A group of UN human rights experts have called on governments “to ensure preventative and precautionary measures are in place to protect every worker” as restrictions are eased and work resumes.
“Every worker is essential”, they declare in a statement published on May 18, “no matter what category is applied to them by States or businesses. Every worker has the right to be protected from exposure to hazards in the workplace, including the coronavirus.”
The experts express their concern that many “frontline workers.. have not been given adequate protection during peak periods of contagion in various countries and economic sectors”, and at “the disproportionate risk presented to workers that are low-income, minorities, migrants, older persons and those with pre-existing health conditions, women, as well as the informal sector and those in the ‘gig’ economy.”
“Forcing vulnerable workers with little choice but to endure conditions that put them at risk”, they continue, “including by dismantling previously established labour rights, can constitute a form of forced labour, according to the ILO, and they urge governments and employers “to work with labour unions and other worker representatives to help ensure necessary safeguards are in place.”
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