COVID-19: Protecting workers in the workplace
Caribbean Trade Unions Information Sharing Session on COVID-19 and the World of Work (26 March 2020 at 11.00 am ECT)
The purpose of the information sharing session is to provide a virtual space/platform for Workers’ Organizations in the Caribbean Region to share information. Additionally and most importantly, the session provides an opportunity for the ILO to receive comments and inputs on technical and practical support the Office could provide to Trade Unions in these times of uncertainty. (e-meeting conducted via Zoom)
BackgroundThe world of work is being profoundly affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the threat to public health, the economic and social disruption threatens the long-term livelihoods and wellbeing of millions. The ILO and its constituents – Governments, Workers’ Organizations and Employers’ Organizations – will play a crucial role in combating the outbreak, ensuring the safety of individuals and the sustainability of businesses and job1 . An initial assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the global world of work says the effects will be far-reaching, pushing millions of people into unemployment, underemployment and working poverty, and proposes measures for a decisive, coordinated and immediate response2 .
Governments from the Caribbean Region have announced several measures to deal with COVID-19 and some are exploring stimulus packages to assist businesses and workers. Most businesses are forced to shut down and others to cut-down on operating hours. Workers are encouraged to telework to curb further spread. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have serious economic consequences. According to Dr Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, the tourism-dependent economies in the Caribbean where the sector employs approximately 2.4 million people and contributes more than $62 billion to the Region’s GDP (2018) are most likely to be affected by an economic slowdown linked to travel. The impact is currently being felt in the cruise industry as many Caribbean governments deny porting to some vessels. Additionally, the decreasing demand for fuel will have a negative impact on the Region’s oil exporters- Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname3.
Some Workers’ Organizations in the Region are providing guidelines to their members and workers on how to deal with COVID-19 in their workplaces such as Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association, Antigua and Barbuda Workers’ Union and National Workers’ Union in Barbados. Many of the Workers’ Organisations are also engaged in bipartite and tripartite discussions with the aim of co-creating solutions.
Objectives and modalities of the meetingThe purpose of the information sharing session is to provide a virtual space/platform for Workers’ Organizations in the Region to share information on (i) measures put in place by Governments to deal with the economic effects of COVID-19 in the immediate and short term, and (ii) concerns by Trade Union organisations when negotiating at workplace, sectoral and national levels. The ILO will (i) share information on what Workers’ Organizations in the world are doing and Governments responses, (ii) use of International Labour Standards (ILS) in times of crisis, and (iii) share some proposals on data that can be collected at workplaces to assess the immediate to short and medium impact of COVID-19 with the aim of understanding possible steps undertaken by employers. Additionally and most importantly, the session provides an opportunity for the ILO to receive comments and inputs on technical and practical support the Office could provide to Trade Unions in these times of uncertainty.
1. ILO COVID-19 and the world of work https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/coronavirus/lang--en/index.htm
2. ILO https://www.ilo.org/global/lang--en/index.htm
3. Presentation delivered by Dr Ram, UWI Vice-Chancellors meeting 09 March 2020