Joint Action Group to protect transport workers

UN agencies and other international organizations establish Joint Action Group to protect transport workers and secure supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Group will focus on promoting COVID-19 vaccination of transport workers and ensuring the application of internationally agreed protocols and standards.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), together with other international organizations in the transport sector, have set up a Joint Action Group to review the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic  on the world’s transport workers and the global supply chain. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are also members of the group.

The Group was established following a meeting on 6 December 2021 of ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus with International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director Willie Walsh, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Secretary General Guy Platten, International Road Transport Union (IRU) Secretary General Umberto de Pretto and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) General Secretary Stephen Cotton, who drew attention to serious and urgent challenges faced by transport workers resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The world’s transport sectors and their workers face immense, ongoing pressures and difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased therefore that we have now established a Joint Action Group that will review the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these workers and encourage governments to apply internationally agreed protocols and standards,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of ILO.

“The COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern that continues to adversely impact human health globally, and international trade and travel. Protecting the health of cross border transport workers and maintaining travel operations for emergency and humanitarian missions, essential personnel, repatriations, and cargo transport of essential supplies is of critical importance,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO.

Some of the travel restrictions that have been put in place across countries as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to undermine the health and safety of transport workers and pose a threat to the continuous functioning of the world’s supply chains, including for the transport of medical goods and other essential supplies. In particular, the most recent travel bans and border closures implemented after the emergence of the Omicron variant are worsening this crisis .

The Group’s work will focus on:

  • promoting the application by national authorities of operational protocols to facilitate the movement and protect the rights of cross-border transport workers, in line with States’ obligations under the International Health Regulations (2005);
  • supporting countries in implementing WHO’s temporary recommendations under the IHR (2005) on a risk-based approach in relation to international travel measures 
  • promoting COVID-19 vaccination of transport workers as per the recommendations of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization  , as well as the access of seafarers to medical care and medical evacuation;
  • and improving the efficient operation of global supply chains, at the same time as ensuring that public health needs are fully safeguarded.

The Joint Action Group will meet regularly to discuss the evolving situation, assess the progress made, and agree on future actions to overcome remaining challenges.