The Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries RT, the Finnish Construction Trade Union, Trade Union Pro and RAKLI have partnered with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of the Environment in developing new instructions for employers to conduct risk assessment of COVID-19 infections at construction sites and other similar workplaces.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson reports on how trade unions have become "beacons of hope" amidst a global health crisis. He outlines BWI's call for safe and efficient vaccines for all workers, decent jobs and wages, and a sustainable, progressive and worker-responsive economic recovery program to not only to win the battle against COVID-19, but also win the war for a new and better world.
The pandemic revealed further the inequality and rights deficits around the world. As the world starts to plan and implement recovery programs, it cannot be business as usual. Building back better for a fair and sustainable future is the call of the workers’ movement.
By documenting BWI’s various and innovative COVID-19 efforts worldwide, we hope to share our best practices to nurture a learning environment, identify and fill knowledge gaps, and inspire other trade unions to do the same. This is BWI's humble offering in the fight against this pandemic.
BWI, together with UNI and PSI, is happy to extend its help and support to the ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC) in preparing this campaign video on the need to classify COVID-19 as an occupational disease.
Following the Israeli government's directive to provide vaccines to approximately 100,000 Palestinian workers employed in the country’s construction industry, Histadrut organised a vaccine pilot rollout on 4 March at Sha'ar Ephraim.
As new COVID-19 variants emerge amidst the world’s continuing efforts to control the pandemic, BWI has released a practical health and safety guidebook to assist trade unions on how to work safely during the pandemic.
IG BAU, the Central Association of the German Construction Industry and the Main Association of the German Construction Industry have all agreed to implement additional preventive measures to provide construction workers more protection against COVID-19.
Young trade unionists from BWI Africa and the Middle East channled their musical talents and creativity by offering this beautiful music video that draws attention to the situation of workers in the region amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
BWI’s young trade union leaders in Europe called for the building of more political and economic “shields” to protect workers from a new wave of anti-labour policies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Begging or bargaining?” This was the question collectively asked by trade unionists who participated in BWI’s latest “Workers’ Voices” webinar last 9 November which tackled the future of wages and employment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
BWI’s Brazilian construction union affiliates and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES)-Brazil released a COVID-19 protocol document that will help trade union leaders in their collective bargaining negotiations and campaign efforts as they try to protect the health and safety of their members from the pandemic.
In preparation for Brazil’s reopening of the construction and wood sector in several states, 30 trade union leaders from 25 unions participated in a workshop organised by BWI in Latin America and the Caribbean this month.
With the COVID-19 pandemic worsening the plight of many Ukrainian migrant workers in EU countries, PROFBUD, the construction workers union of Ukraine held a multi-stakeholder conference on 19 August in Odessa to discuss and address the situation.
The BWI-affiliated General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) signed an agreement with its government enforcing an occupational safety, health and environment regulation in the agriculture and timber sectors.
To address the plight of millions of migrant workers who have been repatriated or are awaiting repatriation as a result of pandemic-induced unemployment, BWI endorsed the call of a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions for an “urgent justice mechanism” to respond to the migrant crisis.
Responding to the high number of work-related fatalities in the forestry sector, the Civil Servants’ Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment Sectors (TARIM ORMAN-IS) held an occupational health and safety (OHS) training to 45 rural forest workers on 18 July in a forest village in Northern Turkey.
The Federation of Industry, Construction and Agriculture of the General Union of Workers (UGT-FICA), Federation of Construction and Services (CCOO) and the National Construction Confederation (CNC) recently released a “COVID-19 Guide for Action” to aid the construction industry in implementing health and safety measures at workplaces.
Amidst a pandemic that has negatively impacted migrant workers around the world, BWI organised a global webinar on 8 July to deliberate their struggles and issues. The online event titled “Empowering Migrant Voices” was attended by more than 130 participants comprised of migrant workers, trade union leaders and representatives from organisations working on the issue of international migration.
As the pandemic continues its rampage in North America, BWI-affiliated trade unions launched numerous initiatives to protect the jobs and wages of their members and workers in general. This was fully chronicled in BWI’s COVID-19 News Brief on North America.
Argentina’s lockdown measures affected 75 percent of its brick factories and the payment of wages to workers. This is one of the major findings of a report released by the Union Workers of Bricks Industry of the Republic of Argentina (UOLRA), a BWI affiliated organization, on COVID-19 and the brick industry.
According to Trade Union of Workers, a BWI-affiliated union in the Biobío region of Chile, 120 people from 25 migrant worker families, originally from Venezuela and Colombia who came to Chile to work in the timber industry, received bags of food, groceries and medicines.
250 young unionists attended and brought youthful energy to a webinar organised by BWI, together with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Education International (EI), The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), International Transport workers’ Federation (ITF), IndustriAll, Public Services International (PSI) and UNI on 6 July. Titled “COVID-19: Amplifying youth voices,” the webinar is the first in a series of webinars for young trade unionists.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson reports on the global union’s analysis of the triple crisis confronted by workers worldwide, the various initiatives undertaken by affiliates, the role of the working class amidst the pandemic and ways forward to a better future.
BWI launched its Declaration on COVID-19 dubbed as Building a Better Future: Organising for Resiliency in a time of Adversity. BWI also launched the General Secretary’s Report in a series of short videos discussing the global union’s analysis of the crisis, the role of workers amidst the pandemic and ways forward to a more progressive post-crisis world.
The Trade Union of Workers in Construction and Industry of Building Materials of Serbia (SRGIGMS), with the help of BWI’s COVID-19 Solidarity Initiative, provided workers employed at the brick factory Ltd. Sloga IGM in Novi Pazar, Serbia personal protective equipment (PPE) to help them ensure their good health and safety even as they continue their work during the pandemic.
The Turkish Cement, Pottery and Glass Workers’ Union (CIMSE-IS) got the commitment of several companies to implement high-level health and safety measures in their workplaces to protect workers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the help of BWI’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, the National Trade Union of Construction and Services of Guatemala (SINCS-G) was able to provide food and medical assistance to 50 of the most vulnerable working families under its care and supervision.
BWI affiliates in Malaysia’s wood processing and furniture sectors have provided humanitarian assistance to workers based in Kuala Lumpur (Peninsula Malaysia) and Sabah, as the country emerges from its lockdown dubbed by the government as “movement control order.”
The National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW) efforts to distribute food packs to stranded construction workers in Manila due to the COVID-19 pandemic has gained it new union members.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson urged labour-sending countries to prepare for a migrant crisis and ready social protection measures as millions of unemployed migrant workers are expected to return home to their countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BWI released its full COVID-19 Report covering the Pan-Europe region. The report gave a comprehensive situationer of the region, the challenges faced by trade unions and workers in general, different initiatives mounted by affiliates to respond and adapt to new realities, and strategic proposals, such as imagining a new economic model to fit the new normal world of work.
“A double pandemic.” This was how Brazilian trade unions described their current situation as they confront the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and President Jair Bolsonaro’s troubled governance.
The Trade Union of Workers in the Civil Construction of Porto Alegre (STICC-POA), a BWI affiliated organization in Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul State, has initiated a bipartite social dialogue process with State Governor Eduardo Leite to identify and define future joint actions and points of cooperation on the reopening of the construction sector amidst COVID-19.
The National Federation of Wood Industry Workers of Peru (FENATIMAP), an organization affiliated with the ICM, has reported the opening of a national training program for forest workers and technicians on the use of biosafety elements and attention protocols, as part of Peru’s preventive measures against COVID-19 in the wood sector.
The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) warned of massive worker dismissals using the pandemic as a convenient excuse after it received several complaints from both Bahraini and non-Bahraini workers that their companies plan to terminate them after the COVID-19 support period.
The BWI raised issues with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the advice the WHO issued for workplaces about COVID-19 that were prepared and issued without any inputs from trade unions on how to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace. The BWI urged WHO to rethink its advice on physical distancing in the workplace which undermines policies and regulations to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at work that have been agreed with trade unions in several countries.
BWI has released on Wednesday its full COVID-19 report on Asia Pacific covering the situation of the region’s different countries and the wide array of initiatives and interventions done by trade union affiliates.
The BWI in Latin America and the Caribbean, together with its trade union affiliates, the Union of Construction Workers (SUNTRACS) of Panama and the Construction Workers Union of the Republic of Argentina (UOCRA), pledged their support to promote decent work for people with disabilities (PWDs) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social dialogue, collective bargaining and tripartite agreements are some of the key union tactics that stood out on BWI’s latest “How are you?” COVID-19 webinar last 27 May participated by 40 trade unionists from 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Union of Construction, Carpentry and Craft Enterprises Workers in Rwanda (STECOMA) has maximsed different communication platforms and technologies to reach out to it members and continue its important trade union work despite the physical challenges imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown.
BWI and its affiliate, the Construction Workers Trade Union of São Paulo (Sintracon-SP), have reported that 57 construction workers have died in São Paulo, Brazil due to COVID-19. The tragic news came as the construction industry, classified as an essential activity by the government, continues to operate throughout the lockdown, with many worksites suffering from poor health and safety conditions.
Women are one of the hardest hit sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Burkina Faso, women stone crushers bear the brunt of the economic strain caused by the health crisis. Many workers in the construction sector, particularly women, are retrenched due to the termination of several construction projects in the country. The BWI-affiliated Building and Wood Workers’ Federation of Faso (FTBBF), which is organising the women stone crushers, said that many of them are informal workers, who are extremely vulnerable to the economic impact of COVID-19.
The South Asian leg of BWI’s series of online conversations on COVID-19 and the world of work on 27 May was warmly received, with nearly 200 trade unionists from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka joining the webinar. The online event was also attended by BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson, BWI Asia Pacific Vice Presidents Dave Noonan and R.C. Khuntia and BWI Regional Women’s Committee Member Smritee Lama.
As a result of its dialogue with Eiffage Senegal, a civil engineering company, the National Union of Construction Workers (SNTC/BTP) strengthened its initiatives to protect workers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
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 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.
Facing an “economic tsunami” that has 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.