Global: Work health and safety must be fundamental

A death toll of work that claims five lives every minute of every hour of every day around the world demonstrated the scale of the problem. That’s why, says Owen Tudor, that two years ago International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference agreed that occupational health and safety should become a fundamental right at work. Tudor, the deputy general secretary of the global union confederation ITUC, said the ILO’s centennial conference was held nearly a year before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and changed the working world.

“The pandemic has only reinforced the case for health and safety at work to be given a higher profile and a higher priority. But it still hasn’t happened,” he wrote in an Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) blog post. Later this month, workers’ representatives on the ILO Governing Body will be arguing that the final steps that need to be taken to give effect to that centennial conference decision should be scheduled for this year’s ILO conference in June.

“If we can’t secure agreement, we will be demanding that at the very least, the next Governing Body meeting this November should complete the preparations, so that the final decision can be taken without further delay, in June 2022,” Tudor explained. That will mean persuading more governments and the employers’ lobby group IOE to throw their weight behind the move.

According to Tudor many major employers, including those who are ETI members, already support the move. “We want to see more employers doing what ETI’s members have done, and come out publicly to support the speedy recognition of occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work…  making occupational health and safety a fundamental right at work would reduce the toll of death, injury and illness for workers, businesses, families and communities. It would save lives at work. We must do it now.”

See: Occupational health and safety should be a fundamental right at work, ETI blog, 8 March 2021.

USMWF – Workers’ Memorial Day Announcement

Hello Everyone,

We hope this email finds you healthy and well.

We would like to take a moment to share about our upcoming Workers’ Memorial Events we are hosting this year.

We invite you to take a moment and look at our newsletter that shares all the great events we are preparing for and hope that you can join us too this year.

We thank you all for your time and please let us know if you have any questions.


Tonya Ford
Executive Director
USMWF.ORG, Inc (A 501 c3 non profit)

Sunday. APRIL 25, 2021 at 7pm cst (8pm est): USMWF’s Second Virtual National Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremony via USMWF’s Facebook;

Wednesday, APRIL 28, 2021 at 9:00am-4:00pm cst (10:00am-5:00pm est):  USMWF’s Strive for Safety Workers’ Memorial Day Awareness Conference;

Wednesday, APRIL 28, 2021 at 8:00 pm cst. (7pm est): USMWF’s Kentucky Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremony.  This event will be held virtually at our USMWF Kentucky Facebook;

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 7:00pm cst: USMWF’s Nebraska Workers’ Memorial Day Ceremony.  This event will be held in person at the Nebraska State Capitol (northsteps) at 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508;

USMWF Family Reunion/Support Group
Workers Memorial Day

Because going to work shouldn’t be a grave mistake!

Saving lives at work – Sharan Burrow

Sharan Burrow, ITUC

Saving lives at work requires occupational health and safety to be recognised as a fundamental right.

COVID-19 has exposed the risk for workers and without safe workplaces, the risks to the community. With so many frontline workers in health and care, food production and transport, the emergency services and education putting their lives on the line to do vital work, you would think everyone would know that workplace health and safety is one of the key issues in the pandemic. And with so many people having lost their jobs, on forced leave or working from home the role of safe workplaces for a stable economy is obvious.

So you might be surprised to discover that many governments and employers don’t think that being protected should be a fundamental worker’s right.

The World Health Organisation says in its constitution that “the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being”. But the International Labour Organisation has still not been able to implement the decision of its centenary conference in 2019 to include “safe and healthy working conditions in the ILO’s framework of fundamental principles and rights at work”.

This year, trade unions around the world will be pressing governments and employers to agree to put that commitment into practice.

Every year, 2.78 million working people die because of something that happens at work. Hundreds of thousands go to work and don’t make it home in one piece.

A grim occupational disease like mesothelioma, the cancer of the lining of the lung caused by asbestos.

Being buried under tonnes of agricultural slurry because basic safety precautions were ignored to save money.

And now, fighting for breath because inadequate sick pay provision and social protection mean that workers in the informal sector — two-thirds of the people at work around the world today — are being asked to choose between scraping a living at risk of catching Covid-19 and not putting food on their family table.

Governments have left nurses, doctors, and hospital cleaners without suitable masks to protect them as they treat the dying, like in Brazil where tens of thousands of health workers have died.

Employers have forced migrant workers in Australia to work at punishing paces in freezing conditions, crammed together in meatpacking factories, an ideal breeding ground for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

And health and safety inspectors in the UK haven’t prosecuted a single employer for Covid-19 health and safety breaches in the whole year of the pandemic.

These failures are just the latest in the decades-long disgrace of inadequate occupational health and safety provision. In workplaces where people matter less than profit, where budget cuts put safety on the line, where complaints are punished rather than listened to.

Making occupational health and safety a fundamental right at work — on a par with the prohibition of child and forced labour, discrimination at work, and the right to join a union, bargain collectively and ultimately to take strike action — wouldn’t solve every problem at work.

But it would make employers and governments more accountable when they fall short and a working person suffers, often leaving grieving parents, children, wives or husbands.

It would signal that workers have the right to refuse to take unnecessary risks at work. It would strengthen the hand of inspectors and health and safety professionals. It would drive better health and safety standards along the world’s supply chains.

And it would reaffirm the right of working people to be informed and consulted by their employers about the hazards in their workplaces — benefitting not just workers but the people they care for. In New York nursing homes, 30% fewer residents died where there was a union present.

Health and safety worker representatives, joint management-union safety committees, stronger laws have all been proven, time and time again, to keep working people and the public safer and healthier.

We’re calling on Governments and employer representatives at the ILO Governing Body in March to set a firm date for inserting workplace health and safety in the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights, and then deliver on it. Workers and their unions trusted it would happen this year. It just needs leaders committed to saving lives.

People’s lives matter more than money. With the Covid-19 pandemic raging in workplaces across the world, the time is now. We can’t wait any longer.

Medium, 5 Feb 2021

Save lives at work: International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April

On 28 April, International Workers’ Memorial Day, unions around the world are focusing their demands on getting the International Labour Organization (ILO) to adopt occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work.


  1. Health & safety
  2. Human and trade union rights
  3. ILO
  4. International Workers’ Memorial Day

The existing fundamental ILO rights, which hold governments to the highest level of accountability, are:

  1. freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  2. the elimination of forced or compulsory labour;
  3. the abolition of child labour; and
  4. the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “The pandemic has cruelly exposed the lack of protection for workers and indeed for the public who enter different workplaces. Evidence from around the world shows that the virus is spreading at work, not just in health and care settings but also in factories, meat works, warehouses, schools, offices, transport and other sectors.

“With 2.78 million people each year dying from work-related illness and injury even before the pandemic, the picture is now bleaker than at any time in recent history. Now is the time for governments and employers to elevate the status of occupational health and safety to the level of a fundamental right at work.”

Global push

The 2019 ILO Centenary Declaration, adopted unanimously by governments, employers and unions, includes a pledge that all workers will have their safety and health protected at work. The ILO Constitution includes a similar promise, and the World Health Organization already defines health as a fundamental human right.

The trade union movement is now making a global push to lift the status of occupational health and safety to the highest level at the ILO.

As a fundamental ILO right, it will mean a greater level of accountability for governments and stronger obligations on them to ensure employer compliance.

“Every ten seconds, someone dies because of lax workplace procedures. Weak or absent workplace protection for huge numbers of workers was a disgrace before the pandemic; it has now become a fully fledged scandal. This is long overdue, and we call on all governments to meet their obligations to protect workers and members of the public who go into places where people work. This is their fundamental right,” added Sharan Burrow.

28 April 2021 campaign theme: Health and safety is a fundamental right at work

  • 28 de Abril Jornada Internacional de Conmemoración (JIC) de los Trabajadores Fallecidos y Heridos
  • 28 Avril Journée Internationale de Commémoration (JIC) des travailleurs décédés et blessés
  • 28 April International Workers’ Memorial Day
  • 28 April International commemoration day for dead and injured workers
  • 28 April International day of mourning


The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed an occupational health crisis in workplaces worldwide. Workers are routinely denied even basic health and safety protections, including consultation with safety reps and safety committees on ‘Covid-safe’ policies and practices, free access to personal protective equipment and protection from victimisation for raising health and safety concerns. But the same problems existed before the pandemic and resulted in millions of deaths each year from work-related injuries and diseases.

The pandemic demonstrates why health and safety must be a right for everyone who works. Illness anywhere threatens illness everywhere. Unions secured agreement at the International Labour Conference in 2019 that occupational health and safety should be recognised as an International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental right at work – the decent, universally accepted and binding rights protecting all workers, everywhere. The ILO Centenary Declaration accepts “safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work”.

On 28 April 2021, unions can send a message that health and safety protection at work must be recognised as a right for all. Whether it is Covid or occupational cancers, or workplace injuries and industrial diseases, every worker should have a right to a voice and a right to protection. No-one should have to die to make a living.

Resources and updates will be posted on the dedicated 28 April webpages:

ITUC Campaign Brief

Thème de la campagne à l’occasion du 28 avril 2021: la santé et la sécurité sont un droit fondamental au travail


La pandémie de Covid-19 a mis en évidence une crise de la santé au travail aux quatre coins du monde. Les travailleurs et travailleuses sont régulièrement privés des protections même élémentaires en matière de sécurité et de santé, notamment la consultation des représentants et des comités de sécurité en ce qui concerne les politiques et pratiques sûres dans le cadre de la Covid-19, le libre accès à l’équipement de protection individuelle et la protection contre les représailles pour avoir soulevé des préoccupations concernant la santé et la sécurité. Toutefois, ces problèmes existaient déjà avant la pandémie, entraînant des millions de décès, chaque année, liés à des lésions et maladies professionnelles .

La pandémie montre pourquoi la santé et la sécurité doivent constituer un droit pour toutes les personnes qui travaillent. La maladie, où qu’elle survienne, constitue une menace à sa transmission partout ailleurs. Lors de la Conférence internationale du travail en 2019, les syndicats ont obtenu que l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT) doive reconnaître la santé et la sécurité au travail comme un droit fondamental au travail – principes de travail décent, universellement acceptés et contraignants en vue de protéger tous les travailleurs dans le monde entier. La Déclaration du centenaire de l’OIT reconnaît que « des conditions de travail sûres et salubres sont fondamentales au travail décent. »

Le 28 avril 2021, les syndicats pourront envoyer un message indiquant que la protection de la santé et de la sécurité au travail doit être reconnue comme un droit pour tous. Qu’il s’agisse de la Covid-19 ou de cancers professionnels, ou d’accidents du travail et de maladies professionnelles, tous les travailleurs doivent avoir le droit à la parole, ainsi que le droit à la protection. Personne ne doit risquer de mourir pour gagner sa vie.

Une documentation et des mises à jour seront publiées sur les pages web consacrées au 28 avril:

Dossier de campagne de la CSI

Tema para el 28 de abril en 2021: La salud y seguridad es un derecho fundamental en el trabajo

La pandemia de COVID-19 ha puesto de relieve una crisis sanitaria en lugares de trabajo del mundo entero. Los trabajadores y trabajadoras ven denegados continuamente incluso los elementos más básicos para la protección de su salud y seguridad, incluyendo consultas con representantes y comités de seguridad respecto a políticas y prácticas seguras respecto a la COVID-19, libre acceso a equipo de protección personal y no sufrir represalias por plantear inquietudes respecto a la salud y seguridad en el trabajo. Son problemas que existían ya antes de la pandemia, ocasionando millones de muertes cada año a causa de accidentes laborales o enfermedades relacionadas con el trabajo.

La pandemia ha venido a demostrar por qué la salud y seguridad debe constituir un derecho para cualquier persona que trabaja. La enfermedad en cualquier lugar amenaza su transmisión a todo el mundo. A instancias de los sindicatos durante la Conferencia Internacional del Trabajo en 2019 se acordó que la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) debería reconocer la salud y seguridad en el trabajo como parte de los derechos fundamentales en el trabajo –principios de trabajo decente, vinculantes y aceptados universalmente para proteger a todos los trabajadores, en todo el mundo–. La Declaración del Centenario de la OIT admite que “condiciones de trabajo seguras y saludables son fundamentales para el trabajo decente”.

El 28 de abril de 2021, los sindicatos pueden enviar un mensaje de que la protección de la salud y seguridad en el trabajo debe reconocerse como un derecho para todos. Tanto si se trata de la COVID-19 o de cánceres profesionales, o bien de lesiones laborales y enfermedades industriales, todo trabajador ha de poder hacer oír su voz y tener derecho a la debida protección. Nadie debería arriesgarse a morir para ganarse la vida.

Recursos y actualizaciones de publicarán en las páginas dedicadas al 28 de Abril:

Informe de Campaña de la CSI

Africa: African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation

ITUC-Africa issued the following statement in English and French to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day 2020.

Nigeria: ITUC president Wabba – NLC

Ayuba Wabba, President of ITUC and National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress makes an address to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day 2020

Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living