Trade Unions play a critical role in ensuring adoption of occupational health and safety policies and measures, to safeguard young people and migrant workers among other groups hit hardest by COVID-19

Welcoming address by Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director, DWT South Asia and India Country Office at the training on Occupational Safety and Health for Youth Trade Union Youth Volunteers in South Asia

Statement | New Delhi | 23 November 2021
Good morning and very warm greetings.

I am very delighted to join you in today’s Inaugural session of “Training on Occupational Safety and Health for Trade Union Youth Volunteers in South Asia”.

For the last two years, we have been facing an unprecedented catastrophe. Apart from being a public health emergency, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world of work. There has been severe economic and social impact that jeopardized the livelihoods and well-being of workers and their families. They have been exposed to 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 income and livelihood support, precarious employment and exclusion from social protection and support measures. Young people, women, migrant workers, refugees and people with disabilities are among the groups that have been the hardest hit by the outbreak. Pandemic such as COVID-19 has put the workers, especially frontline workers, in a greater risk. But more than the virus itself, the increasing incidents of work-related stress, violence and harassment, especially for women, have been reported.

In such a situation, TUs have a significant role to play to ensure the policies and measures are adopted to address the negative effects of the crisis. They will also have to ensure that the adopted measures will be a stepping-stone towards a sound recovery and resilience.

In South Asia, more than 80% of workers are working in the informal employment. TUs in South Asia have been extending their support to informal workers. TUs can play active roles in promoting OSH for them. ILO now considers including OSH as the 5th element of FPRW. Workers’ rights to safety and health are well established in International Labour Standards. So, National OSH frameworks should incorporate the requirements of ILS.

At the workplace level, worker participation is the key to creating safe and healthy working environments. Workers have the rights to know OSH hazards and risks and the rights to express their views for improving their workplaces. Workplace OSH Committees should serve as the vehicle to promote worker participation and reflect their voices.

To this end, this training has two specific objectives: (1) Empowerment of TUs in the South Asian countries through building a pool of young TU volunteers trained in OSH. (2) Formation of a South Asian Network of Young TU OSH Volunteers for sharing of their knowledge and experience in safe work advocacy.

I once again, thank you for joining this 5-day long workshop. I wish you a very productive workshop and expand your network of communication with young TU leaders beyond the country of your own.