ILO Calls for COVID-19 Responses to Recognise Workers Rights and Promote Social Justice on Labour Day

  • Today in observing International Labour Day, the ILO Representative for Myanmar, Mr Donglin Li, called for COVID-19 responses to respect workers’ rights and promote social justice. The first day of May is observed globally each year to promote workers’ rights. 

“This year more than ever there is a certain poignancy about today, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on what the world of work is going to look like, not just during the pandemic but more importantly as we recover” – Mr Li said.

In marking May Day and the unprecedented health and economic crisis brought about by COVID-19, Mr Donglin Li, stated:  “this is not only a health crisis, but also creates challenges in supporting and safeguarding the economic livelihoods for businesses and workers in Myanmar, and we must ensure that any response measures respect for workers’ rights and promote social justice”. He noted that the situation is made more complex because Myanmar’s hardship echoes that felt in other countries through various supply chains. 

Mr Li highlighted the importance of sound occupational safety and health practices that do not put workers at risk - noting that this week was also world OSH day which raised awareness about actions to protect workers and their families against infection and the social security options available if Myanmar workers are laid off. He also referred to effective social protection measures, protecting against stigma and discrimination, upholding workers’ rights under Myanmar’s labour laws and international labour standards, and ensuring that workers right to organize and bargain collectively are upheld. 

The ILO has been providing immediate support to Governments, employers and workers across the globe and also in Myanmar to respond to the health crisis and accompanying social and economic crisis. 

The ILO initiated immediate support for CTUM to establish an emergency employment and reskilling centre for workers who have lost their jobs – particularly in the garment sector. It supported the AFFM – IUF to prepare brochure and banners to raise awareness about COVID-19, establish self-help groups in five target areas, as well as measures to support for farmers. The ILO is also providing support to MICS-TUsF to provide training for laid off workers on self-employment initiatives, install COVID-19 awareness billboards and deliver hand sanitizer, masks and other awareness raising material to garment workers. In addition, the ILO has been providing care packages and access to para legal assistance at the borders where thousands of workers who have lost their jobs are returning from Thailand.

Mr Li emphasized the importance of taking a holistic approach to labour market responses. The ILO’s global response refers to four inter-related priorities and urges governments to take following actions:

•    Stimulating the economy and demand for labour by using available fiscal and monetary tools and debt relief.  •    Providing immediate assistance to sustain enterprises, preserve jobs and support incomes including for example investing in social protection •    Ensuring adequate protection for all those who continue to work during the crisis. That requires guarantees for safety and health in the workplace. •    Ensuring social dialogue between governments, workers and employers’ organizations, which has a proven record of generating effective, practical, and equitable solutions to the type of challenges now confronting the world of work. Mr Li also emphasized that the ILO will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, UMFCCI, CTUM, AFFM-IUF and MICS-TUsF as part of its contribution to the United Nations’ country team efforts to support Myanmar’s response to the crisis and promote decent work under Goal 8 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

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