BWI submits to ILO 300+ joint union-employer declarations supporting OHS as a right

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) submitted to the International Labour Conference more than 300 joint trade union-employer declarations supporting the recognition of occupational health and safety (OHS) as a fundamental right. 

The declarations, which were initiated by 102 BWI affiliates in 74 countries and covered an estimated 18 million workers in 480,000 workplaces and 310,000 employers, was submitted to the ILO on the occasion of its International Labour Conference (ILC) this June.  

In a letter addressed to ILO Director General Guy Ryder, BWI said that the declarations are overwhelming evidence that workers and employers in the building and construction and wood and forestry sectors are ready to embrace occupational health and safety as a fundamental right. 

“This would fulfil Section II of the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work adopted by the Conference at the 108th session in Geneva on 21 June 2019 that declares 'Safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work’,” BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said. 

BWI said that through the declarations, trade unions and employers acknowledged that health and safety have become more elemental for both workers and employers since the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1998. It said that while health and safety is not in the ILC’s agenda for this year, it nonetheless submitted the declarations saying that it is on top of the workers’ agenda and essential in the global effort against COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with unprecedented challenges on how to keep up productivity while staying safe. Trade unions have seen first-hand that “COVID-safe” workplaces are those that take health and safety seriously, but most workers do not have access to “COVID-safe” conditions at work and this poses a significant risk to quashing the pandemic and restoring social and economic wellbeing everywhere,” Yuson said.  

BWI invited more local and national unions, national centres and global unions to join the campaign and secure more signed declarations leading to the ILC 2022 where it said that victory will be achieved in the global effort to declare OHS as a right. 

The declarations are part of the Global Alliance for Healthy and Safe Workplaces Campaign led by BWI in tandem with the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) launched a month before this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day. 

EFBWW is credited for signing the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries (CEI-Bois), the European Furniture Industries Confederation (EFIC), and the European Panel Federation (EPF). 

The declarations also represent 15 employers’ associations in the construction, building materials, wood and forestry sectors, such as those based in Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine and Russia. 

10 multinational companies (MNCs), which have international framework agreements (IFAs) with BWI, also added their names to the documents, including ENGIE and Stora Enzo, which signed with the help of IndustriALL, UNI and PSI. 

View the complete list of signatories here.