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On Labour Day: "Let the crisis be an opportunity not to exacerbate differences, but to strengthen labour rights!"

On 1 May, the world celebrates the achievements of workers in the fight for their rights and emphasising the meaning of work for the dignity of each individual. This year, the coronavirus epidemic overshadowed the celebration and highlighted several questions about the future of labour rights.

The virus paralysed or even brought to a standstill many industries, while some will be forced to remain in this state for quite a while. "Some workers will lose their jobs, while many already have. In addition to the effects of isolation, their mental health will also be affected by the burden of job loss. According to a folk saying, the virus does not discriminate. However, in these times, social inequality has revealed itself in all its brutality," the Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina warned.

To mitigate the effects of inequality, to preserve or create new jobs and thereby strengthen the economy and public systems, such as the healthcare and education system, careful actions by decision-makers are vitally important. "The epidemic has shown us that each of us is indispensable: workers in the public sector, owners of small and medium-sized companies as well as many artists in various fields, journalists and others," the Ombudsman stressed.

"The measures for the preservation or creation of new jobs must still comply with human rights. It is never acceptable to erode labour or other rights, such as the right to public participation in the law-making process or to live in a healthy environment. The people should be clearly and unambiguously informed that capital might not be protected to the detriment of the workers. Democratic achievements should always take precedence over capital and they should not be relinquished in exchange for greater security," the Ombudsman urged on the occasion of Labour Day.

The Human Rights Ombudsman Institution has been pointing to the anomalies in the field of labour law and workers' rights violations for years. "The system that enabled many unethical employers to abuse their workers' rights has yet not been patched and many irregularities have not been remedied not even before the outbreak of the epidemic. The Government and various decision-makers in power now have the opportunity and power to shape the future based on inclusion and cooperation and the principles of the welfare state and the rule of law. In the process, they should observe the needs of all citizens, especially of those who could face devastating consequences without receiving the help required in this very moment. The issues of many should not be solved only with the help of humanitarian organisations and the people of solidarity and compassion," the Ombudsman stressed.

"If the principles of equity and good governance will be pursued in providing care and adopting measures, this will pave the way for the symbiosis and cooperation that are crucial to lead society on a new path. We will be ready to face similar challenges only if we join forces. This is the only way to celebrate again," the Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina concluded.