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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Workers’ Rights: How the UN’s Landmark Occupational Safety and Health Decision Will Really Affect Employees

In what has been called “the biggest moment for workers’ rights in a quarter of a century”, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has adopted a safe and healthy work environment as one of its five fundamental principles and workplace rights for all. June 2022 international conference. This is the first extension of workers’ human rights in almost 25 years, and it means governments must now commit to respecting and promoting the right to a safe and healthy work environment.

Every year, almost 3 million people die due to accidents and diseases while trying to earn a living. Another 374 million workers were injured or ill at work. Overwork alone kills more than 745,000 people a year due to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. If occupational safety and health (OHS) had been given more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of lives could have been saved.

The ILO’s decision could make a huge difference in preventing mine collapses, factory fires in the textile industry, or ensuring that hundreds of workers are not killed building stadiums for the next men’s World Cup. Ensuring safety as a human right also recognizes the psychosocial risks in the workplace that many workers face – stress, burnout and isolation – that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The ILO, established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles, became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1946 charged with adopting and supervising international labor standards and promoting decent work. Its 187 members include 186 of the 193 UN members as well as the Cook Islands.

In the 1990s, when many sought the social dimension of the new economic order after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a loud call for a global charter of workers’ rights. The abandonment of the social clause—an attempt to link labor standards and trade liberalization—at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the 1990s finally turned the ball over to the ILO. Its unique tripartite structure of governments, unions and employers has taken it upon itself to develop a response to globalization and its victims.

Guided by its founding mandate: “Poverty everywhere is a danger to prosperity everywhere”, the ILO adopted in 1998 the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This commits the ILO’s 187 member states, regardless of their level of economic development, to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories: child labour, forced labour, discrimination and freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Such protection remains vital. Although forced labor is illegal in most countries, it is still widespread in many parts of the world. Similarly, child labor is not yet illegal in all countries and remains a problem for governments, regulators and oversight bodies in many countries.

Many lives could be saved if more attention was paid to occupational safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fifth pillar of human rights

Recognizing OSH as the fifth pillar of human rights will have major implications for businesses, international trade agreements and governments. The 1998 Declaration is the starting point for many private and multilateral forms of labor regulation. This includes the UN Global Compact (a non-binding document signed by more than 16,000 companies), the Guiding Principles on Business Conduct and Human Rights (which outlines the corporate responsibility to respect human rights), agreements with multinational companies, and many codes of conduct for multinational corporations. through global supply chains.

Most trade agreements also use the 1998 ILO Declaration as the basis of their labor rights provisions. The ILO stated that the declaration should not inadvertently affect the rights and obligations of one of its members in relation to existing trade and investment agreements between states. But many new trade agreements may include a legally binding provision for a safe and healthy work environment.

Thus, governments are under pressure. While the 1998 declaration only called on member states to “respect, promote and realize” the fundamental principles, a huge wave of ratifications followed. For example, by 1997 only 58 countries had ratified the Minimum Age Convention. Today, that number has risen to 175. Other labor standards recognized as fundamental, such as the Forced Labor Convention, have now been ratified by 179 member States, and the Worst Forms Act Child Labor Convention has universal ratification by 187 ILO member countries. We are likely to see the same reaction now that OSH is a fundamental principle, especially since even in the EU, many countries have not ratified the core OSH labor standards.

A vital first step

Recognizing a safe and healthy work environment as a human right is a first step, but not an end in itself. In an age where governments encourage the use of cheap labor to compete for investment, states can use these labor standards as a form of “social camouflage” to reduce international criticism without actually enforcing their provisions. Similarly, while OSH can be the basis of private labor regulation, using this model alone to enforce minimum labor standards has proven grossly inadequate in the past.

Therefore, concerted action by the international community is needed. The decision taken by the ILO speaks of its continuing relevance. This move shows the commitment of workers, employers and governments to recognize that there is much more they can do to ensure safety and health at work and prevent the death and injury of millions of people around the world.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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