(15 June 2022) Workers and the unions have been arguing for many years that workers have a right to safe work place. The International Labour Conference, that brings together governments, employers and trade unions from across the world, has now agreed to add the right to a healthy and safe working environment as the fifth fundamental rights. The other four were agreed in 1998 and are:
- Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
- The elimination of forced or compulsory labour.
- The abolition of child labour.
- The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
It means that ILO Convention 155 on occupational health and safety and Convention 187 on promoting health and safety are ‘fundamental conventions’ that all ILO member countries are obliged to uphold.
Estimates are that over 3 million workers a year die because of their work.Tens of millions more suffer injuries and ill health. Workers, unions, EPSU and the broad union movement have used International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April mourning the dead and fighting for the living. This is a further step in the right direction to make work safe for all. The ITUC said “Unions will now campaign to increase the number of countries ratifying and implementing all ILO health and safety conventions, giving workers the right to consultation over risk assessments, eradication of toxic chemicals and toxic work organisation including long hours, as well as free protective equipment and training and the right to refuse dangerous work. Unions will also campaign to extend access to occupational health services beyond the 20% of workers worldwide who currently have it, as well as universal sick pay from day one, more powers for union workplace safety reps and more joint safety committees.”
The pandemic has underlined how important those rights are for all workers. The success highlights the union movement’s relentless work improved health and safety like recently the recognition of COVID19 as an occupational disease.
For more information on the International Labour Conference (ILC)