From Crisis to Resilience

From Crisis to Resilience

The challenges the world faces to rebuild from the Covid crisis have been laid bare by International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Here are some highlights from the 5th Annual Peter Conway Memorial Lecture she delivered for UnionAID via Zoom in June:


We are living through the greatest act of global solidarity in our history as people have ceded civic freedoms and risked livelihoods to save lives.

But the consequences of this health crisis have become a social and economic crisis that will require the same solidarity.

The ILO says 300 million jobs are at risk. Of the estimated 2 billion informal workers, 1.6 billion are facing destitution.

In too many nations the social contract has been broken and the global institutions established to underpin rights, equality, inclusive growth and global stability have contributed to the crises the world now faces.

Massive inequality - income, race and gender - was already driving an age of anger with civil unrest and distrust in democracy.

With the destruction resulting from climate change, the risk to economies and societies was clear.


Working people and their families were already living on the edge before the impact of the pandemic that stopped the world - Covid19.

In an ITUC global poll a week before the crisis hit, 75% of people said income had stagnated or fallen behind.

Almost 43% say their household income is falling behind the cost of living, 76% say the minimum wage is not enough for a decent life.

The world is poorer because we have allowed corporate greed to dominate our world.


Business as usual is not acceptable.

We must design a recovery that builds the social contract between government and societies with the foundations of resilience to withstand further shocks.

Universal social protection is the real floor for building resilience.

We’re pleased unions around the world have made advances in the social contract as a result of the crisis. Guarantees in wage support, income support, sick leave, protections for contract workers.

More now than ever unions are the antidote to the issues that plague us.

We can create jobs out of this, jobs repairing our ecosystems, investing in sustainable infrastructure.

If we’ve exposed anything in Covid-19 it’s that investment in care is also fundamental. Health, childcare, education and aged care – if we don’t have social protection and fundamental services why do we pay taxes?

The lecture was presented by UnionAID in honour of Peter Conway, a trade union leader, economist, internationalist and a founding UnionAID trustee who sadly died in 2015. You can support his legacy at

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