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ILO calls for greater protection of all workers

18 June, 2015Changes in the world of work are challenging labour protection of workers, particularly those in temporary or precarious work. Last week, at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, the Committee on Social Protection presented conclusions to better respond to these deficits in the workplace. 

The Committee for the Recurrent Discussion on Social Protection (Labour Protection) said that although some advances have been made in minimum wage systems, working hours, health and safety, and maternity protection, too many workers lack adequate social protection.

The discussion was informed by a report prepared by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Labour Protection in a Transforming World of Work, which paints the new challenges that workers are facing. New technologies and globalization have led to different business models that have created fresh barriers to the exercise of the freedom of association. Collective bargaining coverage has declined. Labour protection regulations have been questioned under the pretext that they have a negative effect on employment. 

The Committee said more should be done to give better protection to workers in non-standard forms of employment (NSFE). NSFE or precarious work questions the traditional employment relationship that has been the basis of labour protection. The Committee recommended, as the Meeting of Experts on NSFE did in February, to evaluate the need for new international labour standards on temporary employment and on discrimination on the basis of employment status. 

A special focus was also given to health and safety. The Committee put forward the need to identify emerging risks linked to new way of work in particular, increased violence against workers, exposure to hazardous substances and psychosocial problems.  Emphasis was again put on the need for employers to develop their policies and risk management mechanisms in consultation with workers and their trade union representatives.  The Committee reminded of the need to protect pregnant women, and highlighted, as stipulated in ILO convention 183, that all women, including those in NSFE should enjoy protection without discrimination.

The Committee also called for a tripartite meeting of experts on the developments and challenges of flexible working time arrangements and their impact on workers. The pressure on workers to be available to work for extended periods, as well as zero hours contracts were other issues raised during the discussions.

The Committee recommended that due regard would be made in next year’s discussion on global supply chains. IndustriALL Global Union will participate in this debate and promote effective measures to ensure good labour protection for workers in supply chains and non-standard forms of employment.

Catelene Passchier, Workers' Spokesperson for the Labour Protection Committee said:

We need fundamental changes to ensure that economic growth, social justice and decent working conditions go hand in hand. It is absolutely unacceptable and indecent that, despite decades of economic growth, still many workers have hardly any social protection; are exposed to extremely hazardous working conditions; need to work excessive hours; lack maternity protection; or do not even earn a proper minimum living wage. Without collective representation many workers cannot access their rights in practice and the potential of collective bargaining and social dialogue cannot be used.