WISC will bring together unreached workers

Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director, ILO DWT – New Delhi, provided opening remarks at the Inauguration of WISC (Workers Information and Support Centre) in Tamil Nadu, Chennai.

Statement | New Delhi, India | 21 August 2021
• Mr. C.V. GANESAN, (Hon’ble Minister for Labour Welfare, Population, Employment & Training, Census, Urban & Rural Employment)
• Mr. M. Shanmugam, MP – National General Secretary, LPF
• Mr. V. Subburaman, National President, LPF
• Mr. V. Veluswamy, Focal Person, WISC, Tamil Nadu.
• Dr. Atul Anand, Principal Secretary / Commissioner of Labour
• Mr. Kirlosh Kumar, Secretary to Government
• Mr. K. Natarajan, National Treasurer, LPF
• Office bearers of LPF

Good morning to all.

On behalf of the ILO, I am delighted to participate in the inauguration of Workers Information and Support Centre in Tamil Nadu today. For the last one and half years, all the countries in the world, including India, are facing an unprecedented catastrophe. The Covid-19 pandemic, apart from being a public health emergency, it has profoundly affected the world of work. There has been some severe economic and social impact that jeopardized the livelihoods and well-being of workers and their families, exposing and exacerbating persistent inequalities, insecurities and exclusion in many parts of the world.

Workers in almost all sectors have suffered due to the lack of job protection, absence of any income and livelihood support, precarious employment and exclusion from social protection and support measures. Women, young people, migrant workers, refugees and people with disabilities are the groups that have been the hardest hit by the outbreak. Also in India Covid-19 pandemic hit women workers the most as shown in the recent data.

In such a situation, trade unions and workers' organizations will have a major and significant role to play and ensure that policies and measures will be equitably shared and enjoyed by all workers. They will also have to ensure that the adopted measures will be a stepping-stone towards a sound recovery and resilience. In this regard, some significant works of trade unions have been emerging in different parts of the world. In some countries, trade unions have immensely contributed to supporting their members and the general public at large.

Some equally notable work of unions have also begun in some states of India where they have worked with the government and provided awareness raising campaigns and distribution of materials to workers. The national and state level trade unions in India have also undertaken humanitarian services for the affected workers providing food, medical support, and protective equipment.

The main purpose of establishing WISCs during the current Pandemic is to bring workers together specially the unreached and voiceless, with the principle aim of protecting and defending labour rights and their interests through a rights based approach. WISCs are trade union hubs providing information, counselling services and trainings for workers, especially the vulnerable and crisis affected. They also facilitate workers and TUs to engage in at least one form of effective social dialogue.

The battle against COVID-19 is not yet won, trade unions need to strategically set up sustainable plans and agendas for mid and long term activities. Amongst other initiatives, WISCs can be the entry point to reach out to the affected and displaced workers. Covid-19 is a crisis that requires actions both at policy level as well as at field level. To this end, unions will have to ensure workers to actively participate in the policy decisions, to reach out to the workers in providing a wide range of facilities and assistance, and to bring workers back to a better new normal, which is there to stay for long.

Over the years, trade unions in India have managed to adopt certain adjustments during the crisis that facilitated effectively addressing the needs of affected workers. I want to recall the TUs initiative in Tamil Nadu in 2004 after the Tsunami. TUs, with the support of ILO, established Workers Information and Facilitation Centers (WISCs) in many states in India including Tamil Nadu. The initiative got profound support from the government and other social actors. The example and experience from that is a great strength for TUs and all of us to proceed with the WISC.

The severity of the crisis demands rock-like united efforts among all the actors of the state and society. It is encouraging to see the presence of the Minister, Secretary and Labour Commissioner, and other high dignitaries from the government and TUs. I believe industry also will come forward to support the workers by joining these initiatives.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Central Trade Unions and their state committees for coming forward to establish the WISC in several states in India. Special thanks to the TUs platform of Tamil Nadu and Labour Progressive Federation – LPF for their proactive role and efforts in last two months to organize the first launching of WISC. I also take this opportunity to Thank ILO DWT and CO team and ACTRAV in ILO HQ for their efforts. ILO will continue to support and work with WISCs as a critical channel to support workers activities at the state level.