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ITUC advocates paid sick leave to curtail spread of COVID-19 

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja 
19 March 2020   |   3:15 am
With some 90,000 people in dozens of countries currently infected by the COVID 19 virus, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for urgent measures to ensure that workers

ILO cancels governing board meeting over the virus

With some 90,000 people in dozens of countries currently infected by the COVID 19 virus, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for urgent measures to ensure that workers who show symptoms can take sick leave without fear of losing their jobs or their incomes, and receive free health care. 
ITUC observed that with the WHO warning of “very high risk of global spread and impact” of the disease, workplaces are frontlines in combatting its proliferation.

ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow said: “The WHO is warning of the very high risk of global spread and impact of the virus, and workplaces are at the centre of containment and mitigation efforts. Many millions of people around the world have no right to take sick leave or face financial ruin if they have to go into isolation. That exposes them, their colleagues and the public to the risk of serious disease and can only accelerate its spread. Along with all the other urgent measures required, governments need to ensure that employers provide time off without penalty for people who have symptoms, and to fill the gaps in social protection that make it difficult for people to stop work when they are sick. Never has the need for paid sick leave been more evident,” 
While the infection risk is highest for health workers, especially where protective equipment and facilities are lacking or sub-standard, other sectors in particular where large numbers of people gather or are in transit can also be major vectors for transmission.
Burrow added: “COVID 19 is becoming a global crisis, and governments need to respond accordingly, including by bolstering health systems which in many countries have been under-funded for years. With the OECD warning that global economic growth could be halved, the secondary consequences of the spread of the virus are likely to be very serious. Global, multilateral cooperation is essential to combatting the spread of the virus, and to dealing with the consequences.

It is good that the G7 countries have announced they will take concerted action, and the G20 and other multilateral fora should do so as well.” 

In the meantime, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has cancelled its governing body meeting scheduled for next month due to the ravaging Covid-19
The decision follows a risk assessment and consultations with the Swiss authorities. It means that Governing Body business will be dealt with later in the year.    
The meeting, which was originally scheduled for 12-26 March, will not take place in light of the decisions taken by the Swiss authorities to counter the spread of COVID-19. 
This follows a risk assessment by the ILO and consultations with the relevant cantonal authorities in accordance with the directive issued by the Swiss Federal Council on 28 February. 

The risk assessment took into account the fact that about 500 people from over 70 countries participate in the Governing Body. 
The Swiss Federal Council has banned any public or private event of more than 1,000 people until 15 March. It also requested organizers of events of less than 1,000 people, which includes the ILO GB meeting; to carry out a risk assessment to determine whether planned events should go ahead.  

Governing Body business will be dealt with at its next sessions in May, June and November this year.  
The ILO will continue to follow the guidance and advice of the World Health Organization and the Swiss authorities. 
The Governing Body of the International Labour Office is the executive body of the ILO. 
It comprises governments, workers and employers, and takes decisions on ILO policy, decides the agenda of the International Labour Conference, adopts the draft programme and budget of the organization and elects the Director-General.