Mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 in the Syrian workplace

The ILO is working to strengthen Syria’s labour inspection system and improve occupational safety and health to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace.

©ILO
Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken economies and tested the capacity of public institutions. In Syria, which has experienced a devastating civil war since 2011, the socioeconomic impacts of the virus have been especially destructive, paralyzing state institutions and annihilating national infrastructure.

In response to this dual challenge, the ILO, with the support from its Regular Budget Supplementary Account (RBSA), is implementing a project to enhance labour inspection as well as safety and health working conditions in Syria. The project addresses a number of labour sector challenges imposed by the pandemic, as well as some of the longer-term decent work priorities of Syria.

Under the banner of “Decent Work Means Safe Work” for both the employer and employees, the project focuses its attention on strengthening the labour inspection system and improving occupational safety and health (OSH) through national policy development and capacity building, in line with International Labour Standards. The project will also work closely with social partners to raise their awareness on labour inspection, OSH and fundamental principles and rights at work, so they can better engage in programmes to promote compliance with labour legislations and respond to COVID-19.

The project’s interventions will fall under a structure in which the Government of Syria, represented by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MOSAL), employers’ and workers’ organizations will hold the key execution responsibilities as primary partners and leading stakeholders. Meanwhile, civil society organizations (CSOs) are to become partners alongside collaborating government agencies and organizations such as the Ministry of Health. Other stakeholders include the General Federation of Workers Unions and the Syrian Chambers for Industries as well as Chambers of Commerce.

The ultimate beneficiaries of the project will Syria’s male and female workers, who will benefit when the labour law is better applied. Ultimately, their labour rights will be better protected, and their working and employment conditions will be improved. Their employers will also benefit from better quality advice from labour inspectors on matters such as occupational safety and health and employment relation issues, and they will have fewer labour disputes, more stable labour relations and ultimately more productivity and stronger competitiveness.

Objective

  • Enhance the application of International Labour Standards and national labour legislation for promoting fundamental principles and rights at work and decent working conditions, ultimately contributing to the national socioeconomic development of the Syrian Arab Republic through enhanced workplace productivity and competitiveness.

Outcomes

  • Enhance the Effectiveness of labour inspections in line with the International Labour Standards, particularly the Labour Inspection Conventions 81 & 129.
  • Strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MOSAL)’s on occupational safety and health and the application of relevant international labour standards.
  • Improve workplace health standards, emergency preparedness, and response.
  • Build the capacity of employers' representatives on the role of labour inspection, OSH, as well as the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work through gender-mainstreamed training programs and awareness raising materials, including those on COVID-19 preventive and protective measures,
  • Create new tripartite organizations and procedures for labour inspection and OSH, such as a tripartite OSH committee, or improving existing tripartite structures and mechanisms.
  • Improve national regulatory frameworks and mechanisms for agricultural protections for workers through the creation of pilot programs on selected farms aimed at enhancing working conditions and ensuring compliance with national legislation and International Labour Standards.  

Main Activities

  • Train workers’ and employers on awareness raising material, including those on COVID-19 preventive and protective measures. representatives on the role of labour inspection, OSH and fundamental principles and rights at work, through gender-mainstreamed training programmes
  • Review a 2018 labour inspection assessment in consultation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, as well as workers' and employers' organizations, in order to develop a National Labour Inspection Policy and a National Action Plan for reforming labour inspection.
  • Improve the labour inspectorate's institutional capability by analysing the inspectorate's structure and upgrading labour inspection tools including guidelines and manuals to guarantee that labour inspection procedures are uniform and gender-responsive.
  • Enhance labour inspectors' capacity through training them in current labour inspection techniques and relevant International Labour Standards, along with performing labour inspection Training of Trainers (ToTs).
  • Develop a national OSH strategy and program in cooperation with social partners, which will entail reviewing, updating, and validating the national OSH profile.
  • Reinforce the National Centre for Occupational Health and Safety's capacity by performing a review of the centre and providing suggestions for extending its activities and broadening its function, as well as drafting and executing a comprehensive capacity-building strategy.
  • Strive to improve the reporting and recording of work-related collisions, wounds, and illnesses by working with social partners and other stakeholder groups new mechanisms for the notice, documenting, and interrogation of occupational accidents, injuries, and diseases, as well as spreading awareness among employees and employers about their whereabouts.
  • Enhance employment conditions on selective farms by managing child labour, supplying OSH equipment and appropriate housing for workers, and forming worker management committees.
  • Partner with farms to enhance labour and compliance with proper work principles in return for increased labour productivity by supporting worker skills training, motivating women to engage in agriculture, and increasing the quality and accessibility of employment services for employees.