On 22 May, fifteen women trade union leaders, officials and activists from BWI’s European affiliates, including BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson, met online to discuss the challenges women face in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis.
Responding to the call of the Central Trade Unions (CTU), BWI Indian affiliates on 22 May joined a nationwide peaceful protest against the suspension of labour rights in major states in India and the deplorable plight of migrant workers.
The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP)
condemned several policies issued by the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which it said cut workers’ wages and benefits, and suspend labour rights.
The Civil Servants’ Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment Sectors (TARIM ORMAN-IS) opposed moves by Turkey’s General Directorate of Forestry to unilaterally cut workers’ salaries as part of the government’s COVID-19 donation campaign. It said that workers, especially union members, who refused to contribute to the campaign were threatened by managers.
The Council of Global Unions (CGU) – representing more than 200 million workers from across the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Union Federations including the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD – wholeheartedly condemns the suspension of labour laws by some Indian states during the COVID-19 crisis.
The BWI-Indian Affiliates Council submitted on 19 May a petition to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to reject anti-labour ordinances passed by several states relaxing and/or suspending important labour laws for three years to boost productivity and incentivise industries during the COVID-19 economic slowdown.
The Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (MANWU) on 9 May negotiated an agreement with Chinese Company, Shanxi Construction Investment regarding strict compliance to occupational, health and safety standards and wage laws. Both parties agreed that the monitoring of the agreement will start two weeks after the signing.
On 18 of May, BWI affiliates from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine came together for an online conversation on COVID-19 and the world of work. The meeting was facilitated by BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson and BWI Regional Vice President Johan Lindholm.
On 12 May, BWI held its second “How are you?” online conversation on COVID-19 and the world of work. The webinar brought together trade union leaders, officials, and activists from 11 Western European countries. It was opened by BWI Deputy Presidents Gail Cartmail and Dietmar Schäfers. Participants were recognised by BWI Regional Vice President Johan Lindholm, while BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson summarised the main points of the discussion.
BWI’s International Youth Committee held an online meeting on 13 May. It discussed the urgent need to empower young people by helping them find their voice in the middle of a pandemic through popular mobilisations and campaigns.
Facing an “economic tsunami” that have already decimated millions of jobs worldwide due to COVID-19, BWI launched on Monday the COVID-19 Solidarity Initiative to help prepare affiliates cushion the ill-effects of the pandemic.
BWI Africa and Middle East held its first “How are you?” COVID-19 online conversations on 5 May. Forty (40) unionists, (9) of whom were women, from Africa Anglophone speaking countries participated in the online event. BWI’s Regional and Global Team and partners in Africa namely, Bastian Schultz and Iris Nothofer from FES, Ole-Kristian Paulsen from Industri Energi, Simião Simbine from SASK and Hope Kabuchu from FNV) also joined the discussion.
The Cement, Ceramics, Pottery and Glass Industry Workers' Union (CIMSE-IS) has opened its hotel in Ankara, Turkey to health care workers who cannot go home for fear of infecting their families with COVID-19.
Rakennusliitto, the Finnish Construction Workers’ Union, is concerned about the risk of exposure to COVID-19 on job sites and in accommodations and a possible “second wave” if the country is re-opened to Schengen countries as scheduled on 14 May. They argue that there are not yet strong, effective health and safety protections for construction workers.
The Confederation of Forest Workers (CTF) of Chile, the Federation of MASISA Workers (FETRAMAS) and the National Federation of Industrial Trade Unions of ARAUCO (FENASID) said that they were able to secure the workers’ safe transportation, reduce common spaces, improve occupational hygiene measures and ensure the non-reduction of wages, even for those who were given teleworking options, during the COVID-19 lockdown.
On 9 May, the BWI-affiliated Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan (BMS) organised a webinar titled “Construction workers’ safety, health and welfare in the context of COVID 19” in Gujarat, a western state of India.
In a survey it conducted with more than a thousand workers, BWI-affiliated FNV Bouwen en Wonen reported that COVID-19 health and safety protocols are not strictly observed in the construction industry.
Pakistani union reaches agreement covering workers at the World Bank-funded Tarbela Dam
With the Pakistani government recognising the construction sector as an essential industry vital to keep the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, construction work fully resumed in many parts of Pakistan.
The Latin American and Caribbean union leaders met online to define future trade union actions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders agreed to devise tactics to continue their trade union work despite the lockdowns and paralysis of many industries.
The National Trade Union of Professional, Technician and Administrative Workers in the Wood and Allied Industries of Venezuela (SUNTIMAVEN) has reached an agreement with Masisa, a wood products company, to secure the incomes and benefits of its workers as provided by their collective bargaining agreement amidst a COVID-19 lockdown.
As part of its commitment to promote occupational health and safety (OHS) standards, the Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO) conducted visits to two cement production plants, Fortune Cement Company Ltd. in Pwani Region, Tanzania Mainland where over 80 percent of the workers are TUICO members, and the Tanzania Portland Cement Plc (Twiga Cement), owned by the Heidelberg Cement Group.
Justina Jonas-Emvula, General Secretary of the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers’ Union ( MANWU) and member of the BWI World Board, participated in a panel discussion aired live on television and radio wherein she shared the impact of COVID-19 on Namibia’s construction workers. She was invited by the General Secretaries of Domestic workers and Informal traders.
The Indian government is extending the world’s biggest COVID-19 lockdown by two weeks starting 4 May due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country. This has given rise to a number of challenges, especially for workers in the informal sector, many of whom have lost theirs means of livelihood due to the economic slowdown.
At a time when many employers are shutting down their operations, placing workers on remote work or paid leave and prioritising physical distancing, BWI affiliates in Jamaica and Bermuda are closely monitoring COVID-19-related labour issues.
After the Panamanian construction companies failed to fully comply with the terms of agreement they signed with SUNTRACS for the last six weeks, the union negotiated new guidelines with the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development (MITRADEL) and Panamanian Chamber of Construction (CAPAC) to ensure the income of construction workers who are currently not working as a result of the industry shutdown since 20 March.
The National Trade Union of Construction Workers of Cuba (SNTC) has denounced the continuing economic blockade imposed by the United States, especially during a health crisis. In 2019, for the 28th consecutive year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.
This International Workers Day, the BWI recognises all frontline workers among them are building , construction and forestry workers playing an important role to support essential services. There are many workers that are going out every day, risking exposure to COVID-19 and some paying the ultimate price with their lives, to keep vital production and supply chains running, including medical supplies and food.
The Construction Workers’ Union of Mauritius (CMWEU) and CTSP came to the aid of 44 unpaid and COVID-19-vulnerable Indian migrant workers employed by Swadeshi Pvt Ltd, an Indian construction company in Mauritius.
BWI affiliate Thamizhaga Kattida Thozhilalargal Madhiya Sangam (TKTMS) in Tamil Nadu State organised a webinar with the Construction and Real Estate Industry Coalition (CRIC) last 25 April to discuss the issues faced by the construction sector amidst the spread of COVID-19 in the State.
On 16 April, trade union leaders of BWI affiliates from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia held a virtual meeting to discuss the issues faced by workers resulting from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They committed to participate in BWI’s “protect workers, stop COVI-19” global campaign on the occasion of the International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 February. The unions are using social media to disseminate information and raise health and safety awareness among workers regarding the health crisis.
Unable to conduct joint inspections on the ground, BWI held an online meeting earlier in April 2020 with the Qatar’s Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy in charge of infrastructure projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup to seek cooperation on efforts to protect migrant construction workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Workers Memorial Day statement of the Council of Global Unions Coinciding with the on 28 April, BWI joins other global unions to call for COVID-19 to be recognised as an occupational disease.
Amidst an ongoing lockdown in Nepal, the BWI affiliate, Central Union of Painters, Plumbers, Electro and Construction Workers (CUPPEC), took several actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on workers and their families.
The Cement Industry Employees Union (CIEU), Malayan Technical Services Union (MTSU), Malay Forest Officers Union (MFOU), PKNS Employees Union (PKNS), Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU), Timber Employees Union of Peninsula Malaysia (TEUPM), Timber Industry Employees Union of Sarawak (TIEUS), Union of Employees in the Construction Industry (UECI) and Union of Forestry Employees of Sarawak (UFES) have called on the government and employers to do more to protect workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put workers’ lives at risk.
As part of BWI's week-long campaign to mark the International Workers' Memorial Day on 28 April, we prepared a short video on how unions and workers can protect their health and safety against COVID-19.
The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the Nagkaisa Labour Coalition called on the government to augment and expedite aid to workers after an extended lockdown lasting until 15 May was imposed on key areas in Luzon to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening existing inequalities, particularly among working women, the BWI European Regional Women’s Committee (ERWC) held an online meeting and released a statement calling on governments, employers and all stakeholders to overcome the crisis, with the goal to build more equal, safe and inclusive workplaces and societies.
The Singapore National Trades Union Congress (SNTUC) and Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) furthered their concerted efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 particularly amongst migrant workers and those living in dormitories.
The BWI-affiliated Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) made an urgent appeal to Israeli employers to ensure the decent working conditions of Palestinian workers employed in their labour market and settlements.
BWI affiliates in India have offered their CHILD LEARN school buildings as possible COVID-19 facilities to the government as part of their commitment and solidarity to help contain the spread of the pandemic.
BWI International Women's Committee (IWC) President Rita Schiavi on the new meaning of solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and her tribute to Jin Sook Lee, whom she described as a powerful activist and a good friend.
Faber-Castell trade union leaders from Brazil and Peru held an online meeting to assess the situation on the ground amid the global spread of COVID-19. BWI and German multinational Faber-Castell have an International Framework Agreement (IFA).
As part of BWI’s week-long campaign to mark the International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) on 28 April, the Coordination Board of the Intergremial of Workers of the Construction and Wood Industry of Colombia (INTERGREMIAL) held its first online meeting to share and discuss perspectives on the current status of construction work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nagkaisa Labour Coalition urged the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) to extend immediate support and assistance to about 1 million Filipino construction workers who were stranded and left behind by their employers in construction sites shut down since the start of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown on 15 March.
BWI, together with a coalition of trade unions and civil society organizations, asked the Arab states of the Persian Gulf for their strong commitment to provide adequate protection and support to migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The region is highly dependent on migrant labour for its workforce, the vast majority of whom come from poor communities in South Asia, South-East Asia and East Africa that rely heavily on remittances.
As part of its overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BWI affiliate Sinrin Roren reports that the Japanese government has expanded its subsidy program to provide companies with additional financial support to secure the employment and incomes of their workers.
Les syndicats italiens ont dû négocier avec les employeurs et le gouvernement pour mettre en place des mesures, sans précédent, afin de résoudre les problèmes sociaux et économiques liés au confinement, alors que la crise du COVID-19 s'est rapidement étendue en Italie, qui n'était pas préparée à l'épidémie et a complètement submergé son système de santé.
BWI Belgian affiliates welcomed an agreement reached with social partners in the construction sector last 15 April 2020. The agreement provides that the rules of social distancing in workplaces remain important and a priority. Workers will also have the right to decline an employer's request to work if a worksite has one or more cases of COVID-19 or if a worker can demonstrate that she or he is part of a group at risk.
As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the Building and Woodworkers' International (BWI) will mark the International Workers' Memorial Day on 28 April with a week-long campaign on workers' health and safety starting on Monday.
The WHO and other international bodies should not be immune to criticism. That is also true of national governments and regional bodies. They should all work better, but that means participation, support and construction, not destruction.
On behalf of BWI Africa & Middle East region, the regional Presidium, the AFRECO members; the secretariat, all affiliates and its leadership on my own behalf, extend our sincerest solidarity and support to all leaders defending the safety and health of workers in different countries to mitigate the impact of Corona virus Pandemic,
The Construction Workers Union of the Republic of Argentina (UOCRA), a BWI-affiliated trade union, recently launched a new health protocol (Covid-19 Protocol of Practical Recommendations) designed for Argentina’s construction industry. The protocol was put up with the help of the Argentine Chamber of Construction (CAC), and includes protection and prevention practices against COVID-19 issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the country’s Ministry of Health.
The National Trade Union of Construction and Services of Guatemala (SINCS-G), a BWI affiliated trade union, has reported that the Guatemalan Ministry of Labor and Social Security has recently approved Ministerial Agreement 140-2020, which authorizes employers to perform full employment contracts suspensions in all industries and allows suspensions to take place without compensation payments for workers.
The BWI affiliate, Construction and Ceramic Workers’ Union of Curitiba and Metropolitan Region (SINTRACON Curitiba) welcomed news that CAIXA, a public bank, intends to inject an additional BRL 43 billion (USD 8.2 billion) to the real estate sector.
The BWI-affiliated National Union of Building and Construction Workers ( SNTC/BTP) welcomed the government’s announcement on 3 April to ban layoffs and guarantee the incomes of workers made redundant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid a total lockdown, that started on 16 March and has been extended until 26 April, most of Peru’s 12 million informal workers are vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic due to the lack of government assistance.
The FNV-Bouwen en Wonen, BWI’s affiliate in Netherlands, recently closed an agreement with construction employers on how to manage COVID-19 risks in workplaces. This was after the union conducted a survey covering 1,300 construction workers asking their opinion on working amid a pandemic.
While workers’ health is the primary concern of our Belgian affiliates ACV BiE and CG FGTB amidst the pandemic, this does not seem to be the case for the construction employers’ organisations, that refuse to take into account the preventive measures on the spread of COVID-19 demanded by trade unions. For the unions, this attitude from employers is totally irresponsible and unacceptable.
BWI affiliates, IG Metall and IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (IG BAU) have called for urgent government support to protect positions and income of trainees that have been excluded from support measures launched by the government for companies and workers during the pandemic.
The General Services Employees Trade Unions of Lebanon (GSTU) called on the Lebanese government to establish a response fund to aid workers who have lost their jobs and other means of livelihood to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the number of positive cases pushing towards one thousand in Hong Kong, workers are becoming increasingly concerned that the construction industry may have to go into a temporary closure, leaving daily waged workers without income.
BWI affiliates are concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis in Ecuador as the COVID-19 outbreak has debilitated the health system, and overwhelmed the government’s inadequate response to the pandemic.
The Pakistan Federation of Building and Wood Workers (PFBWW) has expressed its concerns over the health and safety of workers who continue to work on construction projects linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
BWI affiliates report that it took more than two weeks of negotiations between the government and the construction sector to agree on the terms for the resumption of construction sites that were shut down as part of national efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
WI-affiliated trade unions, along with national trade union centres, have petitioned their governments to seek financial relief on behalf of workers affected by COVID-19 lockdowns in several South Asian countries. They said that the crisis has dire effects on the livelihood of millions, including daily wage earners and migrant workers.
The Turkish Union of Road, Construction and Building Workers (YOL-IS), responding to reports that many health workers cannot go home and rest for fear that they might infect their families with COVID-19, has made its hotels, guesthouses and other social facilities in several cities available to the frontliners.
An agreement was reached last week between the Macedonian government and trade unions, including BWI affiliates, ensuring that workers’ wages in the public and private sectors would not be reduced and/or terminated during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Nepal Trade Union Centre (NTUC) and the Construction and Allied Workers' Union of Nepal (CAWUN) have demanded that the government address their serious concerns over the vulnerability of the workforce during the COVID-19 lockdown, including informal, migrant workers and health workers.
The unions in the Philippines have won better social protections for workers amidst increasingly repressive conditions and threats during the lockdown, while the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.
The Trade Union of Workers in Construction of Roads and Public & Private Works of the State of Parana (SINTRAPAV-PR) has successfully concluded an agreement with its employer for the safe return to their families of 6,000 complete with transportation tickets, wages and full benefits. The said agreement was reached as part of a deal to protect workers from COVID-19.
The BWI affiliates in Bulgaria report that the government is not doing enough to secure workers’ jobs and income from COVID-19, which makes them vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
The Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) is taking action to ensure that workers, especially those on daily employment contracts, on several construction sites that shut down due to COVID-19, are paid in full.
On 31 March, BWI, together with the other trade unions and social movements, sent a letter to the Qatari government expressing their growing concern regarding the vulnerability of migrant workers to COVID-19 in the country.
The National Federation of Construction, Wood and Building Materials Workers (FENTICOMMC), BWI’s affiliate in the Dominican Republic, has organized “workers’ brigades which distributed 2,300 bags of food and other supplies to construction workers.
The Colombian Association of Construction, Building Materials and Woodworkers (INTERGREMIAL) reported that Columbian workers are not equally protected and compensated by the government in the fight against COVID-19.
While Malaysia has been in lockdown since 18 March to stop the spread of COVID-19, more than 200 timber mills across the country have been given work stoppage exemptions, leaving thousands of migrant workers concerned about their health and safety.
The National Union of Civil Engineering Construction, Furniture and Wood Works (NUCECFWW) in Nigeria expressed its shock and disappointment this week over a company’s refusal to comply with the government’s directive to shut down all workplaces as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBU) reported this week that it is continuing its work of reaching out to workers, particularly to construction workers, on ways how they can ensure their good health and safety, and secure their incomes and other means of livelihood.
While Indonesia has a Health Quarantine Law, the government has yet to implement a lockdown and temporary close workplaces to protect its citizen from Covid-19. This was reportedly widely criticised by the public, particularly by trade unions which viewed it as prioritising big business interests over and above public health.
On 30 March, the Russian capital, Moscow, was put under a city-wide lockdown in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the country. While Russia has been relatively spared by the pandemic, the number of people testing positive has risen quickly.
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Union of Construction and Industrial Assemblage Workers (SINTEC-Chile) calls on the Chilean government to implement a workers' quarantine to safeguard the health and lives of workers, secure employment and income and suspend payment of basic services, loans and credits from financial institutions.
With Qatar under a COVID-19 lockdown, 16,000 workers housed in an accommodation facility found it difficult to get their salaries as access to automated teller machines (ATM) has been strictly regulated to prevent the spread of the virus.
With the enforcement of the world’s largest COVID-19 lockdown, trade unions in India raised serious concerns that Indian women workers, who make up around 90 percent of India’s vast informal sector (470 million people), will likely be disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic.
UOLRA will be giving migrant brick workers in small family-owned brick factories 5,000 Argentine Pesos (about USD 78) for 4 months to offset their loss of income due to the temporary closure of small brick factories.
The CFMEU Construction and General Division, the Master Builders of Australia and other major construction industry players are all in agreement that building work must continue despite the COVID-19 crisis.
BWI affiliates in Turkey reported that the country has started to take preventive measures against the COVID-19 outbreak this month. They said that the government has started imposing restrictions on incoming travelers and closed schools, bars and night clubs and suspended all national and international events. However, the country is not yet on a total lockdown as public transport is still operating and public institutions, shopping malls and banks are still open. Workplaces are also continuing production.
Last 17th of March, the confederation DGB in Germany met with the employers’ association and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to discuss ways to address the COVID-19 crisis. Given the serious threat to public health, workers’ livelihood and the economy, the government, unions and employers all agreed to share the responsibility in fighting the pandemic. The unions and employers asked the federal government to prepare a comprehensive plan to avert a possible economic recession.
On 18 March, Histadrut and the Israeli government signed a collective agreement that will regulate the employment of public sector workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The agreement is signed for the period of 19 March 2020 to 16 April 2020.
BWI affiliates in Brazil on Monday claimed victory after they successfully pressured its government to back down on a measure that aims to suspend the employment contract of all workers for up to 4 months without salaries as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unorganised workers (known as workers in the informal economy elsewhere) are subject to the Coronavirus just like other workers. With most of the state governments in India calling on people to strictly observe social distancing and remain in their homes, this is causing a major impact on unorganised workers, many of whom work in construction.
The Industrial Union Construction, Agricultural and Environmental (IG BAU)-Germany today called for an increase on COVID-19 short-time work allowances for workers. In a petition, the union called on its members to take action and put pressure on the federal government to provide 90 percent short-time allowances to workers as one of many measures to protect the workers's health, safety and livelihood from the global health crisis.
Saúl Méndez, Secretary General of SUNTRACS and President of the BWI Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (LACR), together with other SUNTRACS trade union leaders, met with the President of the Republic of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, and the Minister of Labor.
The CMWEU, together with its sister unions from the CTSP National Centre, held a dialogue with the Ministry of Labour on how the government can ensure that specific measures and protocols are put in place and observed by companies to ensure the workers’ health and safety against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid the conflicting policy proposals on how to respond to COVID-19, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), representing workers in the United States and Canada, has called for congressional action to support workers impacted by the pandemic.
At the beginning of the week of 16 March, the Swedish government presented a crisis package on how to deal with the impact of the Coronavirus. A temporary system of short-term work was immediately introduced which will be valid until the end of the year.
The BWI Belgian affiliates ACV-BIE and CG FGTB reported today that Belgium was officially placed under a lockdown until 5 April as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes Belgium the latest country to impose such a measure.
The ILO Report: Impacts and Responses, described and linked in this ILO news release, speaks of the current challenges and what needs to be done for workers and to sustain economic activity. Equally important, it urges us to look to the future.
Qatar’s Ministry of Labour (MADLSA) convened an emergency meeting with leaders of different migrant worker communities last 12th of March to relay information on the measures being taken by the Qatari government to protect its citizens and workers against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council of Global Unions (CGU), representing 200 million workers, called on governments and employers in all countries to act swiftly to save lives and to limit the spread of COVID 19. It said that the crisis is a fundamental issue of health, occupational health and safety, and rights and social protections.