Irakli Petriashvili, President of the Pan-European Regional Council (PERC) speech at the ILO Global Summit
04 / 07 / 2020
With millions of jobs lost, businesses closed, citizens without income, this is the bitter reality we face today. Lack of income is a particularly burning problem for developing countries, whose budgets did not even provide for social spending, and many citizens of these countries remain without a minimum wage after losing their jobs.
Ensuring order based on economic justice, democratic involvement and equality is what we call a “social contract”, which is a main task in the world, especially in Europe and Central Asia.
The system of norms of the International Labour Organization, fundamental rights in the field of labour, social dialogue is a unique architecture that has proven its effectiveness in times of crisis. Countries that respect freedom of association, where participants of labour relations work together against the challenges and dangers, on measures to reduce losses and risks, seek and find mutually beneficial ways through social dialogue and collective bargaining, are making transformations much faster and painlessly.
These countries are much more willing to work in a new environment, but this responsible position is threatened by the unconscientious attitude of those countries where fundamental principles are violated and the role of social partners is neglected.
When we are talking about social partnership, I cannot not mention the difficult situation in the region. Trade union representatives are still being persecuted. Trade unions are being harassed as an institution and labour legislation is worsen. The trade union persecution is still active in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. The situation in Kazakhstan seems to have improved slightly, but the situation is still difficult. Ukraine must be mentioned separately, where the government decided to amend the Labour Code during the pandemic. There are also changes that significantly worsen the situation of workers. Poland has amended legislation that puts in doubt the capacity of the Social Dialogue Council.
But the system of norms and law must be appropriate to the situation. Even before the virus, it was obvious to us that unconscientious employers and some authorities were avoiding responsibility to employees and society. The role of the International Labour Organization as a normative source is just as important today as it was in the post-war years, when a system of rules was established in 1919 and 1940, which was a condition of the civilized world order. It depends on us: either to establish a stable order, or to fall into a state of chaos and a new primitive period.
The world needs to be careful and in the conditions of the pandemic analyze the chronic problems in the field of labour and social protection existing even before the pandemic and to develop a new architecture of the world of work in the mode of social dialogue, which will be much better, fair and sustainable (new normal). Our ambition should not be to return to a state of that before pandemic because it was not the desired state. We need to start by creating a “new normal” by updating the discussion of the new social contract, which has been made even more urgent by the pandemic, and in this context it is important for the ILO to return to the Universal Labour Guarantee, which was raised by the Global Commission on the Future of the Labour Field at the 100th Anniversary Conference of the International Labour Organization in 2019.
But there are a number of issues that should be considered as an axiom of life, without any discussion or debate.
First: The Human life and health are sacred. Fundamental rights include labour protection and safety. Relevant standards of the International Labour Organisation must be implemented. All this is given in the declaration of the International Labour Organisation, which must be implemented in practice.
Second: Any worker, regardless of employment forms ( contract, negotiations), is thoroughly equipped with universal quarantees.
- Protection of fundamental rights;
- Labour protection and safety;
- Vital adequate salary and income;
- Control of working hours;
- Social protection.
Forms of employment can change, safeguard of rights is unwavering.
Third: Virus and other biological hazards are beyond the scope of labour relations for which the employer or worker is not responsible. But labour is a main risk-factor for the spread of infections due to close social contacts. Therefore, risk control is not only a public health issue, but also the responsibility of all participants in labour relations for the organization and production of labour. But it is the responsibility of all participants in labour relations for organization of labour and production process. COVID-19 should be recognized as an occupational disease. Employers should take appropriate preventive measures, stop risks, and ensure that compensation is provided at work in the case of an infection. Moreover, it is necessary to develop an integrated approach to biological risks in the workplace. The relevant norm of the International Labour Organization is needed, similar to the specialized standards we have developed for the health and life risks of employees, including exposure to harmful substances or radiation.
Fourth: Changing technologies change the principles of labour organization. Social distance creates additional stimulus for the development of services and mediation technologies. In the field of labour it is necessary to have well-understood agreements and standards. This includes regulating the business platform, regulating remote operation, guaranteeing confidentiality and freedom from digital control.
Fifth: Supply chains. This business model is a source of exploitation and the need to exercise control of, including the rights of workers to be protected at all levels, was obvious even before the crisis. Today, these chains are being reformed and reduced. Precisely now, there is a unique opportunity to ensure public control and eliminate exploitation. This must be ensured in line with the UN Responsibility for Business Principles, the EU Directives, the improvement of International Labour Organization standards, including through adoption of separate convention on supply chains and the national legislation.
The International Labour Organization and its members face a significant task.:
- Develop new standards;
- Ratification of conventions, including recent ones;
- Implementing norms in practice;
- Strengthening supervisory mechanisms
The achievements and decisions of social dialogue that have been developed during the collective bargaining process and have already been used in practice should be a measure of the effectiveness of the International Labour Organization in the world and in our region. This requires strengthening the capacity and role of social partners at the national, sectoral and local levels.
International Labour Organisation was always the basis of order on critical days for the world. Our predecessors realized this, they were disconnected from their personal interests, and thus laid the foundation for the building in which we live and work. They were wise and had a sense of responsibility. Now is our time and it is our responsibility. We need to be just as wise and far-sighted.