International Day of Persons with Disabilities

How trade unions promote decent work for persons with disabilities

The ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) has launched a report which highlights trade union action to promote decent work for persons with disabilities. ACTRAV talked to the department’s focal point on disability at work, Nezam Qahoush about the challenges persons with disabilities face in the world of work and the role of the trade union movement in promoting decent work for them.

News | 03 December 2017
Nezam Qahoush, ACTRAV Focal point on Disability at Work
ACTRAV INFO: ACTRAV has launched a new publication on “Trade Unions Action on Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities”. Why did you publish this report?

We look at the work of trade unions to promote decent work for persons with disabilities in more than 50 countries. The information we have collected is important for at least three reasons.

First, persons with disabilities represent 10per cent of the population around the world. This estimation do not consider the handicap created by social and economic crisis and wars. The majority of people with disabilities faces more discrimination and more barriers when it comes to access decent work. With regard to the implementation of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, we note that only few workers with disabilities are unionised and thus able to voice their concerns collectively.
Second, workers in the care sector who provide services to people with disabilities are often working under unacceptable forms of work and are not unionised either.

Third, trade unions need to address more effectively, and in a sustainable manner, the obstacles that workers with disabilities face when it comes to the implementation of decent work.

ACTRAV INFO: What are the main lessons emerging from this report?

There are quite a few but the most important one is that union action to remove barriers and discrimination enables persons with disabilities to work as productively as other workers. Unions play a key role in formulating and implementing inclusive disability policies, and strengthening labour institutions, particularly those who contribute to inclusive capacity building.

ACTRAV INFO: What role can trade unions play with respect to disability challenges at the enterprise, national and global levels?

In his opening remarks to the 105th International Labour Conference in June 2016, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said: “Growing inequality, marginalisation and division are not phenomena of the world of work but the consequences of what we do how we behave, and what we decide”. Unions that struggle to end inequality can’t afford leaving persons with disabilities behind, as they are key actors in the transformation of our world.

The principle “Nothing for us without us” is the starting block when it comes to organising workers and bargain collectively to promote more inclusive and resilient societies. That is also why achieving decent work for persons with disabilities is also at the heart of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as expressed in target 8.5: “By 2030, we all look forward to full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including those with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value”.