COVID-19 Pandemic and Employment Relations Reset High on the Agenda of the Saint-Petersburg International Legal Forum

How to save one’s business and comply with obligations before the workers? What changes to the labour law are now possible and acceptable? How to settle the legal and other aspects of remote work? These and other issues were discussed at a special panel of the forum entitled “Resetting Employment Relations. Finding a Balance of Interests between Employers and Employees in the New Reality”. As all events and discussions, this panel was conducted online.

News | 12 April 2020
In his video message, Anton Kotyakov, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Russia, pointed out that changes faced by the world as a result of the pandemic brought about new labour market challenges, and spurred up the introduction  of new arrangements and tools. It is especially important to discuss today new vectors and development prospects of employment relations.

The discussion involved Vsevolod Vukolov, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Russia, Nikolai Gladkov, Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), Nina Kuzmina, FNPR Deputy Chairperson, and Marina Moskvina, Managing Director of the Labour Market and Social Partnership Department of the Russian Unions of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, both members of the Russian Tripartite Commission for Regulation of Social and Labour Relations.

The International Labour Organization was represented by Olga Koulaeva, Director of the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. She discussed in detail the ILO’s assessments and forecasts regarding the pandemic. These indicate that the global economy is facing a crisis likely be the worst in the whole postwar history. With  3.3 billion people employed worldwide, four out of each five have been already affected by full or partial work stoppages. The world’s major economies with the income level above the average expect a work time loss equivalent of 100 million workers in full employment.

The sectors worst hit by the crisis include hospitality, catering, retail trade, manufacturing, commercial operations and business administration.

Olga Koulaeva specifically discussed the situation of 2 billion informal workers who are practically outside the coverage of the social protection system.
Speaking of the ways to overcome the crisis, the ILO Office Director pointed out that these should involve an extensive set of policies aimed at supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes, ensuring the maximum possible coverage of the social protection system, and maintaining at least partial employment. This should include tax benefits for small and medium businesses in the first place. The second key area is to provide incentives for the economy and demand for workforce, and to support the worst hit sectors. Finally, it is important to ensure occupational safety and health of workers including those working remotely.

In this regard, Olga Koulaeva underlined the importance of social dialogue. As follows from the experience of other crises, it was through the social dialogue that solutions were found to keep afloat both businesses and workers’ incomes.

Speaking of the support available from the International Labour Organization, Olga Koulaeva said, in particular, that the ILO website offers a database of policies currently pursued by almost all countries worldwide. The ILO is prepared to provide support to develop the appropriate policies, she said in conclusion.