Covid-19 : No going back to ‘business as usual’.

Statement From the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom and the Institute Of Employment Rights : After Covid-19 No Going Back To Business As Usual

The Corona virus pandemic has demonstrated the need to revolutionise the protection of workers for the future.

There can be no going back to ‘business as usual’.

The crisis has shown the weakness of labour law, employment rights and protections. As long ago as 1944, at the end of the Second World War, the great powers agreed the ‘Declaration Of Philadelphia’ which set the fundamental principles of international labour law for the post-war settlement.

The key principle of the Declaration is  that ‘labour is not a commodity’. Yet the pandemic has shown that, to business and government, workers are commodities, mere ‘human resources’ which appear with other business costs on one side of a balance sheet. They are bought in at the lowest available cost and are disposable both as to their health and their jobs.

Workers at risk of the disease are working without PPE. Wages have been cut. In the last three weeks 1.4 million new claims have been made for Universal Credit. These are mostly workers who have been dumped on the so-called ‘labour market’ to save costs. World-wide, one billion workers have been laid off.

As unemployment climbs and wages fall, so demand drops out of the economy and further redundancies follow.

In the global recession that is now following the pandemic, we cannot let employers restore the pre-existing power relations at the workplace or, worse, exploit the situation to yet further worsen terms, conditions and job security.

We need a new legal framework for workplace law. At its heart must be the restitution of sectoral and workplace collective bargaining. With the destruction of collective bargaining in so many industries and the unwarranted restrictions on the right to strike over the last decades, the crucial decisions now being made about how businesses respond to coronavirus are made (with a very few honourable exceptions) without worker input. That is unacceptable.

We need a new settlement in which workers through their unions can effectively represent by all means at their disposal the interests of the 32.7 million workers of all kinds in this country; just like other civilised countries. Just as was envisaged in 1944.

The Declaration Of Philadelphia reads:

The General Conference of the International Labour Organization,meeting in its Twenty-sixth Session in Philadelphia, hereby adopts, this tenth dayof May in the year nineteen hundred and forty-four, the present Declaration of theaims and purposes of the International Labour Organization and of the principleswhich should inspire the policy of its Members.

The Conference reaffirms the fundamental principles on which theOrganization is based and, in particular, that:

(a) labour is not a commodity;

(b) freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress;

(c) poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere;

(d) the war against want requires to be carried on with unrelentingvigour within each nation, and by continuous and concerted internationaleffort in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoyingequal status with those of governments, join with them in free discussionand democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the commonwelfare.

II Believing that experience has fully demonstrated the truth of the statement in the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation that lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice, the Conference affirms that:

(a) all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the rightto pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development inconditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equalopportunity;

(b) the attainment of the conditions in which this shall be possible mustconstitute the central aim of national and international policy;

(c) all national and international policies and measures, in particularthose of an economic and financial character, should be judged in thislight and accepted only in so far as they may be held to promote and notto hinder the achievement of this fundamental objective;

(d) it is a responsibility of the International Labour Organization toexamine and consider all international economic and financial policies andmeasures in the light of this fundamental objective;

(e) in discharging the tasks entrusted to it the International LabourOrganization, having considered all relevant economic and financialfactors, may include in its decisions and recommendations any provisionswhich it considers appropriate.

III The Conference recognizes the solemn obligation of the InternationalLabour Organization to further among the nations of the world programmes which will achieve:

(a) full employment and the raising of standards of living;

(b) the employment of workers in the occupations in which they canhave the satisfaction of giving the fullest measure of their skill andattainments and make their greatest contribution to the common wellbeing;

(c) the provision, as a means to the attainment of this end and underadequate guarantees for all concerned, of facilities for training and thetransfer of labour, including migration for employment and settlement;

(d) policies in regard to wages and earnings, hours and otherconditions of work calculated to ensure a just share of the fruits ofprogress to all, and a minimum living wage to all employed and in need ofsuch protection;

(e) the effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining, thecooperation of management and labour in the continuous improvement ofproductive efficiency, and the collaboration of workers and employers inthe preparation and application of social and economic measures;

(f) the extension of social security measures to provide a basic incometo all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care;

(g) adequate protection for the life and health of workers in alloccupations;

(h) provision for child welfare and maternity protection;

(i) the provision of adequate nutrition, housing and facilities forrecreation and culture;

(j) the assurance of equality of educational and vocational opportunity.

IV Confident that the fuller and broader utilisation of the world’s productive resources necessary for the achievement of the objectives set forth in thisDeclaration can be secured by effective international and national action, including measures to expand production and consumption, to avoid severe economic fluctuations to promote the economic and social advancement of theless developed regions of the world, to assure greater stability in world prices of primary products, and to promote a high and steady volume of international trade, the Conference pledges the full cooperation of the International Labour Organization with such international bodies as may be entrusted with a share ofthe responsibility for this great task and for the promotion of the health, education and well-being of all peoples.

The conference affirms that the principles set forth in this Declaration are fully applicable to all peoples everywhere and that, while the manner of their application must be determined with due regard to the stage of social and economic development reached by each people, their progressive application to peoples who are still dependent, as well as to those who have already achieved self-government, is a matter of concern to the whole civilized world.

The Declaration is dated 10th May 1944 and is annexed to the Constitution of the ILO.

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