Distinguished Mr. Mikhail Shmakov, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR),
Sisters, brothers, and friends from unions of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa,
To begin with, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to FNPR for their elaborate arrangements for this Forum. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is still sweeping the world. Thanks to the active coordination of FNPR, BRICS trade unions have held successful consultation on the Declaration of the Forum despite of the negative impact of the pandemic, which once again demonstrated the spirit of solidarity, cooperation and tiding over difficulties in a joint manner. Today, we are holding the 9th BRICS Trade Union Forum through the form of video conference, to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the labor market of BRICS countries and the role and tasks of trade unions, which is of great significance.
So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading over 210 countries and regions, affecting more than 7 billion people with millions of lives claimed. The IMF predicts that the global economy will contract by 5-8%. The World Bank points out that, due to the pandemic, globally about 71 million to 100 million people have fallen into absolute poverty, the employment of nearly 2 billion people has been affected to varying degrees. According to the latest statistics released by the ILO, the lost working hours in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2020 have reached 5.6%, 17.3% and 12.1% respectively, equivalent to 160 million full-time jobs, 495 million full-time jobs and 345 million full-time jobs respectively. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a grave challenge to the whole world and brings far-reaching impact on the global labor market. In the face of the pandemic, workers and unions of all countries should strengthen solidarity and join in hands in contributing to the prevention and control of the pandemic, to the relaunch of economic growth and the generation of jobs.
- China’s fight against the pandemic and the actions of Chinese trade unions
In the face of the new and unknown virus, China has been adhering to the leadership of the Party Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). General Secretary Xi Jinping has personally made deployments, leading to great and strategic outcomes in the war against the pandemic. The whole nation has forged the great spirit of putting people's lives first, nationwide solidarity, sacrifice, respecting science and a sense of mission for humanity. China has been highly responsible for people’s life, health and the global public health undertakings. China has at the initial stage reported to WHO on the developments, shared information with relevant countries and regions, taken the most strict measures for prevention and control, cut off the transmission channels within the shortest time possible, and has been the first country to keep the pandemic well under control and to resume work and production in a comprehensive way. The Chinese government has been closely monitoring the impact of the pandemic on economic operation, introduced supportive and incentive policies in a timely and decisive manner, strengthened policies to stabilize employment, implemented support plans for enterprises to stabilize and increase jobs; fully tapped the potential of new business models in generating jobs in the context of pandemic, and supported flexible employment; increased financial support, introduced phased and targeted policies to reduce taxes and administrative fees, and extended implementing period based on actual needs; provided well-targeted support to alleviate poverty given increasing risks of difficulties in employment, in income rise and in falling back to poverty faced by poverty regions triggered by the pandemic; intensify efforts in social security, public health and providing basic assistance; for the confirmed and suspected COVID-19 Chinese patients covered by basic medical insurance scheme, the part of medical bills to be borne by individuals will be subsidized by government finance. The latest statistics as of 19th October shows that, China’s GDP has dropped by 6.8% in the 1st quarter year-on-year, increased by 3.2% in the 2nd quarter year-on-year, while in the 3rd quarter, the growth rate has reached 4.9%. China’s economy has already taken on the momentum of stable recovery and growth. A new development pattern with the domestic cycle as the focus, while international and domestic cycles mutually reinforcing is in the making.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Chinese unions have strengthened surveys and investigations on the impact of the pandemic, conducted analysis and research, reached out in a timely manner to workers for new developments and concerns, and provided more detailed and concrete services to protect workers’ rights. Firstly, stabilizing employment. Employment is fundamental and of utmost importance to people’s livelihood. China’s President Xi Jinping has pointed out that utmost efforts must be made to secure and improve people’s livelihood particularly in times of pandemic, with special focus on employment and the prevention of large-scale retrenchment. All-China Federation of Trade Unions, working together with the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security, China Enterprises’ Confederation and All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, has issued a document to stabilize labor relations and support business recovery. The document has identified 11 concrete measures, covering employment, wage and welfare, reduction of business burden, guidance and services, to facilitate business recovery across the industry chain; to strengthen communication with enterprises for better knowledge on business demand on labor force, to set up online platforms for job matching, to collaborate with relevant authorities to open ad hoc buses, trains and planes, in a bid to organize workers, rural migrant workers in particular, to return to office; to intensify training on the basics on virus prevention, provide workers with essential medical toolkits so as to safeguard workers’ life security and health. Secondly, responding timely to workers’ concerns, resolving labor disputes for stable and harmonious labor relations. A document has been compiled consolidating relevant national regulations on issues relating to labor relations in the context of pandemic, guiding businesses and workers to properly handle issues concerning labor remuneration, working time, rest and holidays through collective consultation. Enterprises are encouraged to develop internal labor disputes settlement mechanisms to resolve disputes in a timely manner. Local unions have been sending out requests to businesses for collective consultation, so as to guide workers and enterprises to work together against the difficult time. Thirdly, fully tap the role of unions in organizing workers to contributing to the war against the pandemic. We have organized key industries, locomotive enterprises, and core enterprises within their industry chains to operate for the sustainable provision of goods and materials, and to continuously increase the investment for the prevention and control of the pandemic. As of July, the funds from both ACFTU headquarters and provincial level unions totaled 2.492 billion RMB yuan, of which 105 million RMB yuan went to the most hard-hit Hubei province. 6.18 billion RMB yuan was raised by unions at all levels to provide assistance for 5.51 million frontline medical workers. Nationwide, 35 local union resorts have provided accommodations for the medical workers assigned to Hubei province. 310,000 full-time and part-time union cadres from all level of unions in Hubei province have worked in the forefront. The Henan Provincial union has organized 20,000 volunteer teams and over 700,000 volunteer workers for the prevention and control of the pandemic. To minimize the hard blow of the pandemic on workers, we have also carried out online skill training, organized model workers and experts to have online lectures; provided targeted assistance to difficult workers, especially to the workers who have been severely affected by the pandemic.
Dear friends, Sisters and brothers,
From 26th to 29th October, the fifth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing. The most import outcome of the session is the adoption of the CPC’s proposals for formulating the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. The document has focused China’s major social priorities; put forward an array of strategic and innovative initiatives, formulated China’s economic and social development plans in the next 5-15 years. The document has, for the first time, identified as the vision notable and sustentative progress for shared prosperity of the people, and it has made strategic deployment to foster a new development pattern where domestic and foreign markets can boost each other, with the domestic market as the mainstay. The strategic and innovative initiatives respond to people’s concerns and expectations. A number of measures have been put forward to enhance people’s livelihood and living standards. On employment, efforts will be intensified to prioritize employment, increase employment capacity, develop supportive systems for key groups for full and quality employment; on income, measures will be taken to increase income level, raise incomes for rural and urban residents through multiple channels, and to ensure income increase in sync with economic growth. The Session has pointed out that a high-level opening up will be promoted for win-win cooperation. This is a meeting of great significance, and the effective implementation of relevant decisions and deployments is a major task for the CPC and the whole society.
- Future Initiatives
Dear friends, Sisters and brothers,
The pandemic is still spreading across the world. We are all faced with the daunting tasks of fighting against pandemic, stabilizing employment and ensuring people’s livelihood. The Forum is themed on “Impact of the pandemic on the labour market, the role and tasks of trade unions”, which I think is more than timely and essential. I have listened attentively to the interventions of union delegates from Brazil, Russia and India, and later will be followed by union delegate from South Africa. One can only know the difficulties involved after he/she goes through the challenges. I fully understand the challenges that you’ve shared in the labor markets and the difficulties facing workers and unions in BRICS countries; and I pay tribute to your unions’ efforts in facing difficulties head on and protecting workers’ rights. The biggest lesson the pandemic has brought to us is that, countries are never as interdependent and intertwined as today. We all live in the same earth Village and we form the community of the shared future. In this connection, I would like to put forward two suggestions:
1. Mobilizing and organizing workers to fight against the pandemic through the tripartite mechanism, so as to promote economic and social development and protect workers’ rights. The ILO has identified four key pillars against the COVID-19 pandemic based on relevant international labor standards, which I think are instrumental for countries in formulating policy measures against the pandemic. Efforts must be made to tap the role of the tripartite consultation mechanisms, take stabilizing employment, securing people’s livelihood and poverty elimination as the top priorities, introduce timely employment and financial policies to secure people’s basic living standards and economic and social development goals; to strengthen communication with enterprises for better knowledge on business demand on labor force, set up online platforms for job matching, urge enterprises to share their responsibilities in pandemic prevention and control; to develop labor disputes settlement mechanisms and maintain stable and harmonious labor relations; to mobilize various social resources, capitalize on digital technology and online platforms, develop more remote skill training courses and online job services and explore new channels for rights protection
2. Promoting win-win cooperation and multilateralism for social equity and justice. The pandemic is on the rage, yet regrettably, certain political virus is also spreading. Some countries have “double standards” on democracy and human rights issues, severely offsetting the international community’s efforts against the pandemic, also imposing unprecedented challenges to the global governance system and multilateralism. President Xi Jinping points out that, to advocate and practice multilateralism, we should aim at safeguarding world peace and promoting share development, with the purpose of achieving equity, justice and win-win cooperation, on the basis of international law and the established baselines for international relations, which should be the direction of multilateral development. BRICS Trade Union Forum should represent the workers in newly-emerging countries and developing countries, and further enhance their influence and say in international affairs, so that the BRICS Trade Union Forum will have more friends and wider networks, and forge the Forum into a platform for solidarity and cooperation among labor community in newly-emerging and developing countries, and play its due role in building a community of shared future.
I would also like to briefly clarify that, some countries and organizations try to make up so-call “Forced labor” lies in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region through forging fake facts and imagination. Yet the fact is, the workers of all ethnic groups in the regions, have enjoyed rights enshrined in and been protected by the Labor Law and Labor Contract Law in China. There is no so-call “Forced labor” issue at all. Unions urge such organizations to stop making up issues as such.
Mr. President, sisters and brothers,
During the most difficult time in China’s fight against the pandemic, we’ve received messages from many unions including BRICS unions, expressing your care and concern for the Chinese people and unions, as well as your deep condolences to the lost lives and your appreciation on Chinese government’s efforts against the pandemic. Your understanding and support rendered to us are so precious that the Chinese unions and workers will never forget. Solidarity and cooperation is the only way out to win this war and return to the recovery track. The Chinese unions will actively contribute to the development of BRICS union forum mechanism, create more opportunities for unions in newly-emerging and developing countries to engage in global governance through “BRICS +” cooperation, rise up to our responsibilities, and work together for the new chapter of BRICS cooperation and South-South cooperation.