Round Table: Recovering from COVID-19: a sustainable and human-centred approach to the future of work

Round Table: Recovering from COVID-19: a sustainable

and human-centred approach to the future of work

11 Mar 2021

I speak on behalf of the ITUC-PERC, but I speak with the collective voice of RCEM.

The future of work needs to take into consideration changes to the economy based on the pandemic but also the climate emergency. COVID has exacerbated the diseases our societies are plagued with and put a spotlight of the urgency to protect our planet and living things. . We are calling for a more sustainable economic model – new social contract, based on just transition, human rights and social justice: resilience and recovery must not be the return to austerity and business as usual.

Full, productive and freely chosen employment and decent work for all shall be at the centre of macro-economic policies. Fair financing of recovery, universal social protection according to ILO recommendation 202 and tax justice are the keys to provide resources for inclusive development. Lack of international financial regulations and control over supply chains has only accelerated health and climate crises. It is an imperative to implement the UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights and to achieve binding due diligence.

The systematic undervaluing of “core” sectors and public services has resulted in thousands of deaths. Quality public services should be strengthened, with sustained investments to ensure universal access to healthcare, social protection, water, sanitation, food, shelter, green transport and education. Health and social workers are the heroes and should be honoured with better payment and better conditions, not only with applause.

We face dilution of employment relations accelerated by digital means. Universal labour guarantees are the key for decent work: all workers, regardless of their employment status, must enjoy fundamental workers rights, adequate living wage, control over working time, safety and health at work and social protection. And lifelong learning opportunities, reskilling and requalification. It is time to establish a global social protection fund as a core element for achieving SDGs. All people should have access to social protection and public health policies.

Respect for workers’ rights should be placed at the core of a strategy to inclusive and sustainable recovery recognizing the enabling nature of freedom of association. OSH is vital to building resilience. In countries with strong social dialog agreements were designed and followed: enterprises, entire sectors can work safely. Social dialogue is the means to develop policies and actions while collective bargaining can achieve workplace solutions.

But they are only possible when freedom of association is respected and social partners have adequate means and capacities. Regretfully, in many countries of the region the governments and / or employers used the COVID to further wedge attack on workers’ rights and freedoms. Furthermore, Covid has weakened the collective power of some communities more than others. Some communities will be eradicated or absorbed if rule of law is not restored.

COVID19 exacerbated inequalities and gaps. The crisis disproportionately impacted those already in precarious working conditions, many of whom are women, youth, domestic, platform, migrant workers, IDPs and refugees, people with disabilities, older people and others in vulnerable situations, who were excluded from mainstream solutions in many of the countries and prevented to receive support services. Many risks exploitation and the fight
against modern slavery is current as ever. . Child Labour has been on increase.Regardless of whether or not a person is working from home or working in a shared space in the future, the built environment must have reasonable access accommodations and an adequate standard of accessibility in line with the UN Convention On the Rights Of Persons With Disabilities (UNCRPD) (Art. 27).

Gender gaps increased, in terms of wages, access and adequacy of social protection. Women are most likely to continue working in frontlines at any circumstances, but also in households, facing multitasking of remote work and family care. Our region is ageing fast; evidence on ageing populations (held for example by UNFPA) should inform inclusive policy in line with human rights commitments and the principles of Agenda 2030 to leave no one behind. We know that the impact on women of all ages is disproportionally unfavourable, with increasing poverty and working poverty. Gender, age and disability-sensitive labour legislation is needed now to guarantee women rights across the lifecourse: ensuring equal opportunities, health and safety and equal pay and living wage is an imperative.

Care and service sectors must become opportunities for more and high-quality employment. Decent wages and working conditions in health care and the wider care economy, recognition and qualification for unpaid care work are necessary, to allow women of all ages to be fully part of labour markets and social protection systems. Migrant, ethically diverse communities and refugees that are supporting the economy must be given recognition and afforded health and social protection. Redistributing unpaid care and domestic work: promote awareness and dialogue on gender norms and family responsibilities, and improve work/family / private life balance (e.g. paternal leave, affordable childcare…). Combatting violence at work and at home – which for many are also workplaces – have to be supported by legal frameworks that work in practice.

Borders between working and private time have been blurred by the development of technical means. Teleworking, with labour rights guaranteed, including right to disconnect, should be in focus of social dialog and/or normative building processes. An inclusive and holistic approach to education, digital literacy and the right to lifelong learning is needed for all so people across their life course are able to navigate and respond to rapid changes and take advantage of employment opportunities.

Support to just transition and green economies, renewable energy – including locally owned – projects that can be self-sufficiently maintained, ecological enterprises that provide goods and services such as food and clean water to ensure self-determined prosperity for rural areas that allows food security for all in the core of regional development.

In recent months we witnessed the sacrifice of rights and freedoms by many of us in support of the fragile ones. But we also witness elites getting richer and richer, decreased access to justice, more and more rule by force, AI interfering and controlling our lives, and social media feeding – if not building – our visions and emotions… Strong collective voice, representation and vigilance is the only recipe for sustainable development, be it local, workplace, national or supranational levels.“

In conclusion, I repeat five keys, that should drive the recovery and development: Decent jobs, rights, equality, social protection and inclusion.