International Journal of Labour Research

Trade Unions matter in a human-centred recovery from COVID-19

The new edition of the International Journal of Labour Research explores strategies to help workers and their organizations shape COVID-19 response policies and advocate for social justice and workers’ rights.

Press release | Geneva | 24 June 2021

GENEVA (ILO News) - Trade unions matter and play an important role in combating the pandemic and ensuring a human-centred recovery, according to the new edition of the International Journal of Labour Research, launched by the ILO’s Bureau for the Workers’ Activities.

COVID-19 and Recovery: The Role of Trade Unions in Building Forward Better,” says that trade unions have stood their ground and helped to better protect workers and their jobs around the world. This is despite the devastating impact of the crisis on workers and their families, the surge in violations of trade union rights, the loss of members, and a hostile environment towards trade unions in some countries.

The journal outlines the urgent need for unions to develop new strategies to address the challenges of achieving a job-rich recovery, strengthening occupational safety and health systems, and reaching universal social protection for all, gender equality, digitalization and a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies. In tackling these issues, the COVID-19 pandemic could be an opportunity for trade union revitalization.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown in a dramatic fashion that the challenges which were highlighted two years ago in the ILO Centenary Declaration, are still so relevant throughout the current crisis. There can be no social justice and decent work for all without a human-centred roadmap and the strengthening of institutions in the world of work, in particular workers’ organizations. As such, the adoption of a Global Call to Action for a Human-Centred COVID-19 Recovery by the 109th Session of the International Labour Conference this year, confirms this vision of the Centenary Declaration and the urgency of its implementation,” said Maria Helena Andre, Director of ILO ACTRAV.

This year’s International Journal of Labour Research highlights the importance of social dialogue as a vehicle to increase union membership and contribute to the effective design and implementation of a robust and inclusive recovery strategy.

Data in the journal show that social dialogue, used to achieve consensus between workers and employers, contributed to a 26 per cent increase in trade union membership overall. Globally, 83 per cent of unions have adopted social dialogue in response to the pandemic, with about 89 per cent engaging in tripartite consultations. Workers’ organizations must engage further with governments and employers’ organizations at every stage in the formulation and implementation of policy responses to COVID-19, the journal says.

The journal calls for global solidarity within and across borders and urgent action to accelerate the process of a fully inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery from the crisis.