WISC will help respond to COVID-19 crisis

Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO-India, provided address at the inauguration of Workers Information and Support Centre – (WISC) in Delhi

Statement | New Delhi, India | 31 August 2021
Chief Guest Mr. Bhupender Yadav, Hon’ble Minister of Labour & Employment, Government of India

Mr. Hiranmay J. Pandya, All India President, BMS

Mr. Binoy Kumar Sinha, All India General Secretary, BMS

Mr. Anish Mishra, President, BMS Delhi

Mr. Deependra Chahar, General Secretary, BMS Delhi

Organizing committee members

Participants from Trade Unions

ILO colleagues

Brothers and Sisters,

Namaskar and a very Good afternoon to you all:

I am delighted and honoured to participate in today’s launch event of Workers Information and Support Centre-WISCs in Delhi.

For the last one and half years, we all had to face the global Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from being a public health emergency, it has also profoundly affected the world of work. There have been severe economic and social impacts that jeopardize the livelihoods and well-being of workers and their families, exposing and exacerbating persistent inequalities, insecurities and exclusion in India as well as in many parts of the world.

Workers in almost all sectors have suffered due to the lack of job protection, absence of access to income and livelihood support, precarious employment and exclusion from social protection. Young people, migrant workers, refugees and people with disabilities are among the groups that have been the hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic. Also, women workers are hard hit as shown in the recent data.

In such a situation, trade unions and workers' organizations have a major and significant role to play to ensure that policies and measures taken to respond to the effects of the crisis 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 work of trade unions is 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.

This has been the case in many states in India where TUs have worked with local authorities to provide awareness raising campaigns and distribute help 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 Workers Information and Support Centres during the current pandemic is to bring workers together, especially the unreached and voiceless, with the principle aim of protecting and defending labour rights and their interests through a rights based approach. WISCs will be trade union hubs providing information, counseling services and trainings for workers, especially the vulnerable and crisis affected. They will also facilitate workers and TUs to engage in 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 the field level, for which unions will have to ensure they actively participate in the policy decisions and reach out to the workers in providing a wide range of facilities and assistance, to bring workers back to a ‘better new normal’.

It is not the first time that TUs mobilize in this regard. I want to recall the TUs initiative in 2004 after the Tsunami when WISCs with the support of ILO were set up in many states in India. The initiative got profound support from the government and other social actors. The example and experience from this is a great strength for TUs and all of us to renew efforts in the current crisis.

The pandemic demands united efforts among all the actors of the state and society. It is encouraging to see the presence of government especially Ministry of Labour & Employment and TUs for today’s event. Industry is also making similar efforts and I am sure that you can coordinate initiatives. Tripartism and social dialogue are important drivers for effective strategies, policies, economic and social resilience, inclusive growth and development. With presence of the Hon’ble Minister today, I hope these pillars would be strengthened further.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Central Trade Unions and their state committees for coming forward to establish the WISCs in several states in India. Special thanks to the TU platform of Delhi and BMS for their proactive role and efforts in the last two months to organize the launching of WISC in Delhi. Thanks also to ILO colleagues for your efforts and we look forward to a successful model for replication.