Trade unions’ role in addressing HIV/AIDS and occupational safety and health

The seminar on “HIV/AIDS and OSH management system: trade unions role and objectives” took place in Moscow on April 5-6. It was organized by the Pan-European Regional Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-PERC) and the ILO Decent Work Team and Country Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

It brought together national trade union leaders, labour inspectors and occupational safety specialists from the New Independent States (NIS) as well as international experts.

“The epidemic that is affecting people of the most employable age and that has already affected dozens of millions of people all over the world, including our region, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, cannot be a purely medical problem. This is the problem of the whole society and it should be resolved through active involvement of public organizations, including trade unions,” Mikhail Shmakov, the Chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia and the ITUC-PERC President, said in his opening remarks.

“Taking this fact into account the International Trade Union Confederation sets as priority its participation in the anti-AIDS campaign at all levels – global, national and regional as well as at the level of industrial unions, shop-floor union organizations and in the workplace. This seminar is the follow-up of our joint and comprehensive efforts to counteract the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our region,” he said.

Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities of the ILO DWT and Country Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Sergejus Glovackas also made his remarks in his opening address to participants in the seminar.

ITUC-PERC Policy Advisor Olga Nicolae noted in her presentation on the trade union global plan of action on HIV/AIDS and the world of work that in June 2011 the United Nations General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting to review action taken by governments since the adoption of UN GA 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. The meeting will adopt a new Declaration on HIV/AIDS.

She underlined that “trade unions should push for a strong accountability framework in the new UN GA Declaration and should push for their governments to support that the new Declaration recognizes workplace as an area for action on HIV (e.g. supporting trade unions’ fight against the HIV-related discrimination).”

Focal Point for HIV/AIDS and the world of work for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the ILO DWT Elena Kudriavtseva briefed on the ILO approach to HIV/AIDS and the world of work and on Recommendation No.200 – the first international labour standard on HIV and AIDS that includes the workplace and engages world of work stakeholders as essential to the HIV response.

Senior Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Wiking Husberg told about a systematic and preventive approach to OSH and Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187). He devoted special attention to the role of trade unions in developing occupational safety and health management systems on a national and enterprise level.

After two-day discussions participants in the seminar started their teamwork to take trade unions’ common stand on HIV/AIDS and the world of work and OSH at the national and sectoral levels and in the workplace.

The seminar concluded with a number of recommendations. In particular, participants proposed to create a regional trade union coordination council on HIV/AIDS in the workplace and engage in the development and implementation of national programmes on HIV/AIDS and the world of work. They also called for using opportunities of tripartite and collective agreements to implement the requirements of Recommendation No.200 and opportunities of trade unions’ training centres to hold trainings on HIV/AIDS and occupational safety and health.

They called for strengthening trade unions’ role in protecting the rights of HIV-affected workers against discrimination on the basis of real or perceived HIV status in compliance with Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No.111) and Termination of Employment Convention, 1982 (No.158). They also recommended to create a regional Russian-language website to provide an up-to-date and updated information on prevention of HIV/AIDS and the world of work that will allow to conduct the distance training and to exchange opinions and experience.

Representatives of national trade union centres called for taking necessary efforts to ratify and implement the ILO Conventions on occupational safety and health, setting up a tripartite OSH council, building a social dialogue at enterprises and taking effective measures to introduce ILO-OSH 2001 Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (GOST 12.0.230-2007).

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