BWI: Organise for decent work!

Decent work has become universally accepted as an objective of human and labour rights. It is included in major human rights declaration and is a sustainable development goal in the UN’s 2030 Agenda defined as employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue. However, the impacts of COVID-19 on employment has been a major set back for decent work. Massive layoffs have put pressure on formal and informal sectors in most economies, exerting downward pressure on wages and working conditions and increasing union bashing and victimization of trade unionists. 

Even before COVID-19, the decent work agenda has been under severe strain. Many countries are not able to create enough jobs to absorb those entering the labour market, resulting in growing unemployment, particularly of young workers. This has resulted in underemployment and diminished calls for living wages, job security and social protection. Casualization has increasingly become the norm, eroding hard-won gains of unionised workers in formal employment which were dwindling in numbers each year. BWI has proof of this in the building and construction, and wood and forestry sectors.   

Our mandate as trade unions is to achieve decent work to meet the aspirations of workers, yet this is threatened by constant change, instability and uncertainty of the future. Our response can only be achieved through the maintenance of this mandate through continuous organising. To strengthen organising capacity and wage effective organising campaigns, BWI launched the Global Organising Academy (GOA) creating Regional Organising Teams and developing the leadership of young trade unionists through a “successor generation” programme. 

It is important for organisers and worker leaders to be able to articulate the broad transformation process needed for recovery from the crises brought upon by the pandemic, rising authoritarian rule in many countries, continuing violations on labour and human rights, corporate greed and environmental destruction. Those that are taking part in GOA in 2021 are mostly from the ranks of young trade unionists and include women. They prove that if given the opportunity, they can take leading roles in various trade union engagements that are forward-looking and proactive. To this end, BWI is committed to the development of young organisers and trade unionists by deepening their political awareness, enhancing skills and activating mobilisation through a structured political education program, so that they can be guided by the vision of decent work determined by workers that we strive for.       


The pandemic has brought new perspectives to the decent work agenda and it is widely acknowledged that there is a need for long-term policy responses to stimulate economic recovery that creates jobs and provides for those that have been most vulnerable to the effects of the crisis. Through the concerted effort and determination of trade unions, workers can fight for this and there is no time to waste. To build our vision of a just and sustainable future, trade unions must flourish and for decent work to be a reality, we must be organised.