Post COVID-19 we need safer, fairer and more sustainable workplaces

Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India gave an inaugural address at the 86th Annual General Meeting of All India Organization of Employers having theme of Labour Reforms: Meeting the Challenges during and Post-COVID

Statement | New Delhi, India | 05 October 2020
Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Government of India, Mr Santosh Kumar Gangwar,

Mr Rohit Relan, President AIOE,

Other leaders and representative from employers,

Namaste and a very good afternoon to you all.

It is indeed a privilege for me to connect with you on behalf of the ILO at the 86th AGM of the All India Organisation of Employers. I feel it is important, that despite this unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 pandemic, we all have managed to come together.

ILO has been very pleased to collaborate with AIOE over the years as one of the formidable Employer Constituents within the Confederation of Indian Employers.

The ILO was among the first to identify that the Corona virus pandemic is not just a health crisis, but a social and economic one too. It has altered the economy and labour market situation in contrast to the time when 85th AGM was held last year.

It demanded countries to take extra ordinary measures such as complete lockdown, bringing the world of work to a halt. However, such measures were deemed necessary to ensure that health system got prepared and human lives were saved, and India was no exception to it.

Now, the country, in its phased unlocking phase, is doing its best to embrace the ‘new normal’ and bring back the economy on its feet using physical distancing measures and by implementing necessary socio-economic policy measures.

ILO’s policy framework

ILO was quick to materialize on its 100 years of experience, which includes dealing with previous emergencies and economic depressions. As an important step the organization has been producing ILO Monitors on COVID-19 and the World of Work, while estimating the impact, they also suggest the desired policy response to deal with the situation under four-pillars:

1. Protecting workers in the workplace;
2. Stimulating economic and labour demand;
3. Supporting employment and incomes;
4. Using social dialogue between government, workers and employers to find solutions.

As we are discussing the Labour Reforms today, we expect them to act as a critical enabler in accelerating advancement of the four pillars suggested by the ILO policy framework. Labour policies and laws are the backbone of the world of work, guaranteeing protection of interest for workers and employers and creating a safe and conducive work environment necessary for productivity.

The labour reforms in the post COVID-19 scenario need to ensure sustainable solutions, which are capacitated to protect the most vulnerable. We will need measures ensuring the development of a just and inclusive society. We need to respond to new emerging market challenges but with efforts informed by strong evidences and dialogue processes.

The success of the new labour codes will primarily depend upon its implementation strategy, capacity of local and state institutions and participation of social partners.

India is a symbol of unity in diversity for the world and it is the best prescription to achieve the desired sustainable reform and development for a better future of work. The Pandemic points at the importance of having social partnerships between employers and workers organisations. Today, Employers and Workers together have a great opportunity to construct a new Social Contract that would secure employment and enterprises.


For Employer Business Member Organisations (EBMOs) such as AIOE, there is an opportunity to be the catalyst in the country’s economic resuscitation process. Being a constituent of the ILO, you can ensure that the responses take a human-centred approach.

Employer Business Member Organisations across the globe are translating the crisis into an opportunity. A study of EBMOs conducted by the ILO’s Bureau of Employer’s Activities (ACTEMP) and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) revealed that during the pandemic, EBMOs are determined to accelerate and expand support to its members. They are developing better understanding of the changing business environment and identifying ways to add value to the businesses.

Of course, this means that EBMOs will have to review their FITNESS to secure membership from new and emerging types of businesses. They will have to strategize their response according to needs of members, invest in people, and develop new service products and strategies to remain relevant.

I must acknowledge that AIOE has already initiated steps in this direction
1. To enhance its leadership during crisis and recovery;
2. To review its membership strategy, and
3. To review its membership services.

And I firmly reiterate that AIOE is not alone, but has the ILO as an equal partner in shouldering the responsibility by investing in its capacity building.

To illustrate, AIOE with support from the ILO will soon venture into micro and small enterprises or the MSEs sector. A ‘help desk’ will be set up as a pilot to help MSE’s mitigate COVID-19 impact.

Further, considering over 90 per cent of Indian economy is informal, the proposed helpdesk will aim to raise awareness among informal economic units on the benefits of business registration. Besides, the helpdesk will provide guidance and respond to specific queries from registered MSEs on business continuity and related labour management aspects, in particular, the new labour codes. This initiative will enable AIOE to test this new membership strategy and penetrate the currently underrepresented MSE sector.

It will also enable AIOE to authoritatively, backed by this experiential learning from the pilot, articulate and represent the voice and needs of the MSE employers in policy discourses.

Second important aspect this pandemic exposed us to was the intense dependency of employers on migrant labour. Reverse migration indeed created a workforce vacuum in many industrial clusters.

It is therefore encouraging to note the attention AIOE is currently paying to this issue by planning to undertake a study with the ILO’s support on ‘New Ramification on internal migration in India, from an industry perspective’.

The study will focus on manpower requirements, building trust and reintegrating migrants in states of origin. It is expected to contribute to shaping inter-state migrant labour policies and governance models.

ILO has several practical policy briefs and guidelines to help enterprises in their recovery effort on its dedicated COVID-19 web-portal:

As ILO-New Delhi we have developed ‘Guidelines for formation of enterprise level COVID-19 bi-partite task forces at work places’. It is indeed encouraging to note that AIOE was one of the first EBMOs to adopt the guidelines and signify support for promotion.

I am pleased to say that ILO-New Delhi will launch an activity to promote setting up bi-partite task forces in enterprises through a capacity building programme for Employers and Trade Unions. I appreciate that AIOE has also agreed to nominate representatives for this training.

We must aim to build back better so that our workplaces are safer, fairer and more sustainable, and more effective in cushioning the adverse consequences of this pandemic for both business and workers. A protected and motivated workforce will ensure productivity and efficiency of the enterprises.

I congratulate AIOE on its achievement of holding this 86th AGM. We assure you of our fullest support and cooperation for the New Year of activity ahead.
Thank you for your kind attention!