Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday called upon the countries to retain the jobs of migrant workers during this time of pandemic as she made three-point proposals at an ILO meet to purge of the crisis.
“Firstly: Jobs of migrant workers at the overseas markets must be retained during this crisis,” she said.
“Secondly: In case of lay-off, compensation and other dismissal benefits must be paid in full along with ensuring their safety and health benefits; and thirdly: After the pandemic, these workers would have to be recruited for reactivating the economy”.
The Prime Minister was addressing the largest ever online gathering of workers, employers and governments to discuss how to better rebuild economies in the post-pandemic recovery.
The UN labour agency, ILO, organised the event styled ‘Global Leaders’ Day” from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Migrant workers are suffering due to pandemic lockdown as they lost their jobs in many countries. Bangladesh is also feeling the pinch of the crisis as remittance is one of the mainstays of the country’s economy.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen wrote letters to his counterparts in many countries particularly in the biggest markets of the Middle-East, asking them to help Bangladeshi workers. Many workers have already returned.
The government also launched an international Covid19 management and recovery fund so that migrant workers can stay in those host countries during this crisis period.
The prime minister mentioned the huge loss of jobs of Bangladeshi migrant workers and the resulting shortfall in remittance and said it is “a great concern for us as remittance is a key component to achieve the SDGs”.
“Currently, repatriation of these jobless migrant workers has proved to be a huge challenge. The World Bank predicted that we will lose more than 20% of our earnings from remittance,” she said.
“Under these circumstances, we may remember the Centenary Declaration of ILO where all of us recognized how to transform our world through technological innovation, demographic shifts, climate change and globalization,” she added.
She also called for a “vigorous worldwide response” with the participation of all countries to combat the adverse impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the migrants.
“The virus does not discriminate but its adverse impacts severely discriminate against the vulnerable, especially the migrants and women workers,” she said.
“I must say that a vigorous, well-coordinated and world-wide response with the participation of all countries, international organizations, civil society organizations and private sector is needed now.”
In her six-minute video address, she also documented how the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector was hardest hit, losing billions of dollars of export orders and how millions of workers, across many industries, lost their jobs.
“When the crisis began to unfold, we immediately announced a US$12.1 billion stimulus package for various sectors of our economy, as well as support to different segments of our society,” she said.
She also outlined a number of emergency stimulus and social protection measures initiated by her government.
“We have given about 1 billion dollars for paying the wages of RMG workers and provided cash and other incentives to over 50 million people who lost their daily income during this pandemic.”
She said the LDCs and developing countries are facing the main burden although the crisis did not start with them.
She said Bangladesh’s small industries lost most of its resources and markets, and above all, its agriculture suffered huge loss due to supply chain disruption.
“On the back of it, we are hosting 1.1 million forcibly evicted Rohingyas from Myanmar,” she said.
The premier said her government hiked wages of the garments workers by almost 500 percent and also workers of other sectors by on an average 360 percent since it assumed office in 2009.
“We provided cash and other incentives directly to more than 50 million people who lost their daily income during this pandemic,” she said.
She ended her address by urging global leaders, international financial institutions, the UN and civil society to converge around the ‘ILO’s Centenary Declaration’ and collectively build a better world.
“The promise of decent jobs for all seems hard to realise individually, but I am convinced that together, we can do it,” she said.
She thanked the ILO for hosting the Global Summit and for all its support during the pandemic which she described as a “full-fledged global economic and social crisis”.
Leaders from over 80 nations, as well as UN Secretary-General António Guterres and chiefs of other UN and international agencies also addressed the summit via video messages.
ILO Director General Guy Ryder inaugurated the event, while UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres, World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, heads of state and government of different countries including Switzerland, South Korea, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Ireland, Fiji, Thailand, Nepal, Samoa, Pakistan, Myanmar and the DG of WTO and managing director of IMF also joined the event, among others.
Tuomo Poutiainen, the ILO Country Director for Bangladesh, expressed his appreciation for the way in which the government, employers and workers’ organizations have worked together to tackle the safe return to work, unemployment and business challenges brought on by COVID-19.
“While addressing the numerous challenges we all face today, it is important that we continue working together for the future in developing robust social protection schemes and investing in skilling and jobs programmes for youth, women and others in vulnerable situations,” Poutiainen said.
The ILO said the Global Summit examined a range of issues, including: How to promote full and productive employment in this new environment. What needs to be done to address the massive vulnerabilities in the world of work made evident by the pandemic. Which workers require particular support and attention. How to position the reduction and elimination of poverty as central objectives of the recovery process. How the international community can come together with real common purpose and rededicate itself to the delivery of the UN’s 2030 Agenda.
On Thursday, labour ministers, workers’ and employers’ leaders from ILO member States will reflect on the previous days’ events and discuss the implementation of the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work in the context of the pandemic.
Begum Monnujan Sufian, State Minister of Labour and Employment, will address the audience on behalf of Bangladesh.