The ITUC and its Global Unions partners are calling for COVID-19 to be classified as an occupational disease in order to ensure stronger workplace protections and access to compensation as well as to medical care. The call is being made today [28 April], on International Workers’ Memorial Day.
“While there are many aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which are yet unclear, one thing that is clear is that most transmission is occurring in workplaces such as hospitals and care facilities, as well as in workplaces where transmission can occur between workers with the public.
“There is already evidence that in numerous countries, protective workplace measures such as distancing and personal equipment are insufficient or even absent. Workers are being made to take risks that shouldn’t be taken, and in some cases, such as in Amazon warehouses, they face sanctions or dismissal for raising safety concerns. Bringing COVID-19 into occupational disease classification is crucial to stopping this and reducing the spread of the virus. This is becoming even more urgent as countries begin to relax restrictions on economic sectors and public spaces,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Occupational disease classification would mean that where workers are infected with the virus, the presumption would be that it is workplace-related unless conclusive evidence is presented to the contrary. It would also reinforce public health measures which are in place and which will evolve in the coming months and years.
“We are also calling for occupational health and safety to be given the status of a fundamental right at the International Labour Organization. This is a long-overdue measure which would give workers’ protection from death and disease the same priority as freedom of association, collective bargaining and protection from discrimination, forced labour and child labour,” said Burrow.