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Covid19 crisis: Mapping out trade union and social partners’ responses

25 May 2020

Last updated : 25 May 2020

With the health crisis caused by the epidemic spread of Covid 19 and the subsequent confinement measures taken, the economic and labour market implications are severe. Social partners and trade unions in OECD countries are issuing responses, agreements and calls for action. Below is a snapshot of these initiatives from 25 countries. It is updated on regular basis, and broaden to other OECD and non-OECD countries to provide best practice sharing in these critical times. Actions at the sector level are also featured – also via international trade union resource pages.

The mapping features updates from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US.

International trade union resources

Australia

  • Upon the government announcing a wage subsidy program, the ACTU in a first reaction welcomed the decision as it would cover all businesses and most workers. The ACTU had urged the government to deploy such programme weeks prior.The union cautions that amount might not be enough. They also want to ensure that the 1.4million visa workers as well as casual workers are covered no matter whether they have worked for the last 12 months. In a list of additional demands, the ACTU urges to ensure cash flow to workers (no significant delays in payments), a re-employment guarantee,  and safeguards to ensure people are kept in employment. (March 30)
  • The ACTU is calling on the government to introduce a two weeks paid leave for all workers impacted by Covid-19. There are currently over 3 million workers who do not have access to any paid leave, creating a significant health and safety risk as casual workers cannot easily leave their work. The ACTU has launched a petition to this end. In addition, the ACTU Centre for Health and Safety has launched the Covid-19 resource page. This page will be regularly updated to provide unions, HSRs and workers information on how they can protect their workplaces from Covid-19. (March 18)

Austria

  • Youth unemployment. Due to the crisis, youth unemployment is predicted to almost double from 44,000 at present to 80,000 people! Young people are dismissed faster and find harder a new job afterwards. In addition, there is predicted a shortage of 7,500 apprenticeships in September. The Union Youth (ÖGJ) warns of a “Generation Corona” and therefore demands a package of measures against the imminent catastrophe in the vocational trainings.
  • More than 130,000 people have already signed the ÖGB petition for a “thousand Euro Corona”.  This thousand Euro bonus is to be given to all those who have to leave their homes during the Corona crisis in order to work and who are or were exposed to an increased risk of infection. This is to be tax-free as part of the federal government’s corona aid package.
  • Retail employees: plexiglas panel is enough protection. If retail employees are separated from the customers, for example by plexiglas panels attached to the cash registers, they do not have to wear any additional mouth and nose protection or face protection (visor). This has been clarified by the labour inspectorate following a request from the union GPA-djp. (May 11)
  • Unions and the chamber of labour have set up a website (http://jobundcorona.at ) and a hotline advising on the new short time agreement but also (un)employment, childcare, cancelling flights etc. (March 16) The hotline currently receives around 500 calls a day. The number one issue continues to be short-time work. The website still records around 50,000 visits a week. A current analysis shows that the website is recommended on at least 65 websites of ministries, authorities, the media, etc.. The hotline will continue to run at least until mid-May. (May 6)
  • The ÖGB is calling for a bonus of 1000 euros, for every essential worker who is doing work that is necessary and important during the corona-crisis. Regarding the uptake of short-time employment allowances, the ÖGB reports that many companies have hastily layed off their employees who now only receive around half of their previous net income. The ÖGB considers a 55 percent net replacement rate as too little and a poverty risk. They suggest to increase the unemployment benefit to at least 70 percent of the last net income. Finally, the union also calls for exemptions for pregnant workers to be able to take maternity leave earlier – especially when it concerns health and other essential workers. (April 21)
  • AK and ÖGB jointly welcomed the governments fund worth 4 billion euro covering diverse purposes, from short-time work and entrepreneurial help to the purchase of instruments for the health sector. Initially, the social partners called for said measure (source). The proposal includes the following distribution of net replacement rates:
    • 80% net replacement rate if the gross wage before short-time work is over 2,685 euros,
    • 85% with monthly gross wages between 1,700 euros and 2,685 euros,
    • 90% with a gross salary of up to 1,700 euros. (March 12)
  • The GPA union called on for limiting the working time of the 160,000 frontline employees in the food retail sector to opening hours to 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. This would still guarantee food security.

Belgium

  • Most Covid-19 measures thus far have been negotiated on a bipartite between social partners or on a tripartite basis with the government. Measures include temporary unemployment schemes due to ‘force majeur’ or economic reasons. Both were set at 65% of the capped average remuneration (capped at EUR 2,754.76 per month). Until June 30, 2020, however, the amount of temporary unemployment benefit is increased to 70% of the average earnings. Support for self-employed workers involves largerly reductions or waivers of social protection contributions. For dependant self-employed (and on a case-by-case basis), income support is foreseen at 1.614,10 euros per month. Trade unions continue negotiating and claiming measures to maximize protection for workers, especially for those who must go to work and cannot telework, and further measures to minimize job and revenue losses. (March 23)
  • An Economic Risk Management Group has been launched composed of federal and regional governments, social partners and public institutions (the national bank and Federal Plan Office). (March 19)
  • Social partners have issued a couple of joint statements. On March 17, they supported government confinement measures and agreed to work together towards fending off social and economic impacts – also via the ‘Conseil national du travail (CNT)’, at company level and the public social security bodies that they are members of (source). On 10 March, they called for daily monitoring of the situation by assuming joint responsibilities to keep the economy running, while ensuring workers’ health and safety. An earlier joint statement was made on 6 March calling on to include social partner in discussions, to find solutions towards economic stability and protecting jobs, to spread information to avoid higher health risks, and to endorse consultations at company level. (March 18)
  • The FGTB called for additional measures to protect workers and their wages amidst the crisis. The union recommends to encourage as much mobile work as possible, while ensuring the safety at work that is deemed essential with additional support given to these sectors (health, transport, energy, etc.). In regard to wage and temporary unemployment coverage, it calls on to extend benefits from 70% to the actual wage (and indicates financing measures to do so); to expand access to temporary unemployment benefits to all workers; and to take measure to protect pregnant women (and their leave) amongst other. (March 18)
  • The CSC issued demands to the government to protect workers in temporary unemployment and increase their benefits regardless of their employment status, e.g. for temporary workers. In that regard, the proposals go beyond the government commitment to increase benefits from 65% to 70% of the average capped salary until June 30, 2020. The CSC calls on for wages to be maintained if a worker is asked to stay at home by his/ her employer. (March 16)

Canada

  • The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) set up an information portal including all of their statements related to the crisis. Upon the federal government response on March 18, the CLC welcomed the measures. Prior to that, Canada’s unions have called for direct income supports for those not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), like the Emergency Support Benefit and Emergency Care Benefit – which is part of the package. Yet, the CLC deemed the quantum as too modest. Direct income support amounted to roughly 1% of GDP (3% with the tax measures included). The CLC cautioned of the need to provide income support to more workers going forward. It is assumed that measures have to scale up its initial efforts in the weeks ahead. A large portion of the measures announced to date have been aimed at providing emergency liquidity to banks and financial institutions and restoring confidence in capital markets. Clarification on the administration of the measures is further needed. The leave needs related to school and workplace closures also remain unadressed with a patchwork of diverse measures taken at province level. (March 24)
  • In a call to protect the rights of marginalized workers and refugees as part of its COVID-19 response, the CLC reiterates the call for immediate government action to ensure: healthcare for all, including those without status (e.g. refugees); comprehensive worker protections, including paid emergency leave; a stop on detentions and deportations; increased funding for community supports, including food banks; and emergency shelters. (March 24)

Denmark

  • Denmark is one of the first countries to relax its lock-down measures. The de-confinement however does not mean the end to the tripartite agreement or other agreed aid measures to businesses and workers. They were extended and some new measures were added to increase spending by about 100 billion kroner ($15 billion). The government agreed to keep aid measures available until July 8, a month longer than previously planned. Notwithstanding the FH warned that health and safety provisions at workplaces might not be in place. Especially, labour inspectorates have been inactive during the lock-down and would now need to step up their efforts. The union presents 7 recommendations: (1) further re-open the Labor Inspectorate to focus on containing contagion; (2) punish companies that deliberately violate the authorities’ provisions and thus contribute to increasing the infection; (3) prioritize complaints and inquiries about companies that do not comply; (4) provide clear guidelines for preventing the spread of infections in the workplace – including the use of protective equipment;  (5) The Danish Working Environment Authority sets up a task force with the participation of the Working Environment Council. The task force must ensure clear guidelines and coordinated communication. (6) the use of the force-majeure provision on rest time and day off is withdrawn as the corona situation seems to be under control, and thus no longer justifies that the rules can be waived. (7) foreign workers here and now must be placed in a 14-day quarantine – with the goal to secure the same working conditions for them. (April 20)
  • The Danish Trade Union Confederation (FH) has published an overview of all Covid-19 measures in English taken including the ones mentioned below. Meanwhile, the tripartite agreement has been adjusted: the compensation by the government has been increased from 23.000 DKK and 26.000 DKK to 30.000 DKK (roughly 4,000 Euros). The obligations and requirements remain the same. (March 27)
  • A national level tri-partite agreement is set to to mitigate imminent financial and labour market consequences. The government pledged to cover 75 percent of a full-time employee’s monthly salary, up to a limit of 23,000 DKK (3,100 Euros) per month, with the remaining 25 percent paid by the company, when employees are in risk of being laid off. For short-term/ temporary workers, the government offers to cover up to 90 percent of the salary, up to a limit of 26,000 DKK (3,500 Euros) per month. So far, the agreement covers private businesses that otherwise would have to lay off at least 30 percent or more than 50 employees. The new wage compensation scheme will be valid until June 9 2020 with effect from March 9 2020. (March 15)
  • The compensation for self-employed was addressed as part of new government measures that were welcomed by unions as this was not covered by the tripartite agreement. The new measures will offer compensation to self-employed who loses 30 percent or more of their turnover. The government will offer a 75 percent compensation with a max of 3,100 Euros per month (extended to 4,660 euros if the spouse is co-worker). (March 18)
  • An agreement in the hospitality sector has been now complimented by a commitment of the government to cover up till 90 percent of employees salary in the hotel- and restaurant sector for workers who are laid off (March 17).

Estonia

  • The main tripartite agreement were the support measures worked out under the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. Also, Estonian workers are comparatively well protected under the Employment Contract Act. Amongst other, it allows employers to reduce wage or working time for 3 months due to economic reasons – yet sets the limit of pay reductions to the statutory minimum wage. Since the state of emergency declared by the Government on March 12, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (tripartite governance) worked out measures to help employees and employers hit by the situation. A temporary subsidy (introduced on March 19) complements the regulation under the Employment Contracts Act. The amount of the subsidy is 70% of the average monthly wage of the employee. The maximum amount of the subsidy is €1000 per employee per month. The employer must pay a wage of at least €150 to the employee. The rest is paid by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (social security tax, unemployment insurance tax and mandatory funded pension, and income tax). It is important to note that conditionality is attached in compliance with at least two of the following terms:
    • the employer must have suffered at least 30% decline in turnover or revenue for the month it applies for the subsidy as compared to the same month last year;
    • the employer is not able to provide work for at least 30% of it’s employees;
    • the employer has cut the wages of at least 30% of it’s employees by at least 30% or down to the minimum wage. (April 30)
  • All trade unions had and some still are in negotiations with employers/employers organizatsions about possible response measures. There are some changes (usually temporary) in collective agreements – (reduction of wages or/and working time in order to receive state support, postponing the entry into force of the terms of collective agreements (bus sector wage agreement). (April 30)

Finland

  • The Finnish social partners agreed on joint demands on May 12 including:
    • The extension of changes to labour legislation and unemployment benefits until 31 December 2020
    • suspension of the maximum payment period and calculation for unemployment daily allowance on the basis of layoffs until 31 December 2020
    • support the liquidity of the Employment Fund
    • reimbursements of Coronavirus tests in occupational health care via tripartite funding (50/50)
    • introduce a system of central government transfers to local government who see 2bn high losses in their budget already. (May 12)
  • The number of redundancies is slightly increasing according to new estimates from SAK. The number of employees subject to co-operation negotiations decreased: 107,078 people in March and 37,836 people in April. Despite the decline, the number is more than five times higher than in April 2019 (7,516). This numbers approach the record figure of 2009: co-operation negotiations concerned about 199,000 employees during the entire year. (May 13)
  • The Finnish social partners issued proposals for training and competence measures to respond to the crisis and to accompany most affected workers. The five proposals center around (1) separate additional funding for e-learning; (2) increase short-term training offers to support sectors with labour shortages and the temporary unemployed; (3) develop digital skills; (4) find ways to enable and recognise work-based learning; and (5) increase short online qualification trainings (for example, an occupational safety card, hygiene passport, security guard card or fire work card). (April 30)
  • Currently the union confederations are represented in government working groups, the original Corona response group and the government high level group that was appointed on the 8th of April. Union are discussing the follow up of ongoing measures and when and if they will be prolonged. In the meantime, over 420 000 persons are in ‘collaboration negotiations’, ie at risk of being made redundant or being temporarily laid-off, and this only concerns companies with 20 or more employed. (April 20)
  • The amount of workers in negotiations has increased greatly during the week and currently amounts to 240 000 persons, either at risk, or already being temporarily laid-off. Trade Union focus is now on ensuring that the lay-offs are temporary and do not lead to actual layoffs. (March 27)
  • The Finish social partners made a joint proposal to the government that includes 16 points of action on March 18. It contained three pillars: temporary relief in employer pension contributions (by EUR 910 million); more rapid temporary lay-off proceedings to ensure that lay-offs remain a last resort; and safeguarding livelihoods. The proposal amongst other includes a relaxation of lay-off periods and negotiation times in the event of undertakings. At the same time, workers would be protected through better access to benefits including via a funding of lay-off allowance. After its submission and upon changes, the government took action based on the agreement and with a reduced time frame to 3 months was reached two days later. (March 24)
  • The ministry of economic affairs and employment is preparing the legal changes needed to temporarily include freelancers and self-employed workers to unemployment security. The idea is that businesses will be treated as part-time businesses and on that basis individuals will be entitled to unemployment benefit.  The amendment would not differentiate between different types of companies. The amendment to the Unemployment Security Act is time limited duration. Unions largerly support the changes as suggested (March 24)
  • SAK has an information portal for trade unions and STTK publishes day to day reaction on a daily basis.

France

  • Platform delivery drivers now have access to the solidarity fund for independent workers and can obtain capped and tax-free aid. Unions have been calling for relaxing access conditions (and burden of proof of falls in revenue). These demands have now been addressed: new conditions of access to the fund have been relaxed, including retro-actively for March. Still, in terms of OHS and paid sick leave most platform businesses in the food delivery sector are trailing behind. (May 10)
  • FO request relating to the pressing need to negotiate a national inter-professional agreement on telework (also here), in order to ensure a protective framework for all the employees concerned. New survey data shows the psychological strain from telework pursued without much guidance especially for workers not used to this format. The potential agreement hence should also include a ‘right to disconnect). (May 14)
  • In the hotel and restaurant sector, 92% of establishments are still closed and they have no prospect of a reopening. Even if the government increases aid (including short-time unemployment) and prepares a recovery plan for the tourism sector, the federation FGTA-FO fears thousands of layoffs. For now, 84% of the old salary is being paid under the STW scheme corresponding to a claim from FO. With larger corporate groups, unions have successfully negotiated additional compensation from the employer. Thus, 100% of the salary is thus maintained at Louvre Hôtel and 90% in the Accor group. Most employers however are small businesses and cannot compensate employees – who before the crisis oftentimes used to be paid under the counter or partially on tips. As the government put a revovery plan in place, the FGTA-FO claims a reduced VAT to 5.5% (against 10% currently) with compensation for employees. (May 14)
  • As France moves into its first week of de-confinement, the CFDT issued 15 policy demands as an update to the “PACTE DU POUVOIR DE VIVRE”. In a letter sent to the Prime Minister in early May, the 55 signatories of the Pact called for fifteen essential measures to be implemented as soon as the containment ended. The organisations are asking for exceptional solidarity aid (€ 250 per month and per person until the next school year begins) and the extension of exceptional arrangements for access to care for the most disadvantaged. Other demands include a national fund to help pay rents and charges for those most affected; a Conference on social investment and environmental and social conditonality on any public aid to large businesses. (May 11)
  • The CFDT supports the provision (under discussion in the French Parliament) to extend health and pension insurance coverage to all workers on short-time unemployment (currently around 12 million people) regardless as to whether their contract foresaw contributions initially (May 11).
  • Unions denounced that they are not members of the committee responsible for monitoring the implementation and evaluation of financial support measures for businesses facing the covid-19 epidemic. This is deemed important to prepare for the de-confinement stage but also to monitor the use (and at times abuse) of short-time work schemes In all sectors, private and public, unions request that recovery plans or protocols be negotiated with union organizations. Unions also expressed concern on the lack of consultations regarding the re-opening of schools (April 27).
  • In assessing whether some of its initial demands have been taken up by the government, the CFDT highlights (amongst other) the solidarity bonus for the poorest households (as of the 15 May); the access for all freelancers – including platform workers – to the solidarity fund; the suspensions of the reform of unemployment benefits and personal housing assistance; the prohibition to pay dividends for companies that receive state aid (whether through deferral of social or tax charges, or through a loan guaranteed by the state). The recognition of covid 19 as a pathology related to work, and therefore as an occupational disease beyond the health and care sectors remains a central demand of the CFDT. (April 27).
  • The CFDT union calls for the negotiation of sector or company protocols in preparation for the partial lifting of the lockdown on 11 May. While social partners discuss national measures in regular meetings with the government, discussions would also need to take place at the local, sector, administration and firm level. Protocols need to set the stage for the provision of protective equipment (hydroalcoholic gel, masks), compliance with the rules of social distancing, or the individualization of work tools. In the public sector, unions are not only seeking OHS protocols but also deplore the lack of social dialogue. The CFDT also uphelds its demand for compensation of people infected by the coronavirus while working or during their commute to work. To this end, they ask for a Fund to be created – also to cover for potential pathological longer-term health issues. (April 23)
  • Upon the French government’s announcemt of a possible gradual de-confinement on 11 May, the CGT urged to enhance protection measures before any return to work is undertaken. The union claims that health measures are insufficient at this point. This would concern equipment for health professionals, the absence of mass testing and lack of clarity regarding mobile tracking methods. The CGT denounces the approach taken as being in favour of big companies, while leaving workers unprotected and some sectors still closed. They ask the government to extend unemployment coverage beyond the imminent crisis and to level it up to 100 % of the initial wage. For work to be taken up, the government and employers need to ensure appropriate OHS measures at the workplace in cooperation with dedicated health agencies and labour inspectors. (April 16)
  • On 22 March, the government adopted a law declaring a state of health emergency. This law has been followed by a series of decrees, as parliamentary powers are temporarily reduced. The new measures include more favourable rules for the reimbursement of sick leaves, an increase of social security compensation to 90% of gross wages and easier partial unemployment rules. Several derogations from the labour code are also offered to employers, including the possibility to modify paid leaves arrangements (only if a company level collective agreement is negotiated), and an increase of working time for the sectors that are essential to economic and social continuity. (March 31)
  • In their response to government’s measures, all trade unions insist that the temporary nature of the derogations to the labour code must be confirmed. They also demand more clarity on what are essential sectors for the economic and social continuity of the country. Since derogation from the Labor Code with regard to working and rest time for companies in “essential” sectors could last until December, 31st 2020 – well beyond the actual sanitary crisis, the FO union expressed concerns about the instrumentalization of the ongoing crisis to weaken existing protection and rights of workers. (April 1)
  • Trade unions call for more protection of vulnerable and precarious workers. They insist on lifting the ceiling for the compensation of partial unemployment, so that workers do not lose out on wages. Several trade unions demand a prohibition of dismissals, with a view to protect employment.
  • Company and sectoral level agreements are now being negotiated to implement the derogations to the labour code, and to stop or reduce activities as in building and public workers sectors. In any case, CGT is calling a cessation of activities for digital platform delivery workers and full pay compensation. Two collective actions have been organised on 27 March and 3 April.
  • French social partners have issued a short joint statement on Covid-19, asserting the essential role of social dialogue and collective bargaining. They are calling on governments and companies to put in place all the means required for health and safety of workers. Trade unions and employers agreed to stay in contact as much as possible and underline the role of social protection regimes. (March 19)
  • In the services sector, a Covid-19 solidarity fund has been negotiated between a trade union federation and  the supplementary health schemes for the hospitality branches. This fund allows employees and employers in the industry to be fully exempt from contributions for the second quarter of 2020 and to continue to be protected regardless of their situation. The hotels, cafes and restaurants branch has 800,000 employees and is strongly affected by the closure decisions linked to confinement.
  • The government’s decision to exclude the building sector from measures on partial unemployment has been severely criticised by social partners in this sector. (March 20)
  • Federations in the airlines sector are ringing alarm bells about speculations from the private sector and asks the government to keep hold of the first French airline.
  • A freeze on dividends for the year 2020 is also called upon so that liquidities can be kept within companies. (March 25)
  • Several trade unions (CGT, CFDT, FO, UNSA) have set up dedicated web pages to provide practical advice to workers.

Germany

  • IG Metall is calling for an economic stimulus package to secure employment, stating that purchase bonuses could help the economy and secure jobs, especially in the automotive industry. The union IG BCE has completed an agreement that increases the short-time allowance for the chemical industry up to 90 %.
    (May 6)
  • Ver.di has completed an agreement that enables short-time work in the public sector. It is taking into account the burdens on municipalities due to closures of facilities such public swimmingpools, transport or museums. Accordingly, layoffs during short-time work and for three months thereafter are off the table. The short-time work allowance is increased to 90-95 percent. The collective agreement does not cover local core administration, social and educational services. It comes into force on April 1, 2020 and runs until December 31, 2020. The union also stroke an agreement with the airline company “eurowings“ enabling short-time work with a coverage of up to 90% of the net salary. (April 8)
  • Union demands are evolving with time. As such, IG Metall is calling for higher short-time work allowance. According to first estimates in their sectors, employers tend to contribute less (or do not contribute), which leaves workers well beyond their normal income. In 60 percent of affected companies, IG Metall and works councils have got the employer to pay the employees an increase in their short-time work allowance. In around 56 percent of these companies, this results in over 80 percent of the net wage, in 29 percent of the companies even over 90 percent – instead of the legal 60 percent (67 percent with children). (April 17)
  • In the hard hit hospitality sector, the NGG is calling for temporary suspension of VAT. This would allow a restart if practiced for a limited period of six months, at most until the end of 2020. (April 17)
  • A new DGB position examines a better financial protection of students. Many students have lost their jobs with which they finance their studies, yet usually they are not entitled to unemployment benefits (type I or II). They are also usually not entitled to short-time work benefits. Therefore, the DGB demands an emergency fund for students and a broader access to the services under the Federal Law on Support in Education (BAföG). The benefits are normally attached to the financial situation of the student. In addition, the DGB asks to introduce binding contract extensions of six months for scientists and higher education professionals employed on a fixed-term basis. For apprentices, the DGB proposes ‘a protective umbrella’: companies that take over trainees or dual students could be supported with a financial bonus until 31.12.2020. The aim is to secure existing training contracts and to stabilize the offer for the new training year. (April 20)
  • The DGB issued further demands regarding short-term employment schemes. It demands a significant increase in short-time work benefits – to 80 percent (87 percent for employees with children). Another demand concerns workplace regulation including the maximum daily and weekly working hours. The German government had relaxed working time regulation to 12 hours a day in essential sectors.The DGB warned against “excessive working hours” and called on to set a limit to the relaxation of the Working Hours Act. The regulation of the federal government is currently limited until June 30, 2020. (April 9)

The DGB has published an overview of agreements and measures from German Unions regarding the corona crisis:

  • The IG Metall has arranged a package for the metal- and electrical industry, which contains the following points:
    • 80 % of the salary in the first month of short-time work
    • 8 days for childcare due to the closure of schools and kindergarten for parents with children up to the age of 12, instead of additional wage
    • Additional 5 days for mandatory childcare purposes, which are not included in the holidays
  • The BdS and NGG have agreed on a ´collective-corona-agreement‘, leading to save employees from operational layoff and getting paid up to 90 % of the net wages when short-time working
  • Ver.di has agreed on full salary in the film-industry if a collective agreement exists, otherwise, 90 % of the salary has to be paid when short-time working. Ver.di has also negotiated an agreement for short-time work in the public sector, based on the following points:
    • Operational layoff is not possible within the period of short-time work and within the three months after short-time work
    • The salary of short-time work got increased to 90%-95% (April 1)
  • The DGB and BDA issued a joint statement of solidarity pledging to work together in times of crisis and setting out demands to the government (March 13).
  • The DGB also releases new information for workers on dedicated site on a daily basis.

Iceland

  • Iceland gears up for a a partial lifting of restrictions on 4 May allowing for small gatherings of up to 50 people provided that an interpersonal distance of 2 meters is respected; all schools will resume normal activities; and some businesses will be allowed to reopen. On 16 April, around 33 000 applications for unemployment benefits had been submitted, corresponding to approximately 16% of the labour market, with projections of a 14% unemployment rate in May. It is within this context that the ASI expressed disappointment with new government economic proposals. Measures such as the support to unemployed workers and plans for job creation in specific sectors were welcomed by unions. Yet, ASI stresses that some workers are still not supported including individuals with underlying illnesses, pregnant women and parents who have lost work because of limited preschool and school activities. Further, no obligations were imposed on companies benefitting from tax deferrals and aid. (April 23)
  • A joint tripartite statement signed on March 5 set out a wage guarantee while in quarantine. The Icelandic Government, SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise and the Icelandic Confederation of Labour made respective commitments. The employers to encourage continuous pay, the unions to use sick leave funds for if their sick leave entitlements have been exhausted, and the government to review the Icelandic Health Insurance to partly reimburse employers or help workers in quarantine who cannot work from home. (March 5)
  • Since, the Icelandic Confedaration of Labour (ASI) provided a model agreement on a temporary reduction in working time with reduction in pay as well as guidance on the new measure on partial unemployment benefits. A reduction in working time with reduction in pay can only take place on the basis of an agreement concluded between the employer and the employee. Self-employed persons are covered by the legislation that would run until 1 June 2020. If a firm goes bankrupt, workers receive payments from the Wage Guarantee Fund. The number of hours worked after working time has been reduced must correspond to at least 25 per cent of full-time hours. Benefits paid are limited to 90 per cent of the pay earned prior to the reduction in working time taking effect, and may not exceed ISK 700,000
    • Workers whose pay for a full-time position prior to the reduction was ISK 400,000 or less will receive full compensation.
    • Workers whose pay for a full-time position prior to the reduction was higher than ISK 400,000 are given a guarantee that the sum of wages received from the employer and unemployment benefits paid will not fall below ISK 400,000. (March 30)

Ireland

  • The ICTU’s Disability Committee signed a joint statementby a number of civil society and human rights groups, calling on all state actors to adhere to their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable during this global health pandemic. With an overall unemployment rate of 28.2% just announced, the challenges facing people with disabilities in gaining decent work into the future will be exacerbated greatly. Thus, the ICTU calls on not to leave people with disabilities behind when economic recovery begins. They also call on to facilitate flexible and telework work for people with disabilities to increase their labour market participation. (May 11)
  • To prepare the easing of its confinement measures, the Irish government released the ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’. This came out of discussions with both social partners. The ICTU deems it comprehensive as it entails points for employers and workers relating to social distancing, hand hygiene, first aid, mental health, ventilation and heating, to reduce the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace. (May 8)
  • The Irish Government announced a temporary income support scheme. Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners have also to publish ‘guidance’ documents on how it will be implemented. It should maintain the net income of workers earning up to approximately the average wage. The Irish Trade Union Congress (ICTU) issued an immediate response welcoming the measure (the response of SIPTU trade union can be found here). This initiative effectively took off with a letter that ICTU sent to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, 18 March and a subsequent proposal made the following day. The new scheme entails a temporary wage subsidy of 70% of the wage up to a maximum weekly tax free amount of €410 per week to prevent lay-offs. Workers who have lost their jobs, including self-employed, receive an enhanced unemployment benefit of €350 per week (an increase from €203) – the same applies to sick leave payments. (March 30)

Israel

  • A Collective Agreement set conditions to re-open the public sector. The Ministry of Finance and Histadrut agreed that those who are not allowed to return to work under current restrictions, will receive 80% of their wages (12.5% will be considered as an advance payment that will be returned in a distribution of 10 months onward after their return to work). Overall, the wage costs are for now on the employer (in difference to previous crisis agreements where costs were also borne by the employee). The agreement runs until the end of June. (May 3)
  • To support self-employed and freelancers, Histadrut and the Israel’s Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses intend to cooperate. In a joint statement to the government, they demand to ensure immediate payment of unemployment benefits to selfemployed workers, according to the same rules and rights of salaried employees. (April 20)
  • On 30 March 2020, the government’s economic response plan to COVID-19 was released. Based on four pillars, it foresees allocating financial aid of NIS 70 billion. The package was deemed insufficient by unions. They notably call for a emergency plan for the aviation industry.
  • Histadrut announced its intention to establish a union for the selfemployed and provide them with legal services in the time of crisis. (April 1)
  • A public sector collective agreement was concluded on March 18 securing paid leave. It will be deducted from annual holiday entitlement. The agreement will apply to civil servants, local authorities, and other public sector employees. The collective agreement also stipulates the set-up of a joint vacation fund by social partners to assist workers who did not accumulate sufficient vacation days, on the principle of mutual guarantee. At the same time, Histadrut is calling on the government to secure pension savings following a negative yield in March. They demand to convene urgent discussions on the matter (March 23). Following the collective agreement to regulate the employment in the public sector, Histadrut is now negotiating terms for the extended crisis period and the return to work. (April 1)
  • Histadrut and the government expressed intention to sign a collective agreement that will regulate the employment of public sector workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Non-essential workers would go on a paid mandatory leave taken from their vacation leave. Public sector employers and trade unions will set up a joint vacation days fund for emergencies. (March 16)

Italy

  • COVID-19 is now classified as an occupational accident in Italy. This was welcomed by unions. However, they demand further clarification on corporate responsibility and burden of proof. The National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL) has adopted the criteria of reasonableness, connected to the principle of simple presumption, and the logical-scientific criterion connected to a principle of qualified presumption. INAIL has distinguished two fundamental categories of workers. The first category includes workers exposed to high health risk, such as, first of all, health workers and then all workers who are in contact with the public / users (such as for example front office workers, cashiers, bankers, employees cleaning in healthcare facilities etc.). The second category includes all other workers. The first category is not set in stone. Meanwhile, workers in the second category need to prove that the virus was contracted in the workplace. (May 22)
  • The re-launch of the economy is taking shape. Unions point to the need of quality investments as part of the so-called ‘Relaunch Decree’. According to CISL, this would entail ‘non-refundable transfers, immediate liquidity support for SMEs, and linking the “drivers” of innovation, new technologies to construction investments and supply chain policies that redeem the sectors most affected: manufacturing and industry, but also tourism, transport, and logistics. As part of the Decree some Solidarity Funds might be drastically reduced – such as in the Craft and Administration sectors – which Unions criticized. (May 11)
  • The “Shared protocol for the regulation of measures to combat and contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the workplace” (initially signed on March 14) had been renewed between the government and social partners. Lockdown measures are to be relaxed on May 4 – gradually. The protocol is part of a decree. Two specific protocols for the transport and construction sector are in annex. Specofically, the updated protocol includes :
    • Right to information on government measures, on obligations and rights in case of symptoms that could be connected to the COVID-19 disease;
    • Access to workplaces rendered safer via fever measurement, potentially testing;
    • Specific entrance procedures and hours for external suppliers and the extension of measures to sub-contracting companies
    • Obligation of cleaning and periodical sanitisation of workplaces
    • Availability of detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment: use of face masks, when possible self production of gel according to WHO guidelines; when 1 meter physical distancing is not possible and when using shared areas, use of face masks is compulsory;
    • Work organisation, shifts and smart working: smart working should be preferred and where not possible production modules could be reviewed. As such, shifts should be reorganised so as to reduce as much as possible contacts; all work trips and trainings are suspended;
    • Specific provisions when a worker with symptoms is detected at the workplace
    • The set-up of monitoring committees for the implementation of the protocol. (April 24).
  • After reaching an agreement for the public sector (3 April), national-level branch agreements were negotiated in the healthand waste management sectors, and CGIL FP won special provisions for municipal police staff granting equal treatment on PPE access and protection measures with national police, full powers and a compensation bonus (April 23).
  • The Italian government introduced a list of “essential” economic activities that could keep on operating under the current circumstances. The list included some 80 ATECO 2007 2-digit codes (the Italian version of the EU Nace Rev. 2 activities), which was deemed quite large by unions. CGIL-CISL-UIL reacted threatening a general strike and consultations between unions and the government went on until Wednesday, resulting in a revised and shortened list of economic activities deemed “essential”, thanks to a thorough examination at the 4-digit level (sub-sectoral). The unions define it as “important common work” and “great result”. (March 27)
  • Several union demands were taken into account in the Government’s “Care Italy” decree. The decree foresees funding of 25bn euros and mobilized 350 bn euros resources. Measures include a redundancy payment fund, extraordinary paid parental leave, one-off compensations for self-employed, artists and agricultural workers, SME funding and postponed fiscal deadlines amongst other. Important measures also include: 12 additional days of paid leave; the inclusion of quarantine days in the sick leave; and 60 days suspension of collective and individual dismissals on economic grounds. (March 18)
  • The CGIL, CISL and UIL have decided to make a financial donation with own funding and will make a call for donations. (March 18)
  • A “Joint Protocol to regulate measures designed to combating and containing the spreading of Covid-19 in workplaces” was issued by the government with 13 action points to be carried out by unions and employers respectively after pressure exerted by unions to prevent work strain for frontline workers and contangion at the workplace. The code of conduct foresees these measures to be replicated with the view of other measures regarding social safety nets, smart working arrangements and the general goal of maintaining economic activity while ensuring safe working environments (including via protocols). It also includes paid leave negotiated also by collective agreements, the call for specific agreements in operating sectors (March 14).

Japan

  • RENGO issued a call for comprehensive measures against to the Ministry of Economic Revitalization. They highlighted three essential pillars: 1. To prioritise the prevention of further spread of COVID-19 considering the current situation worsen day after day; 2. To take urgent measures so that people reassure their daily lives and the firms continues their business; 3. To protect jobs surely by every measures including the increase of the Employment Subsidy. The uptake and amount of the subsidy was deemed insufficient. (April 7)
  • RENGO has issued a set of demands to the government following a wave of measures taken (including school and educational facilities closings). They include: (1) To secure safe place including after-school care programs for children; (2) To inform employers and workers adequately to establish subsidy scheme and to prevent the dismissal or lay-off, so that the parents are able to take leave due to the school closure; (3) To provide support and introduce the subsidy scheme, as well as utilises the Employment Adjustment Subsidy, for the micro-, small and medium size companies which will face drastic change of business environment, so that they can secure their jobs. (March 5)

Korea

  • For the first time in 21 years, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) will be jointly engaging in tripartite dialogues. Union priorities in the crisis remain a comprehensive employment guarantee and dismissal prohibitions as well as the expansion of the mandatory employment insurance to more worker categories. (May 12)
  • Korea had been one of the first countries to use digital tracing tools to combat the virus spread. The KCTU joined a larger coalition of CSOs to raise critical points around the disclosure of the travel path of a confirmed patient via geolocalisation (March 26) as well as regarding the introduction of electronic bracelets for tracing people under self-isolation (April 10). The joint statement raises issues of proportionality, protection of personal data upon collection and the need for time limits to these measures.
  • The FKTU submitted a series of recommendations to the Economic, Social and Labour Council (ESLC), demanding emergency measures for job security and wage protection. The ESLC is a tripartite body. Initially, it came out with a “Tripartite Declaration to Overcome the Crisis Caused by COVID-19” on March 6. This resulted in the establishment of a special committee dealing with social, employment and re-structuring aspects of the crisis. The FKTU in its follow-up submission highlights the need for the prohibition of dismissals. They call on to extend the access to employment retention schemes to further categories of workers including public bus drivers, who see their working time decreasing, and carriers, aircraft ground handling companies, and subcontractors. Other points are to support workers with reduced working time, to keep reinforcing labour inspections and reporting to prevent employers from forcing workers into unpaid leave. The submission also alerts to the fact that only 49.9% of workers are covered by employment insurance. The FKTU also calls on for job creation in the public sector. (April 22)

Luxembourg

  • The three trade union centers, the CGFP, the LCGB and the OGBL, issued a joint position deploring the lack of social dialogue. Their calls to convene a tripartite meeting were ignored such as a meeting of the Tripartite Coordination Committee. The unions have also been neglected in the development of the government’s exit strategy. A substantive set of comments on it was issued via the Workers’ Chamber (Chambre des salaries) at the end of April. The joint position stresses that the fast-track approach of the government to the new pandemic law does not leave much space for inputs. The 3 unions demand an emergency meeting with the Prime Minister, independently of any tripartite meeting. (May 12)
  • Unions welcomed the revision of emergency working time legislation which relaxes the strain on essential workers. As such, the application of the “essential sector” category has been limited. (May 7)

New Zealand

  • The Council of Trade Unions issued a statement welcoming the government’s package as a good immeadiate reaction. They called upon employers and businesses to now take actions parallel to slow down the virus spread and allow all workers (regardless of the employment status) to isolate or take sick leave. The new wage subsidy scheme is deemed as a good way to support companies. The additional $500 million for health services should go into supporting health sector workers specifically. The ‘Council’ also alerted employers to work with unions to prepare critical sectors (– aged care, cleaners, health workforce, public sector, retail and hospitality). (March 18)

Netherlands

  • Tens of thousands of domestic workers are suddenly without work and without income but often cannot fall back on social security. The FNV has therefore called on the government in a letter to assist these workers. (April 29)
  • With the rise in online shopping and e-commerce during the crisis, the FNV announced to re-launch collective agreement talks with DHL Parcel – including on work intensification and conditions. (April 29)
  • FNV Young & United and the National Student Union (LSVb) ask for a solution for students who, because of their loss of income will be financially squeezed. This appeal by the LSVb and FNV Young & United to the cabinet suggest a minimal income support of 530 euros per month to cover for basic costs. (April 29)
  • The social partners expressed support for government emergency measures. These whole-of-government measures envision to enable “companies can continue to pay their staff, bridge the gap for self-employed workers and allow money to remain in companies through relaxed tax regimes, compensation and additional credit facilities”. The package includes a 3-month temporary arrangement for compensation for wage costs was set up to avoid redundancies, supplements to the income for self-employed and independent entrepreneurs (to attain a minimum level), and compensation schemes, tax credits and other measures for affected sectors and SMEs. The FNV welcomed that measures extend beyond regular employees to self-employed and non-permanent workers.  (March 17)

Norway

  • A change in regulation now allows to combine unemployment benefits with training. The new but temporary scheme runs until September 1. Normally, benefits and the pursuit of training cannot be combined. (April 22)
  • The heavy measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 has had severe implication on the Labour market and the economy of Norway. The government’s policies (introduced mostly on 20 & 27 March) cover a large range of business support measures while extending benefits to all workers who are on sick leave, were put on short-time unemployment or made redundant. All existing and current collective agreements are prolonged until the 21st of August. Tripartite cooperation has been very active during the crisis. While mostly consulted, trade unions have not agreed with all measures taken. As such the YS union has presented further demands and recommendations to limit the economic impact of the crisis including:
    • An extension of the 20-day period with full pay during temporary layoffs as their number has reached more than 300,000 by April 23.
    • An extension of care benefits in line with upheld partial school closures.
    • Employees who are refused employment because of Covid-19-regulations must be paid compensation.
    • A mortgage loan guarantee for individuals not only business;
    • The coverage of fixed costs for companies who cannot resume activities due to lockdown measures;
    • (Application-based) grant schemes and an extended duration loan guarantee schemes to hard-hit sectors such as tourism;
    • Businesses that receive public assistance should not pay dividends and bonuses in 2020.
    • New funding for training and education for employees in industries that are now laying off. (April 23)

Spain

  • The temporary employment regulation (ERTE) is extended until June 30 via a tripartite agreement, affecting more than 3 million workers. The CCOO and UGT trade union organizations and the CEOE and CEPYME business organizations, together with the Government, have signed an agreement on the extension of the temporary employment suspension files (ERTE) and their conditions, which has been reflected in the Royal Decree- Law 18/2020 of May 12 (summary document). Most ERTEs will end on the 30th of June. Before that date companies will start to pay higher social contributions for the employees kept in ERTEs and lower for the ones who remained active. Now social contributions are zero for companies under 51 workers and only the 25% of the normal cost for companies over that size. In its assessment, the UGT points out that the agreement provides employment guarantees and helps avoiding lay-offs while providing companies with the confidence to re-start activities. (May 11)
  • UGT urges to regulate and promote telework in collective bargaining and in the framework of social dialogue. In its assessment, only 4% of the signed agreements in 2019 entailed such clauses. (May 12)
  • A previous complaint by the UGT regarding platform work during the epidemic was now followed by an assessment of the Special Directorate of Labor Inspection. The platforms under question – mostly in the delivery sector (food, goods) – did not meet most OHS protection standards. The UGT however says the the Labour Inspectorate response has to go beyond recommendations. (May 18)
  • The Secretary of Environment and Mobility of CCOO has presented a document that includes political and economic proposals so that the exit from the crisis caused by CIVID-19 is carried out taking into account that society is also immersed in a climate and environmental crisis. (May 14)
  • The CCOO and UGT urge that economic activity can only be resumed if health and safety are guaranteed – both during the commute to work and at the workplace. (April 12)
  • The CCOO has set up a toll free telephone hotline and an email so that workers who have any labor-related questions related to the health emergency receive information and advice. The CCOO general secretary also calls on SME workers without union representation to go to a local union or to the Labor Inspectorate to report if safety protocols are not followed. (April 14)
  • Unions succeeded in changing the Ministry of Health provisions on the return of health and social workers to their job after being affected by COVID-19. They now only start working after being tested negatively. The initial guidance (March 31) foresaw a return to work seven days after the initial symptoms and if they feel better, wear a mask and avoid contact with at-risk patients.(April 14)
  • The CCOO demanded additional urgent measures from the government against dismissals and responsibility to the business community. The union acknowledges measures taken to prevent lay-offs. It is assumed that hundreds of thousands would be temporarily suspended. However, companies seem to fire workers without taking on short-term employment schemes, yet are receiving liquidity measures. The CCOO calls on to prevent lay-offs of fixed-term and temporary workers. They refer to the Italian measures of a temporary ban on economic lay-offs and to impose conditionality on companies. For workers who have been victims of these unprotected layoffs and who do not have access to any benefit or subsidy, additional benefits are requested. (March 25)
  • The government released a new set of emergency measures via royal decree (see UGT information page). Social partners welcomed the measures that include a funding commitment of up to 200,000 billion euros (20% of annual GDP) from private and public ressources, job protection measures that allow to reduce working time, temporary lay-offs, telework, the facilitation of compensantion to self-employed workers and social security exemptions and liquidity measures to companies, also to avoid lay-offs (March 17).
  • UGT Comercio and CCOO Servicios have secured an agreement for supermarket workers. This includes a reduction in working hours, an increase in the number of part-time workers, and a guarantee that every worker is equipped with masks and gloves. The unions are also calling for financial compensation for the extra workload, a limit to the number of people allowed in stores, and tighter restrictions on distancing between customers to keep people from spreading the virus. (March 18).
  • Unions and business organisations had sent a common set of requests to the government. The proposals by CCOO and UGT on the union side and CEOE and CEPYME on the business side. They demand a royal decree-law in addition to labour market and social security measures. The requests concern: • Partial unemployment by force majeure • Economic, technical and organizational causes of production • Protection of intermittent workers • Situation of isolation or contagion of workers • Measures to compensate for the closure of school centers, dependent persons centers and restrictions on mobility • Mobile work (March 12).

Sweden

  • In a joint letter, the LO, TCO and Saco have urged the government to temporarily remove the time limit for participants in the job and development guarantee.The unions argue that rRemoving the 450-day limit would, in addition to increasing financial security for the individuals, mean a reduced workload in the social service, as investigations on welfare support would be delayed and in some cases avoided. In addition, it would avoid increased strain on the strained economy of several municipalities.” (April 23)
  • After the government set out a Crisis package for jobs and transition on March 30, which was welcomed by LO-Sweden. It contained several previous union proposals. A few days later, LO economists released an assessment report showing that measures will not be sufficient. They call on to decide on necessary fiscal measures without projections on future debt equilibrium. The report estimates an unemployment rate of more than 10 per cent in the coming months. For groups without a permanent employment relationship, the economists call for better income protection during the crisis. They call on to improve access to full-time state-sponsored leave; commit to at least SEK 30 billion in grants to regions and municipalities and work on permanent improvements to the income-related unemployment insurance policy. (April 17)
  • LO-Sweden has regular contact with the government and the employers’ organisation, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, as well as the majority parties in the Riksdag. The Swedish government proposes budget allocations to avoid redundancies and bankruptcies, including by providing 90 percent of pay to workers upon short-term lay-offs, sick pay would be covered by the government for the next 2 months, while companies can defer their social security contributions and some of their taxes. These measures were consulted upon with social partners. LO-Sweden however recommends further measures including a strengthened unemployment insurance with increased compensation and opportunities for more people to be able to benefit from the insurance. LO also calls for measures to use the opportunity for skills development, as well as to prepare for potential school closings (March 18).
  • At sector level, the Hotel and Restaurant Union in Sweden has signed an ad-hoc agreement based on the new short-term lay-off rules covering all workers except one-day hires. The period of the short-term lay-off is set at the firm level and can go up to 6 months (+ extension of 3 months). In terms of wage adjustments, the following distribution has been agreed:
    • With a work reduction of 20%, the salary is reduced by 4%.
    • With a work reduction of 40%, the salary is reduced by 6%.
    • With a work reduction of 60%, the salary is reduced by 7.5%. (March 18)

Switzerland

  • Like a lot of unions elsewhere, the SGB is calling to implement measures to ensure that apprentices and trainees are guaranteed full payment and a way to Furthermore, the union stresses the need for additional financial support for the childcare sector, to provide a crisis resistant structure. (May 7)
  • The SGB calls for further federal government responses includng:
    • No layoffs thanks to short-time work: In this difficult situation, companies should not lay off staff, but should switch to short-time work. With the short-time work, the federal government has a powerful tool to continue paying wages even in the event of a drop in sales in the companies and thus also to secure a large part of the companies’ liquidity.
    • Apply short-time work more broadly: The Federal Council must close the gaps in fixed-term contracts and hourly wages as quickly as possible – before it is too late.
    • Wage guarantee for parents: If parents have to stay at home to look after their children, the employer must fundamentally continue to pay wages. In order for wages to be secure in any case, the SGB also demands a wage replacement for parents with childcare obligations. To this end, existing structures of the EO scheme should be used.
  • The public sector union SSP has demanded better and safe working conditions for health workers and new measures to protect social sector workers. Upon the government’s decision to suspend labour law provisions for hospitals resulting in limitless working hours, the union launched a petition to reverse the decision on 23 March. Four days later, the petition had already gained 65.000 signatures. (March 30)

Turkey

  • The Turkish Labour Ministry holds evaluation meetings with social partners on the ongoing policy measures. The Treasury and Finance Minister held an Extended Financial Stability and Development Committee meeting with non-governmental organizations to receive suggestions and requests for the return of working life and production. HAK-IS amongst other calls for monitoring of the use of unpaid leave by employers. Three joint declarations about Short Term Work Allowance and unpaid leave applications were issued by the unions HAK-İŞ, TÜRK-İŞ and TİSK to ask for government safeguards against the misuse of these schemes. In addition, HAK-IS maintains the demand to provide cash support for 4 million refugees who are affected by the epidemic. (May 11)
  • In response to government measures, one of the Turkish unions HAK-IS set out further demands including for a more comprehensive economic package, adequate medical treatment for 4 million refugees hosted in Turkey and better economic and OHS conditions for health workers. They urge to install provisions for any workers not to be fired on the grounds of the pandemic. In the meantime, the union appropsed an action plan on OHS that was distributed to all affiliated unions. (April 29)

UK

  • The TUC called on to extend and adapt the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) beyond lockdown. This specifically for risk groups, parents for whom continued school and childcare closures mean they cannot work and workers in sectors, in which activity will not (or not fully) resume. These sectors also tend to be under-paid and have proportionally more younger workers. During the last crisis, the The Future Jobs Fund worked well (until it was terminated). The TUC report sets out the following conditions for jobs proposed under a Scheme:
    • are a minimum six-month job with accredited training, paid at least at the real living wage, or the union negotiated rate for the job, whichever is greater
    • are offered to as many people as possible who face long term unemployment – but prioritise young workers and those facing unemployment of six months or more
    • are additional, so workers are not displaced
    • provide a community, public benefit and/or help to decarbonise the economy, ensuring new jobs contribute to rebuilding the country
    • meet local labour market needs
    • promote and protect equality. (May 4)
  • Key workers are not all paid a sufficient living wage according to a new TUC report. 38 per cent of key workers are being paid less than £10 per hour. This is higher than the percentage among employees who aren’t key workers (31 per cent). Thus, the TUC calls for a general increase in the minimum living wage. The report showcases regional disparities. Minorities are over-represented in such occupations, so are women (twice as likely). 41 per cent of female key workers are paid less than £10 per hour, compared to 32 per cent of male key workers. (May 1)
  • The TUC’s General Secretary called to establish a national council of reconstruction (April 20).
  • In response to government measures extending support to diverse types of workers and other measures to avoid lay-offs, the TUC released guidance to members and calls to employers to act accordingly. In, “Insecure workers ARE eligible for government wage scheme – employers need to act”, the TUC calls on employers to make use of the Job Retention Scheme. Firms can reclaim 80 per cent of wage costs but must pay at least this amount to the affected worker. The TUC clarifies that those with fixed-term contracts and those falling under the “worker” category (not employees) are eligible to receive benefits – so are zero-hour workers. Self-employed workers can claim their benefits via their stand-alone scheme. The situation is slightly more complex for agency workers, who have to go through the agency, which might refrain from using the scheme. The TUC also calls on employers to avoid lay-offs putting economic and social arguments forward and insisting on redundancy procedures. (April 8)
  • The TUC has called for an “emergency” boost to Universal Credit to help people get through the coronavirus outbreak. Without an urgent increase unemployment support will be lower in real terms during the coronavirus outbreak than during the mass unemployment peaks of the 1980s and 1990s. The TUC’s calculations show that even after the recent increase of £20 a week – the basic rate of Universal Credit is worth just a sixth of average weekly pay at £94 a week. (April 6)
  • The TUC has released a set of recommendations to the government, whose announcement of a package to protect jobs and workers it deemed insufficient. The TUC’s proposals structure around 5 steps: (1) ensure that business support measures are conditional on support for jobs; (2) fix the sick pay system to provide better sick pay for all (see the initial call for a reform of the system amidst the Covid-19 crisis and call to sign on a petition to the government); (3) introduce targeted support for parents who need to take time out of work to care for kids; (4) provide more help to families – and a stimulus to the economy; (5) bring together a taskforce of unions and employers to help co-ordinate the national effort. The TUC’s report estimates the effects on workers and sectors. It underlines that the government support packages to businesses and the £330 billion of loan guarantees should be made conditional upon businesses setting out measures to protect jobs. The TUC calls on to establish ‘Jobs and Fair Wages Plans, agreed with recognised unions as a condition of access to government support , with further details to be agreed by the coronavirus Union and Business Taskforce’. It further demands steps to provide wage subsidies for short-time working and temporary layoffs. For working families, the TUC calls on for emergency measures including:
  • Guaranteed paid parental leave for one primary carer for the duration of the school and nursery closures, with government reimbursement for employers.
  • Protection from unfair treatment or dismissal for parents who take up this leave, no matter how long they’ve worked in their jobs.

Going forward, the TUC also calls for a stimulus to support household incomes (March 18).

  • One of the UK’s teachers’ unions NASUWT issued a comprehensive guide to members regarding all aspects affecting professionals in this sector. Recommendations are provided on self-isolation, on income and social security coverage of supply teachers (agency workers), on short-and long term school closures, and mental health. The National Education Union (NEU) also has a dedicated portal with specific guidance to different occupations (from principals to special needs teachers). The NEU together with other unions has issued a manual to members, and is negotiating in every school to ensure safety, student numbers, distancing, hygiene and cleaning. (March 30)

US

  • The AFL-CIO (USA) has created a dedicated webpage including resources and guidance about the COVID-19 pandemic, and recommendations to limit its impact on working families. The AFL-CIO encourages 14 paid sick days, free testing and no out-of-pocket medical expenses for all workers. The AFL-CIO calls for revisions to unemployment insurance to protect workers immediately susceptible to job loss:  aviation, education, entertainment, hospitality and construction workers.  The AFL-CIO cites legislative action as essential:  investment in infrastructure and medical facilities and adopting the Protecting the Right to Organize (“PRO”) Act, and the Public Service Negotiation Act. The page also contains an interactive repository providing state by state information.
  • The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has published an overview (dating to 31 March) of trade union responses. These include the Teamsters/ UPS agreement on paid leave for any worker who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined because a family member in their household is ill with the virus; the United Auto Workers (UAW) is negotiating secure conditions once work at automative plants resumes; the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have won paid leave for Verizon workers.
  • The American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) released a blueprint “Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities” featuring five core pillars. The plan calls for clear safety parameters including tracing and testing but also for recovery support to communities, and the strengthening of public health tools. (April 29) The AFT is also representing public employees at the frontlines as its membership counts nurses, respiratory specialists, health techs, physicians and other professionals in the healthcare industry, as well as food service workers, bus drivers, custodians, child care workers, rec center workers. To protect their health, the union made an overall investment of 3 million dollars to provide Personal Protective Equipment for Frontline Healthcare Providers. (May 7)
  • As the US Covid-19 bill is under discussion, the AFL-CIO released a further statement urging the measures to be agreed on and take additional steps thereafter. The AFL-CIO welcomes suggested measures ‘on expansion of the unemployment insurance program; increased funding for schools, hospitals, and state and local governments; relief for the airline industry that includes worker rights protections; and critical funding to keep transit workers on the job’.  However, they outline missing pieces such as workplace standards – in particular on OHS, the challenges around multi-employer pension schemes, and more support to the U.S. Postal Service. (25 March )
  • AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka Public Statement (19 March )
  • The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) developed a dedicated page for frontline workers to consult on health and safety. The page also includes stories from workers. The Teamsters health and safety department similarly created a resource page. It provides factsheets from general check-lists regarding the virus, working times to occupation specific information (e.g. for first responders, transit operators).
  • Workers of Instacart, a grocery delivery platform, plan a nationwide strike, to reclaim the need for protective gear and equipment during the pandemic. They are supported by the US labour movement and the Gig Workers Collective. As is reported, the company has issued OHS guidelines, promised a 14-day sick leave arrangements and bonuses for some of its 200.000 workers (a number predicted to increase). “Workers have asked for hazard pay — an extra $5 per order — and for the default of the in-app tip to be set to at least 10 percent of the order total. They are also seeking an expansion of pay for workers affected by Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus” (source). (March 30)