BWI has just released its full COVID-19 report covering the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. The report provided a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the pandemic to the region, the policies implemented by different governments and the initiatives made by trade union affiliates to respond to the global health crisis.
BWI said that the pandemic has impacted the region’s economy in five main ways: 1. reduction in international trade; 2. fall in the prices of primary products; 3. intensification of risk aversion; 4. worsening of global financial conditions; and 5. lower demand for tourism and a reduction in remittances. These inevitably undermined workers’ job and income security and forced governments to introduce so-called reforms in their respective labour laws that challenge the power of unions and workers’ rights.
While many LAC countries have adopted measures to mitigate and reduce expenditure by workers and their families, such as credit and mortgage payment facilities, tax and debt relief and price controls, most countries have relaxed labour laws to the great detriment of workers and unions.
BWI affiliates responded by maximizing its collective bargaining negotiations and IFAs as tools to persuade employers to protect their members health, jobs and incomes. These were complemented by political pressure through collective actions.
Moving forward, affiliates in the region are busy deliberating the concept of “industrial reconversion,” where the current mobilisation of national industries for the production of inputs for public health should be extended to other sectors, so as to support the recovery of national industry. However, they all agreed that universal basic income policies and incentives for regional industrial growth must become salient features of economic recovery, combating poverty and unemployment in a post-COVID-19 new normal.