Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Women and Youth Rise Up During COVID-19

22 April 2020


7 - 9 April and 22 April 2020


The ITUC-AP/DGB BW Project “Strengthening women and youth leadership within the trade union movement for decent work” hosted two in a series of online consultations between 7 - 9 April and 22 April 2020 on: (1) Effect of COVID-19 on women and youth in ASEAN; and (2) Project templates for national activities.


The virtual events had 29 registered participants [12 for the first; 7 for the second; 10 for the third one]. These activities were organised to sustain the momentum in building leadership of women and youth, including in the context of COVID-19.



Women and Youth Leading the Way Against COVID-19, 7 - 9 April 2020


The first event was organised into three separate geographical areas: Cambodia and Indonesia on 7 April; Malaysia, Philippines on 8 April; and Thailand and Timor Leste on 9 April.


Reflecting on what’s happening in their respective countries, the conversations revolved around:

·     COVID-19 situation in the country

·     Measures in place to protect workers in general, and those in the frontlines

·     What unions have been demanding from governments

·     How has COVID-19 affected women and youth differently and what specific support was given to them, if any

·     Role of and contributions made by women / youth in these initiatives and in the advocacy and campaigns to ensure proper responses to disasters/pandemics


As the world grapples with unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, women and youth representatives (WYRs) shared how they demonstrate their continued leadership in their companies and in unions.


Cambodia: WYRs and the confederation proposed the payment of wages of garment workers whose work operations are suspended or closed to at least 40 per cent of the salaries; government agreed to pay 40 per cent of workers salary. WYRs negotiate with employers to provide face masks, PPEs and alcohol to workers if required to work; produce leaflets about COVID-19 and distribute to workers to protect themselves.


Indonesia: WYRs and their unions bargain with their employers to provide proper PPEs, face masks and hand sanitisers or alcohol to workers who are required to work. Unions intensify participation in the on-going parliamentary discussions on the Omnibus Law where workers’ rights and benefits are threatened to encourage investments.


Philippines: WYRs and their unions provide loans for union members and help bargain for no loan payment with their employers until at least June 2020; unions collect donations in cash or in kind for relief goods; participate in decision-making in the confederation regarding proposals to the government concerning COVID-19.


Malaysia: WYRs help workers whose employers and workplaces violate regulations during the lockdown; complaints include non-payment of appropriate wage subsidy, violation of safety and PPE standards.


Thailand: WYRs help negotiate proper or increased compensation for terminated or forced to retire workers, including subcontracted and migrant workers; masks gloves and hand sanitisers for workers if required to work, and to protect commuters in the case of the railway union; encourage workers not to sign anything as their companies force them to voluntarily resign.


Timor Leste: WYRs help receive complaints and support workers through the hotline established by the confederation; complaints include non-payment of family support as mandated by the government, non-provision of proper PPEs and face masks. WYRs keep pushing the government and employers to address dengue which is equally dangerous as COVID-19.



Project Implementation at the National Level Made Easy, 22 April 2020


This second discussion brought together 18 women and youth and support team from affiliates from six (6) countries – Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.


The Project team discussed templates developed to assist affiliates and trained women and youth implement programs at the national level. The discussion focused on preparing activity plans and proposals based on priorities and progress of contributing to the project indicators and preparing narrative and expenditure reports.


Given the COVID-19 situation, the Project continues to use virtual conference tools for periodic online meetings for trainees to share their experiences with and gain from each other in implementing the project while addressing women and youth concerns in their unions and elsewhere. 


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