Global: Dying to work must end now!

Work is killing 3 million workers worldwide each year, The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has warned. But Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the global union body said dying to work must end now, and health and safety must be recognised as a fundamental right for all workers.

“This year, occupational health and safety (OHS) must join freedom from forced and child labour, from discrimination at work, and freedom to join a trade union and bargain collectively as International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental rights at work,” she said.

“There must be no more opposition from callously indifferent employers, or recalcitrant governments. Our right to go to work and come back at the end of the day just as fit and well as we started it must be baked in.”

The March 2022 meeting of ILO’s Governing Body agreed recognition of OHS will be on the agenda for a final decision at the UN agency’s International Labour Conference in June 2022.

Burrow said unions already have an action plan for fundamental safety. “We want unions to be able to establish joint health and safety committees in every workplace, and worker safety representatives covering not just big workplaces but individual and self-employed workers through initiatives like roving safety reps,” she said.

“We have been laying plans with national trade union centres and sectoral Global Union Federations to celebrate the adoption of OHS as a fundamental right with a new organising drive across every sector on every continent.”

She said International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2022 would be the next focus of the campaign, concluding: “Workers must have the right to refuse unsafe work, and to take part in the decisions about prevention at their workplace. They need unions to make sure those rights become reality, and – this International Workers’ Memorial Day above all others – they need you to make it all happen. If not now, then when?”

Sharan Burrow. Deadline!, Hazards magazine, number 157, 2022. ITUC International Workers’ Memorial Day news and resources webpage.