International Labour Conference

ILC 2022: What are the challenges and opportunities for workers?

Paola del Carmen Egusquiza Granda (Peru), Worker Vice-Chairperson of the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference, discusses the challenges and opportunities of this hybrid meeting. In the context of the fragile recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Egúsquiza speaks about the role of trade unions in addressing concerns about the looming energy, funding and financial crises.

News | 06 June 2022
Paola del Carmen Egusquiza Granda
Worker Vice-Chairperson of the ILC 2022

ACTRAV INFO: The 110th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) is taking place in the context of fragile recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as new concerns about an imminent energy, food and financial crises. How will this situation affect the realities of workers and trade unions? What new challenges or even opportunities lie ahead for organized labour?

Over the years the world of work has changed – transformed by developments in technology, the organization of work, the social relations that underlie it, and the political and economic contexts. From the trade union movement, we believe that all social actors must manage the changes with the best will to respect labour rights and their actions must be redirected towards achieving greater equality and social justice through tripartite participation at the national and international levels.

Both COVID-19 and the other crises have clearly affected workers and therefore trade unions, with the most affected being health sector workers, frontline workers, workers in the informal economy, women, youth, migrant workers, refugees and people with disabilities.

Faced with this situation, the real challenge, therefore, is not so much in the drivers of change themselves, but in how to address and overcome them. Unions must see the crisis as a wake-up call to help build back better and advance labour and social programmes. To achieve these goals, we need unionized workers to actively participate in public policy-making and negotiate collective bargaining agreements that promote fundamental rights, decent minimum wages, social protection and occupational safety and health. The trade union agenda for greater resilience in the context of the crisis and its recovery should aim to contribute to strengthening social dialogue, educating and training workers, increasing union membership, providing greater services, expanding our partnerships with other organizations, since better sustainable reconstruction for the future requires responses at national, regional and global levels based on effective social dialogue and sound labour relations.

ACTRAV INFO: On the agenda of this Conference there is a discussion on the inclusion of the safe and healthy work environment in the framework of the ILO's fundamental principles and rights at work. Why is this discussion so important for workers?

When workers commit their energy to work, they put their physical, mental and psychological integrity at stake in order to fulfil their duties. In some cases this is very evident in jobs that require physical strength, such as with seafarers, construction workers, agricultural workers, etc. But in other cases the exposure of the body is less visible, although no less important: I am referring to the occurrence of occupational diseases (tendinitis, etc.), or work accidents that a person doing domestic work may suffer. More recently, however, we have been witnessing the increasing importance of the physical and psychological effects of interpersonal relationships at work, such as caused by harassment and violence.

There is therefore a decisive difference between the contribution of each party in the work relationship: the employer risks his or her capital, but the worker risks his or her health and safety.

A safe and healthy work environment must thus be considered as a fundamental right and principle, on the same level as the other principles and fundamental rights recognized in the 1998 Declaration.

This will make it possible to include all workers in the informal economy, in precarious situations, in domestic work and working outside a traditional employment relationship. It will at the same time impact free trade agreements by including occupational safety and health as a fundamental right. This is also a first step to promote the ratification of the Occupational Safety and Health Convention of 1981, (C155), and its Protocol.

ACTRAV INFO: What do you expect from this session of the Conference?

It’s a very important meeting for several reasons. I feel very proud and happy to be able to actively contribute to a positive outcome.

First of all, it means the return to face-to-face meetings – with some limitations – after very tough years in which the Conference had to be suspended or held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secondly, the ILO has just successfully concluded the process of appointing a new Director-General, with a significant opening towards the African continent, and in the midst of a transition in which there has been considerable tripartite collaboration. Of course I also think that a historic period for workers is coming to an end with the completion of the mandate of Director-General Guy Ryder, who comes from the workers' group.

Thirdly, the themes on which the Conference will focus are of great interest insofar, with the right to a safe and healthy working environment now being considered as a fundamental right and principle. The meeting also includes a discussion on the subject of social and solidarity economy, which is strongly linked to the very origin of the ILO and to the efforts of people from different sides towards achieving social justice as a prerequisite for peace and not considering work as a commodity – as stated in our founding instruments. Learning is also addressed as essential for improving people's capabilities in the face of the demands of the organization of work and the use of technology and as a factor in employability. Lastly, I must mention the need to address the issue of care, which is vital for the development, protection and equality of people.