deeply understood that only with social justice and social dialogue as guiding principles could there be proper recovery from the vast destruction of World War I. In the preamble to the ILO’s constitution in 1919, the following was declared loud and clear: “…. conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperiled, and an improvement of those conditions is urgently required.”
In the Philadelphia Declaration, as confirmed last year in the Centenary Declaration, the ILO is called upon to ensure policy coherence in the multilateral system. This means examining and considering all international economic and financial policies and measures in light of the fundamental objective of achieving social justice. This is no small task in a world facing growing challenges to multilateralism. But taking into account the wide, tripartite support for this key message in the Centenary Declaration, the ILO must play a pivotal role in guiding its constituents and the wider world through the Covid-19 crisis towards a fairer, more sustainable future of work.
Unions worldwide are calling for a new social contract. This is the moment to show the world that social dialogue and tripartism are essential to recovering from a crisis as devastating as Covid-19. It would be great if our tripartite cooperation at ILO level showed the way forward, placing the ILO at the heart of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic with a view to achieving a more inclusive, more sustainable development model and to making societies more resilient.
#JointStatement; #US; #Australia; #Canada, #UK, #HongKong
United States, May 28 (Canadian-Media): The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, U.S. Department of State reports said.
Signatories to this statement reiterate our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and long-standing stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.
China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people – including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
We are also extremely concerned that this action will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society; the law does nothing to build mutual understanding and foster reconciliation within Hong Kong. Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year.
The world’s focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing’s unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect.
As Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity are jeopardized by the new imposition, we call on the Government of China to work with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the people of Hong Kong to find a mutually acceptable accommodation that will honor China’s international obligations under the UN-filed Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Ottawa, May 24 (Canada-Media): François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dominic Raab, the United Kingdom’s First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; and Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, today issued the following statement:
“We are deeply concerned at proposals for introducing legislation related to national security in Hong Kong.
“The legally binding Joint Declaration, signed by China and the United Kingdom, sets out that Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy. It also provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be ensured by law in Hong Kong, and that the provisions of the two UN covenants on human rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, shall remain in force.
“Making such a law on Hong Kong’s behalf without the direct participation of its people, legislature or judiciary would clearly undermine the ‘one country, two systems’ principle under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy.”
#Brazil; #Covid19Pandemic; #TravelSuspended
Washington, May 24 (Canadian-Media): Worsening of the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America’s largest nation and economy caused United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump to suspend travel from Brazil to the U.S., media reports said.
Donald Trump. Image credit: Twitter handle
According to the president’s order, published Sunday, effective May 28 at 11:59 pm ET entry is denied to "all aliens” who were in Brazil two weeks prior to their attempted entry into the United States.
World Health Organization warns that the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted from Europe and the U.S. to South America, as Brazil has rapidly become one of the hardest hit countries in the world.
Brazil presents more than 347,000 confirmed cases of the virus and at least 22,013 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In terms of total positive cases of COVID-19 pandemic, United States is harder hit at this point.
Ottawa, May 19 (Canadian-Media): Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday during his daily news conference that both United States (U.S.) and Canada had agreed to extend the closure of Canada-U.S. border for another 30 days due to fear of COVID-19 Pandemic spread, media reports said.
Justin Trudeau. Image credit: Official site
“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said and added there was a clear desire from premiers to keep the border closed.
There have been more than 74,000 COVID-19 cases in Canada and with over 5,500 deaths to date, while the U.S. currently has more than 1.5 million active COVID-19 cases and more than 90,000 deaths.
As parts of both countries begin gradually reopening, the agreement prohibits tourists and cross-border visits.
But the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border would not be affected.
The agreement between the two countries in this regard has been extended for the second time, after first being imposed in March, with the current extension on border restrictions set to expire May 21.
As far as reopening of Canada-U.S. borders to international visitors concerned, Trudeau said the decisions are being made by the government week to week based on a rapidly changing situation.
#U.S.; #WorldHealthAssembly; #TaiwanExclusion; #PRC; #Covid19Pandemic;
New York, May 18 (Canadian-Media): The United States condemns Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly. At a time when the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we need multilateral institutions to deliver on their stated missions and to serve the interests of all member states, not to play politics while lives are at stake.
WHO. Image credit: Official logo
No one disputes that Taiwan has mounted one of the world’s most successful efforts to contain the pandemic to date, despite its close proximity to the original outbreak in Wuhan, China. This should not be a surprise. Transparent, vibrant, and innovative democracies like Taiwan always respond faster and more effectively to pandemics than do authoritarian regimes.
WHO’s Director-General Tedros had every legal power and precedent to include Taiwan in WHA’s proceedings. Yet, he instead chose not to invite Taiwan under pressure from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Director-General’s lack of independence deprives the Assembly of Taiwan’s renowned scientific expertise on pandemic disease, and further damages the WHO’s credibility and effectiveness at a time when the world needs it the most.
The PRC’s spiteful action to silence Taiwan exposes the emptiness of its claims to want transparency and international cooperation to fight the pandemic, and makes the difference between China and Taiwan ever more stark. Taiwan is a model world citizen, while the PRC continues to withhold vital information about the virus and its origins, deny access to their scientists and relevant facilities, censor discussion of the pandemic within China and on Chinese social media properties, and casts blame widely and recklessly.
#UN; #UNGeneralAssembly; #Covid19Pandemic; #UNSDGs
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the ‘crucial role’ of the UN and its agencies, according to the veteran Turkish diplomat and parliamentarian who, as the only candidate for the top job, is slated to lead the historic 75th session of the General Assembly which begins in September, UN reports said.
Ambassador Volkan Bozkir (left) of Turkey, incoming President of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, meets with Secretary-General António Guterres back in January 2020.
Image credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Ambassador Volkan Bozkir outlined his priorities as president of the world’s foremost multilateral forum, during a virtual interactive dialogue with UN Member States held on Friday.
“The outbreak has coincided with the 75th anniversary of the UN. This is a stark reminder of the importance of effective multilateralism and, particularly, the crucial role of the UN and its agencies,” he said.
As the coronavirus does not see borders or discriminate, he stated that the fight to defeat it should not result in stigmatization, inequality or injustice.
“A world free of COVID-19 will require the most extensive public health and social recovery effort all over the world. Build back better should be our motto.”
Unique global forum
Mr. Bozkir commended prompt action undertaken so far by the UN in the face of the crisis, including the adoption of several General Assembly resolutions which stress solidarity and cooperation.
“I truly believe that the General Assembly with its universal membership and equal status of all its members, as well as its democratic credentials, is the most appropriate platform to provide political guidance in responding to the pandemic,” he stated.
Mr. Bozkir, who has served with Turkey’s foreign service for nearly 40 years, is the sole candidate for the presidency of the body that brings together all 193 UN Member States.
He pledged to work towards consolidating trust and cohesion among countries, major groups at the UN, and international organizations, and to ensure that the world's most vulnerable people have a voice.
With countries embarking on a Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, he called for the world's least developed countries, landlocked developing nations and small island developing states to remain a top global priority.
"The needs of the African countries and their special circumstances, including the 2063 Agenda, will continue to receive your attention", he added, referring to the African Union's blueprint to transform the continent.
"Another cross-cutting priority is to improve the living standards and rights of women. Women's full and equal particiipation in all spheres of life, by strengthening their status within society, is an absolute must in all our endeavours."
As president of the UN General Assembly, or "PGA", he will be guided by efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and non-discrimination.
"Consensus building will be one of the core efforts during my tenure. I will use the extent possible, the moral authority and the soft power of the PGA. I will allow continuity with the work of the previous PGAs and make improvements where necessary," he said.
"The overall agenda of our Organization requires close coordination among the UN decision-making bodies. I will try to address the gaps and duplications as they relate to the agenda of the General Assembly."
Hopes for a return to normalcy
The extraordinary challenge of COVID-19 has prompted a change in the working methods of the UN General Assembly.
Physical distancing and stay-at-home restrictions mean representatives can no longer meet in person, including to vote on resolutions, which are now circulated under a process known as “silence procedure”.
Ambassadors are given a 72-hour window to consult their capitals. If they all agree on a resolution, it is passed. If not, the resolution is not adopted as the “silence” has been broken.
“I hope that we will soon return to normal functioning of the Organization and be able to hold physical meetings without risking our health”, said Mr. Bozkir.
“If conditions do not permit us to do so, we should find ways and means, including technical infrastructure, to enable the General Assembly and other decision-making bodies to resume their functions in full.”
The current General Assembly President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, has taken steps towards implementing electronic voting.
He has appointed Ambassador Courtenay Rattray of Jamaica to consult with Member States on the process.
#Covid19AffectedCountries; #CoordinatedMultilateralResponse; #AccessToVitalMedicines
Ottawa, May 12 (Canadian-Media): François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, hosted May 12 the eighth call with his counterparts from countries affected by COVID-19, including Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United Kingdom, media reports said.
François-Philippe Champagne. Credit: Twitter handle
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed by the ministers, and an agreement was reached that a coordinated multilateral response continues to be essential as economies begin to reopen and plan for next steps.
The present critical issue is facilitating cross-border movement of goods, services and people by maintaining supply chains open and connected while resisting protectionist trends.
The coordinated multilateral response will enable access to vital medical treatment and supplies, including personal protective equipment to those most in need.
The Ministerial Group committed to stay in close contact to monitor the impact on countries and refugees in conflict zones, and on re-opening and transitioning to a new normal, with the continuous evolving of the COVID-19 situation.
#US; #WhiteHouse; #CoronavirusTaskForce; Quarantine; #Covid19Pandemic;
Washington, May 10 (Canadian-Media): Three members of the White House coronavirus task force. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a high-profile member of the coronavirus response team, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn had to place themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, media reports said.
Donald Trump. Official site
All three men had been tested negative, and were scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday.
The CDC and FDA did not disclose the identity of the person who had tested positive and with whom the agency leaders had come in contact.
FDA spokesperson Stephanie Caccomo said Hahn tested negative for the virus after he learned of the contact. He wrote a note to staff on Friday to alert them.
Six people who had been in contact with Pence aide spokesperson Katie Miller, who had been tested positive, were scheduled to fly with Pence on Friday to Des Moines, Iowa, on Air Force Two. They were removed from the flight just before it took off, according to a senior administration official.
All six later tested negative, the White House said.
Daily temperature checks of anyone who enters the White House complex and social distancing among those working in the building are required by the White House. The administration has also directed regular deep cleaning of all work spaces. Pence told reporters Thursday that both he and Trump would now be tested daily as well.
#US; #FormerUSPresidetBarrckObama; #Covid19Pandemic; #JoeBiden; #DonaldTrump
Washington, May 10 (Canadian-Media): United States President Donald Trump was harshly criticized for his chaotic handling of the coronavirus pandemic by former U.S. president Barack Obama during his conversation with the ex members of his administration on Friday, media reports said.
Barack Obama: Twitter handle
"What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life...when that mindset is operationalized in our government", Obama was reported to have said according to Yahoo News.
Death of more than 78,600 people with COVID-19 in the United States and more than 1.3 million tested-positive was revealed by the latest estimates from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Trump's contention that his administration inherited a broken system and a broken test from Obama's is reportedly false, since the novel coronavirus did not exist until late last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had in fact struggled to develop its own test in January only to discover problems in its kits in February.
Although after he and his administration were repeatedly disparaged by Trump on Twitter, Obama has generally kept a low profile on current political events.
But his Friday's call is an indication of his intention to play an active role in the coming election.
He also urged his supporters to back his former vice-president, Joe Biden, who is trying to unseat Trump in the Nov. 3 election and added that he himself would spend as much time as necessary to campaign for Biden.