OATUU Secretary-General participates in ACTRAV Symposium

The Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has organised a symposium on the theme ‘Trade Unions in Times of Covid-19’. The symposium served as an opportunity for a rich and diverse panel of trade unionists, experts, academics and ILO officials to discuss the impact that Covid-19 has had on the world of work and develop policy responses to the health crisis.

The opening remarks were given by the Director for the Bureau, Maria Helena André. In her address, she touched on the unequal distribution of vaccines between developed and developing countries and stated that the pandemic had not only forced many into poverty, but had further compromised the security of various groupings including women and young people in the informal sector, as well as migrant workers.

The Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder reechoed the challenges highlighted by the Director of ACTRAV, adding that the digitalisation of the world of work had been accelerated, with the increase of remote and teleworking during the pandemic. He hinted that this development would necessitate the restructuring of the world of work in the coming years.

The General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow also touched on social protection, highlighting the need for reinvestment in that area.

Responding to some of the issues that arose, Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), Mr. Arezki Mezhoud stressed that trade unions and unionists were to be drivers of change in this period when existing challenges such as injustice and inequity had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also highlighted the need for emergency measures such as support for businesses and enterprises, as well as support for the poor and vulnerable, in order to mitigate the harmful effects of the pandemic.

According to Mr. Mezhoud, it is imperative that we learn lessons from the current health crisis in order to improve health and social systems. This will aid in transforming the labour market and ensure that workers’ rights are continually protected.

He crowned his speech with a call for a policy to eliminate inequality and discrimination, stating that several workers who had lost their livelihoods were being subjected to exploitation which was deepening the inequality in society.