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COVID-19: Collective bargaining in workplace, essential for global recovery – ILO

COVID-19: Collective bargaining in workplace, essential for global recovery – ILO
Written by Maritime First

… UN says 27 trucks of essential items arrive Ethiopia’s Tigray region***

The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Thursday highlighted how important dialogue between workers and management is to the global post-pandemic recovery – and to keep people’s wages fair.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said that voluntary negotiations known as collective bargaining had proved their worth after two years of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Workers want to keep their heads above the water, as prices rise, as they are right now, and they want to ensure workplace safety and secure the paid sick leave that has proved so critical over the last two years.

“Employers for their part have welcomed agreements that have allowed them to retain skilled and experienced workers so that they could restart, recover and rebound.

“The higher the percentage of employees covered by collective agreements, the lower the wage inequality. And the more equality and diversity there is likely to be in the workplace,” he told journalists in Geneva.

According to a new report by the UN agency, over one in three employees in 98 countries, currently have their wages, working hours and other professional conditions set by collective agreements.

But there is a considerable variation across countries, ILO said, ranging from over 75 per cent of workers having a collective agreement in many European countries and Uruguay, to below 25 per cent, in around half the countries where data was available.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, ILO’s Social Dialogue Report 2022 indicated that collective bargaining agreements had helped to protect people’s jobs and income.

“Collective bargaining has played a crucial role during the pandemic in forging resilience by protecting workers and enterprises, securing business continuity, and saving jobs and earnings,”

Ryder noted that joint accords had also helped to allay the concerns of millions of workers by boosting occupational safety and health in the workplace, together with paid sick leave and healthcare benefits.

“Flexible working arrangements and leave provisions were negotiated so that workers, particularly women, could balance work with additional care responsibilities relating to school closures or to sick family members.

“And workers on temporary work had their contracts extended or converted to permanent ones so that they could maintain their earnings,” he said.

According to him, after two years of upheaval in the workplace caused by the coronavirus, post-pandemic collective agreements have now evolved to reflect the new realities of working from home and other “hybrid” work practices.

“Agreements are already focusing on agreeing on equal opportunity, the integration of on-site and remote work practices and re-regulating working time to a right to disconnect.

“Also, addressing shared concerns of workers and employers over cybersecurity and of data privacy,” he said, in an appeal to more countries to embrace dialogue between workers’ organisations and employers.

“There are very good reasons to strengthen the institutions that facilitate collective bargaining,” he said.

In the meantime, a convoy carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid arrived in the capital of the restive Tigray region in northern Ethiopia this past weekend, the UN reported on Thursday.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in New York that the 27 trucks delivered nearly 1,000 metric tonnes of food and other essential items to the city of Mekelle.

This was the fourth humanitarian convoy to reach Tigray since the transportation of aid resumed at the beginning of April, following more than three months of interruption.

Since then, 169 trucks have reached Tigray, transporting some 4,300 metric tonnes of supplies.

Dujarric said food and other aid has been dispatched from the regional capital Mekelle to priority areas across Tigray for onward distribution, while fuel that has recently arrived is allowing for critical humanitarian operations to be expanded.

“The rate at which aid is arriving into Tigray, however, remains a small fraction of what is needed.

Essential services including electricity, communications networks and banking services, remain largely cut off,” he said.

The UN and its partners continue to work with the authorities to urgently scale up deliveries of relief supplies, including seed and fertiliser ahead of the critical summer planting season.

The deadly conflict between Ethiopian troops and local defence forces in Tigray broke out in November 2020, after months of rising tension.

Fighting spilled over into neighbouring regions and caused wide displacement across northern Ethiopia and into Sudan.

Dujarric said the UN is also working with authorities to expand much-needed assistance in areas of two affected regions in the north, Afar and Amhara.

Over the past week, food partners reached some 56,000 people in Amhara.

Since late December, more than 10 million people have received food assistance from the Government, the UN, or aid partners.


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