Rising to the occasion: Africa and Middle East unions want OHS right implemented

BWI affiliates across Africa and the Middle East (AME) celebrated this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day together with unions from across the world under the theme ‘Make It Happen’. In an effort to celebrate and raise awareness of occupational health and safety (OHS) as a fundamental right and implement it in workplaces, affiliates were encouraged to conduct joint activities with employers and sister unions, hold thematic trainings and workshops, encourage the fulfillment of the “BWI OHS Joint Declarations,” and push further the campaign on various platforms.

True to form, unions in the region rose to the occasion. From 20 to 30 April, 21 BWI Africa and Middle East affiliates from 16 countries observed IWMD by visiting organised workplaces, conducting workplace inspections, convening thematic social dialogue meetings and OHS trainings, and hosting collaborative national conferences and seminars. Similarly, on 1 May, three trade unions demonstrated their commitment to the campaign by calling their respective governments and employers to recognise OHS as a fundamental right during national federation-led rallies and workers’ meetings in countries where they are based.

Global: 11 out of 38 OECD countries have ratified NEITHER of the two fundamental conventions on health and safety at work – #iwmd23

ILO Conventions 155 and 187 are classified as fundamental conventions – meaning that they are considered fundamental principles and basic rights, like the elimination of child and forced labour.

Despite their importance, neither convention has been ratified by 11 OECD countries! No G7 country – all OECD members – has ratified both Conventions.

“The OECD has a critical role to play in promoting workers’ health and safety”said Veronica Nilsson, Acting General Secretary of TUAC. “Ratification of ILO core conventions is a key step to ensure that all workers benefit from a safe and healthy working environment.”‘

“TUAC urges all OECD countries to ratify both conventions immediately.”

— Veronica Nilsson, Acting General Secretary of TUAC

“Ratifying universally agreed ILO fundamental conventions is also vital  to encourage responsible business conduct and ensure that workers’ fundamental rights are respected in OECD countries and throughout supply chains”  added Nilsson.

The OECD promotes occupational safety and health through a number of initiatives and committees, and in a number of including areas including air pollution, chemical hazards, risk management and labour market policies. The OECD also promotes responsible business conduct – and occupational health and safety is an obvious part of it.

‘Convention No. 155 on Occupational Safety and Health provides for the adoption of a coherent national occupational safety and health policy, as well as action to be taken by governments and within enterprises to promote occupational safety and health to improve working conditions.’  https://www.ilo.org/century/history/iloandyou/WCMS_211520/lang–en/index.htm

‘Convention No. 187 is designed to provide for coherent and systematic treatment of occupational safety and health and promote recognition of existing conventions on occupational safety and health’ https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_091437/lang–en/index.htm


Global: Organising for health and safety through OSH committees – #iwmd23


Last year unions around the world succeeded in making health and safety a fundamental right at the ILO, and now, workers are making that hard-fought victory a reality by organizing  for safer jobs – in particular organizing union health and safety committees.

On International Workers Memorial Day, 28 April, UNI Global Union remembers those who have lost their lives or suffered injuries at work, and we also redouble our commitment to preventing harm on the job. Occupational health and safety (OSH) committees are the first line of defence against unsafe conditions.

These committees have become more critical than ever in the aftermath of Covid-19. Even though the worst of the pandemic has hopefully passed, inadequate personal protective equipment, a rise in third-party violence, excessive hours, a punishing pace of work and growing strain on workers’ mental health are persistent, serious complications.

But workers have been fighting back, and through their unions, they are making their jobs safer.

Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said:

“The cost-of-living crisis spurred a wave of strikes and workplace actions, but just as important, the pandemic reinvigorated organizing around health and safety.

“An untold number of workers either died or are suffering long-term consequences because they contracted the virus at work. But Covid is not the only serious hazard workers are facing. They are being pushed to the limit by employers who want more production in less time and for less wages. This squeeze takes a physical toll on workers’ bodies while the pressure frays mental health.

“That is why we are standing with unions everywhere to make work safer and strengthen health and safety committees. Work should be a source of dignity and empowerment not harm, disease and loss. One injury is too much, and one death is too many.”

Last year, UNI reached a breakthrough global agreement with outsourced customer service giant Teleperformance. The agreement includes the creation of elected union health and safety committees that will address issues of employees both on-site and remote workers. It provides for training of health and safety representatives and a process to identify and remediate any workplace hazards.

To address psycho-social risks, the agreement limits surveillance on the job by stating that monitoring will be “proportionate to business needs” and “respect the worker’s right to privacy.” Teleperformance will notify workers of how the company uses surveillance tools, like cameras and AI monitoring, as well as how the data is used to evaluate performance.

UNI has stood with affiliates globally who are building their capacity to organize for safer jobs and stronger unions. For example, we supported UniPHIN in Nepal, where OSH committees have become critical in organizing hospital workers. UniPHIN began training workers about health and safety in 2021 – during the pandemic’s peak. Through this training, the union organized and created OSH committees that helped workers secure PPE, mental health support and time off.

“For many workers, UniPHIN was a source of hope and we were able to organize new members in a difficult time,” said Pratima Bhatta, UniPHIN Secretary Treasurer and Organizer.

Starting in 2016, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Hipermercados Tottus (SINATHIT) in Peru conducted campaigns to educate workers at Tottus hypermarkets about their right to choose their own health and safety representatives, resulting in the union being well represented on the OSH committee despite company interference. The union invested in training and organizing workers around OSH issues, resulting in a drop in injuries and a stronger union.

That union power was put on display when young union representatives, galvanized through OSH activity, organized sit-ins at Tottus stores across the country, forcing the company to make concessions in bargaining a new contract, resulting in major wage increases. The union emerged stronger as a result of members’ solidarity and determination, showing that OSH committees not only prevent injury but enable organizing around other issues.

Occupational health and safety is a fundamental right, but without unions, we have seen that workers’ rights get disrespected. On International Workers’ Memorial Day, we join with unions from around the world to secure safe jobs through organizing. and emphasizing the importance of OSH committees,” said UNI’s Hoffman.

The ITUC’s International Workers Memorial Day materials are here.

Go to 28april.org to find events in your community.


Kazakhstan: Safe workplace is the basis of life and health preservation

Aas part of the World Labor Day, the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan organized a round table: “Safe workplace is the basis of life and health preservation”, which was attended by union leaders and technical inspectors from different industries and regions of the country, representatives of employers and authorized state bodies. more

Georgia: Labour Start 2023 conference launched in Tbilisi on April 28

Ապրիլի 28-ին Թբիլիսիում մեկնարկեց Global Solidarity – Labour Start 2023 կոնֆերանսը, որին մասնակցում են նաև Հայաստանի արհմիությունների կոնֆեդերացիայի ներկայացուցիչները:
✅Կոնֆերանսին ներկայացված են շուրջ 170 մասնակից 67 երկրից:
📣Կոնֆերանսը մեկնարկեց Աշխատողների հիշատակի օրվա հարգանքի տուրքով և այն հիմնական գաղափարով, որ աշխատողների համար անչափ կարևոր են առողջ ու անվտանգ պայմանները:
🗓️ Global Solidarity – Labour Start 2023 conference launched in Tbilisi on April 28, which is also attended by representatives of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Armenia.
✅ 170 participants from 67 countries are represented at the conference.
📣 The conference started with the respect of Workers’ Day and with the main idea that healthy and safe conditions are very important for workers.

Armenia: Armenian Trade Unions Conference organises a round table discussion on issues of health and safety in the workplace for #iwmd23

Հայաստանի արհմիությունների կոնֆեդերացիա organized a round table discussion on issues of health and safety in the workplace…

Belgium: Amiante – le nombre de victimes pourrait encore augmenter – #iwmd23

Le chiffre de 90 000 victimes annuelles en Europe de cancers liés à l’amiante pourrait encore gonfler, en raison de chantiers à venir et d’une trop faible volonté politique de prendre le sujet à bras le corps.

Il est urgent de mieux protéger, réduire les taux d’exposition, prévenir. L’appel vient de la CES, la Confédération européenne des syndicats, dont fait partie la FGTB. A l’occasion de cette journée internationale d’hommage aux travailleurs décédés ou blessés, le syndicat européen fait le focus sur les – beaucoup trop – nombreuses victimes de cancers professionnels liés à l’exposition à l’amiante.

Ces victimes, et leurs familles, appellent aujourd’hui les dirigeants européens « à offrir aux travailleurs le niveau de protection le plus élevé possible contre l’amiante. »

L’amiante cause de cancers du poumon, de la plèvre…

Les chiffres sont élevés. En Union européenne, environ 90 000 personnes perdent la vie à cause d’un cancer lié à l’amiante, chaque année. Ce qui en fait la principale cause de décès sur le lieu de travail. L’amiante provoque la majeure partie des cancers professionnels du poumon, et du mésothéliome, cancer qui touche notamment la plèvre.

Contrairement aux idées reçues, l’amiante est très loin d’avoir disparu des lieux de travail : entre 4 et 7 millions de travailleurs y sont toujours exposés en Europe. Et l’on serait loin d’en sortir. Paradoxalement, les travaux de rénovation des anciens bâtiments viendrait aggraver la situation, sans une prévention adéquate. « Ce nombre devrait augmenter de 4 % au cours de la prochaine décennie », indique la CES, « en raison de rénovations de bâtiments dans le cadre du Green Deal de l’UE. » 


Moldova: Work in safe and healthy conditions – a fundamental right of employees at work – #iwmd23

“Work in safe and healthy conditions – a fundamental right of employees at work.”
👉 The event was organized by Confederația Națională a Sindicatelor din Moldova with the support of the National Platform of the FSC from #PaE.
“Promoting a culture of safety and health at work can help reduce the annual number of workplace deaths.”

Lithuania: Balandžio 28 dieną minima Pasaulinė darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos diena -#iwmd23

Balandžio 28 dieną minima Pasaulinė darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos diena. Pirmiausia kalbama apie darbdavių pareigą pasirūpinti nekenksminga darbo aplinka fizinei sveikatai.
Lietuvos profesinė sąjunga „Solidarumas” šiemet nori atkreipti dėmesį į psichologinį smurtą (arba mobingą) darbo vietose, reiškinį apie kurį visuomenė vis drąsiau kalba, tačiau dar sunkiai atpažįsta.
Valstybinės darbo inspekcijos duomenimis 2022 metais skundų ir pranešimų dėl psichologinio smurto buvo g… See more

Tunisia: FGBB launch a massive safety campaign with hundreds of workers on 28 April

28 April  was celebrated in Tunisia by a massive campaign that brought together more than 200 FGBB member workers with occupational health and safety specialists, the national health insurance fund, representatives of the UGTT and the ILO. .
FGBB continued the campaign at company level.

Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living

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