Business crisis responses need to prioritize partnerships with trade unions and respect labour rights for enterprises to be successful

Opening remarks at the 'Good employee relations practices' report launch by Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO/DWT-CO New Delhi

Statement | Online Meeting | 14 October 2022

Launch of the ILO-AIOE-EFI Report:

Opening Remarks by Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi

Esteemed members of the dais



Namaskar and a very good morning to you all!

It is indeed a pleasure for me to address you at this launch of the report on Good employee relation practices in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and lessons learnt: India.

Having experienced the COVID-19 pandemic first-hand, each of us is well aware of the massive economic and social disruption that such events cause across the globe. Such disruption has been particularly felt by businesses and workers. We all know of one or more enterprises that have been unable to withstand the effects of lockdowns and staff infections, and have therefore had no option but to cease operations. Such business closures have been devastating for both the owners, and the workers these businesses employed.

The India Decent Work Country Programme 2018-22 that ILO supports the constituents to implement, among other aims for:

effective social dialogue and labour administration systems operational to support improved industrial relations;

women and men workers and enterprises benefit from safe and healthy workplaces

Responding to the worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ILO constituents launched a Global call to action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The Global Call lays special emphasis on supporting business continuity and an enabling environment for innovation, productivity growth and sustainable enterprises, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, recognizing the important role of sustainable enterprises as generators of employment and promoters of innovation and decent work.

In line with this understanding, the ILO in India has emphasized through its COVID-19 policy briefs, that responding to the impacts of pandemic, and achieving an effective recovery requires a whole-of-society approach. This entails action by governments coming together with their social partners in the world of work. An all-of-society approach calls for constructive social dialogue and cooperation, bringing together governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations to design effective strategies and policies to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the crisis, protecting workers and their families, especially the most vulnerable, from the loss of jobs and income, and enterprises from bankruptcy.

Social dialogue, at any time, promotes the democratic participation of the people directly concerned with, and impacted by, social and economic priorities. At times of crisis, when the stakes are so high, such participation is all the more important.

This is as important at the level of the enterprise, as it is at a national level. A partnership between management and workers that is built on mutual respect, trust and commitment to the enterprise is vital for business growth and success. Establishing such a partnership however depends on the labour relations practices that are adopted in the enterprise. In this respect, labour relations practices that emphasise freedom of association, collective bargaining and workplace cooperation are much more likely to contribute to a productive and peaceful workplace, as opposed to an enterprise where such practices are absent.

The report that we are here to launch very clearly illustrates this. The report is based on information obtained directly from a range of enterprises, including on how they responded to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It details the fundamental importance of a crisis response that prioritizes partnerships with trade unions, an emphasis on worker well-being and respect for labour rights. The report therefore provides valuable insights that would guide enterprises in their labour relations practices, and their responses to future crises.

I am extremely grateful to EFI and AIOE for so actively participating in the research. Thank you also to the EFI and AIOE members who provided the information that forms the basis of this report. I have no doubt that the report will serve as a valuable guide to enterprises in their labour relations practices, and I look forward to its wide dissemination.

My best wishes to all our constituents!

Thank you.