Even before the catastrophic spread of COVID-19, 7,600 people died daily because of work-related illness or injury. And during the pandemic, millions of essential workers represented by UNI Global Union and our affiliates—often migrants, women, and people of colour—have risked exposure to this deadly virus to support their communities and their families. Tragically, an untold number have died.
“This International Workers’ Memorial Day, we remember the workers who are no longer with us. We hold their loved ones in our thoughts. We recognize they did not sign up to risk their lives when they worked so bravely to keep our societies running,” said UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman. “And we honour them today—and the many others killed or injured from working—by fighting for the living.” Read more here
Today is #WorkersMemorialDay. We honor all the workers who died from their job – by fighting for those who live.
@ifmetal lifting the vital role of regional protective agents in the pandemic. No one should have to get sick, hurt or die from the job!
Idag är det #WorkersMemorialDay. Vi hedrar alla de arbetare som dött av sitt jobb – genom att kämpa för de som lever. @ifmetall lyfter de regionala skyddsombudens livsviktiga roll i pandemin. Ingen ska behöva bli sjuk, skada sig eller dö av jobbet! pic.twitter.com/r3WLMbTjTK
Each year on this date, labor unions, other advocacy groups and family members mark Workers Memorial Day in recognition of lives lost on the job. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, 5,333 workers died of traumatic injury or sudden illness. It’s as if the entire population of Dayton, Kentucky, were erased.
This Workers Memorial Day has a different timbre than previous ones, which have tended to focus on explosions, transportation accidents, falls, trench collapses and other easily measurable events, as opposed to chronic, work-related diseases, which develop over time and take an estimated 95,000 lives a year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added a fearsome, invisible layer of risk to all of this. And the government agency responsible for workplace health and safety enforcement, which turns 50 today, is under pressure to do something about it.
Since COVID invaded the United States 15 months ago, advocates have urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt an emergency temporary standard that would force employers to take steps to quell the spread of the virus, or face penalties. Such standards, intended to address “grave danger,” are exceedingly rare; OSHA has put out nine over the past half-century, none since 1983.
On Monday, an OSHA spokeswoman said the agency had sent a draft standard to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. It’s unclear how long the review will take, or what will happen as a result.
During the Trump administration, OSHA declined to act aggressively on COVID, insisting that non-binding employer guidance – even in high-risk industries such as health care and meatpacking – was enough. That decision has come under heavy criticism. While the total number of deaths across all industries isn’t known, at least 3,758 health care workers had died of the virus as of April 23, according to National Nurses United, a union with more than 170,000 members.
One of them was Celia Yap-Banago, 69, a registered nurse in Kansas City, Missouri, who succumbed on April 21, 2020. She’d fallen ill about a month earlier but had assured her husband and two sons she would make a full recovery. She died in isolation at her home. “We never really thought she would be one of the statistics,” said her eldest son, Jhulan. “Our outlook was, ‘We’ve just got to bite the bullet and wait this one out.’”
On January 21, one day after he was inaugurated, President Biden issued an executive order instructing OSHA to decide by March 15 whether to mandate mask-wearing and other measures on an emergency basis. That deadline came and went. In an email to the Center for Public Integrity, agency spokeswoman Denisha Braxton wrote, “OSHA has been working diligently on its proposal and has taken the appropriate time to work with its science-agency partners, economic agencies, and others in the U.S. government to get this proposed emergency standard right.”
OSHA’s leader during the Obama administration, David Michaels, has argued for the move since the beginning of the pandemic. “There has never been a hazard more deserving of an emergency temporary standard,” said Michaels, a public health professor at George Washington University.
That sentiment is shared by the AFL-CIO’s director of occupational safety and health, Rebecca Reindel, who fears there’s a false belief that the virus has been vanquished, with about a quarter of Americans fully vaccinated and 40% having had their first of two shots. “We’re now in a fourth surge,” she said. “We have variants wreaking havoc in some cities, and we know we’re not out of the woods.”
National Nurses United, an AFL-CIO affiliate, says an emergency standard would force hospitals and other employers to stop cutting corners. A recent NNU survey of more than 9,200 registered nurses nationwide found, among other things, that 81% of respondents reported being forced to re-use personal protective equipment and 47% believed their hospitals were short-staffed.
Pascaline Muhindura, one of Yap-Banago’s fellow nurses at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, told a House subcommittee in March that the lack of an OSHA standard and faulty guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were creating needless peril. “Over the course of the past year, every single nurse and health care worker in my unit has contracted COVID-19,” Muhindura testified. The hospital’s owner, HCA Healthcare, “has failed to provide the N95 respirators and other workplace protections that my colleagues and I needed to do our jobs safely,” she said.
In a statement to Public Integrity, HCA Healthcare spokeswoman Christine Hamele wrote, “Our frontline caregivers have shown unwavering commitment throughout the pandemic, and we have followed or exceeded CDC guidance to protect them. This includes universal protections requiring all staff in all areas to wear masks, including N95s … While labor unions continue to attack hospitals across the country, we remain focused on protecting our colleagues and caring for our communities.”
At the same March hearing, Manesh K. Rath, a lawyer who represents companies and trade groups in occupational safety and health cases, argued against an emergency temporary standard, saying employers had made “a variety of interventions” to slow transmission of COVID and didn’t need the government to tell them what to do. Emergency standards are “immutable and ill-adapted to evolving conditions,” he said, citing a rule issued by California, which runs its own workplace safety program, that was “hastily approved” and had to be clarified several times.
The state regulatory agency, known as Cal/OSHA, makes no apologies for such adjustments. The standard “will continue to evolve to address changes in the availability of vaccines and public health guidance from the CDC and the [California Department of Public Health],” Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterroza wrote in an email. As of April 5, she wrote, the agency had cited companies for 503 COVID-related violations and proposed penalties of more than $4.6 million. (Cal/OSHA’s chief, Douglas Parker, has been nominated by Biden to lead federal OSHA.)
Federal OSHA, whose inspection force was gutted by Trump, has citedsome employers using standards governing respiratory protection, recordkeeping and illness-and-injury reporting, and under the so-called general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, a catchall that requires employers to provide workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” As ofJanuary 14, the agency had issued citations after 315 workplace inspections for the virus and proposed penalties of more than $4 million, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service.
If OSHA were to issue an emergency temporary standard, it would take effect immediately after publication in the Federal Register and last for six months, after which the agency would be expected to propose a permanent standard. Court challenges by industry, however, would seem inevitable and have proven effective. Of the nine emergency standards issued since 1971, two were vacated in part or in whole after judicial review and three were stayed, the Congressional Research Service reported.
Whatever OSHA does will come too late for Celia Yap-Banago and thousands of other fallen workers. Jhulan Banago, 29, remembers his mother as someone who would initially appear shy but relished her work and “loved to get in people’s business.” Born and trained as a nurse in the Philippines, she had lived in Kansas City since the early 1980s. When she got sick last year, she was pondering retirement – not too seriously, Jhulan believes – so she could travel with her already-retired husband, Amado.
Her symptoms started with a slight fever. Fatigue, a higher fever and breathing difficulties followed. She never felt the need to be hospitalized, however, and was tended to at home by her family. Jhulan found her unresponsive in her bedroom around dinner time on April 21 – “about 25 minutes after she said she’d be fine.”
On 28 April, the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) and the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) commemorate workers who have lost their lives to workplace accidents and diseases and highlight our ongoing fight for healthy, safe and decent working conditions. more • #iwmd21
On April 28th, International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD), the ITF remembers all those across the world killed at or around their place of work.
The ITF supports the campaign led by the International Trade Union Confederation calling on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to recognise occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work. This would fulfil a pledge made at the 2019 ILO Centenary Declaration, adopted unanimously, to ensure OSH for all workers.
#IWMD21 is especially poignant this year as it comes amid a devastating surge in global Covid-19 infections. Last week over 5.8 million new cases of Covid-19 were registered globally, the highest number to date. Many of these infections will have been caught at, or on the commute to or from, people’s workplaces.
But even before Covid-19, thousands of transport workers were vulnerable to injury or death in the workplace. The pandemic has simply exposed just how urgently occupational health and safety measures are needed.
“Every death at work is a death too many: the ILO, governments and employers must take greater action to halt preventable workplace deaths. Recognition of occupational health and safety as an ILO Fundamental Right at Work would be a strong step in the right direction.” – Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary
Governments and employers also have a responsibility to protect workers from violence and harassment in the workplace, which disproportionately impacts women workers. ITF affiliates, activists and Global Union Federations were instrumental in enacting global legislation against violence and harassment in the world of work.
ILO Convention 190, along with other recommendations, must be signed onto by government to protect all workers from violence and harassment at work including the commute.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a brutal impact on the health of all workers around the world, especially those frontline workers most exposed to the virus, including journalists. On International Workers Memorial Day, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) pays tribute to all media workers who have died from the virus and praises the enormous work of its affiliates, who have fought day in, day out to protect the health and safety of journalists all over the world.
Training and safety
When the global pandemic broke out, many media workers were forced to continue reporting from the front line with little or no information about the virus, proper training or equipment. Overnight, hundreds of thousands of journalists were risking their lives to continue informing people about the virus in a moment when, paradoxically, access to accurate and quality information was saving lives.
While many employers and governments ignored journalists’ status as essential workers, unions played a key role in putting journalists’ physical and psychological safety first.
Training media workers to protect themselves from the virus has also been fundamental to saving lives. For example, Somalia with one of the weakest health systems in the world, has experienced high numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The NUSOJ and IOM COVID-19 reporting handbook for Somali journalists provided key information about how journalists can minimise chances of contracting Covid.
Many unions launched their own safety protocols while calling on the national authorities to make sure that media employers were guaranteeing Covid-safe newsrooms. Unfortunately, this has not been always the case. For example, in some newsrooms in Pakistan, employers forced workers to continue working and going to the newsroom after testing positive, putting themselves and the rest of the staff at serious risk of infection.
While fighting the health crisis was the first priority of the pandemic, trade unions also had to rapidly deal with the social and in many cases humanitarian crisis suffered by their members.
Once again, union solidarity made a difference to help the most vulnerable journalists, especially those who work as freelancers and had no social benefits, to move forward.
There have been many gestures of solidarity from trade unions, even in those countries where the pandemic situation was critical and out of control. The KUJ in Kenya, mobilized resources to help those most in need. APES in El Salvador, delivered basic food baskets to journalists working for small local newspapers suffering the hardest part of the crisis.
“APES help came at the right time.They brought us food, they gave us biosafety equipment that was extremely difficult to find by that timeand that’s how we were able to move forward” said Salvadorian journalist Yaneth Estrada, journalist for Diario Co Latino, in a video recorded for the IFJ.
Journalists are essential workers and we must be treated as such
While it remains difficult to determine the exact number of media workers who have died from the virus worldwide and whether they have been infected while working or somewhere else, it’s easy to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of journalists have risked their lives informing the public during the pandemic. That is to say: they are essential workers and should be treated as such within the ongoing vaccination campaigns.
This has been widely understood by the IFJ affiliates, who have made significant gains to push the authorities to recognize media workers’ role and their exposure to the virus while reporting. The IJS in Iraq managed to get journalists put on the list of priority groups who are being vaccinated now. The same success was recorded in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and in some regions in Brazil.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Today our thoughts go out to all the journalists killed by Covid-19, their families, friends and colleagues. Also with all our affiliates, who have fought to protect the health and lives of their members even in the most difficult situations. It is imperative that governments act and include journalists in the priority vaccination groups to prevent further deaths in our profession.”
For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries
Тон встрече задал Заместитель Генерального секретаря МКП, Оуэн Тюдор, рассказав о текущей значимой кампании МКП по продвижению стандартов охраны труда в разряд фундаментальных прав МОТ, призвав интенсифицировать лоббирование этого процесса на национальном уровне в преддверии 28 апреля, а также делиться информацией о действиях и успехах с международным профсоюзным движением.
Берт де Вел из МКП говорил об интеграции охраны труда в контекст справедливого перехода. Также он подчеркнул важность проблемы изменения климата несмотря на кризис с COVID19. Трудящиеся должны иметь голос при принятии решений в этих областях, понимать риски и потенциальное воздействие на их труд и средства существования. Также он рассказал об информационной кампании МКП по обеспечению устойчивости рабочих мест к изменению климата #CEPOW.
Виктор Кемпа, курирующий работу сети от Европейского профсоюзного института, рассказал о работе, которую ведет ЕПИ и ЕКП и ее членские организации по признанию COVID19 профессиональным заболеванием, отметив, что во многих странах это рассматривается как вопрос общественного здоровья, а не как профессиональный риск. Также он отметил для профсоюзов вызов не только признания заболевания профессиональным, но и доказательства того, что риск произошел на рабочем месте.
На круглом столе участники из двух суб-регионов обменялись основными проблемами, которые требуют от профсоюзов и экспертов по охране труда повышенного внимания. Среди них, помимо мер, направленных на снижение заболеваемости и профилактику COVID19, можно выделить: обеспечение реализации норм по охране труда при удаленной, платформенной, дистанционной и других формах занятости, рост которых спровоцировала пандемия, обеспечение мер безопасности на рабочих местах для работников, нанятых по гражданско-правовым контрактам, восстановление мандатов и функционала Инспекций труда.
Ключевыми достижениями профсоюзов в этой области в регионе стали Признание COVID19 профессиональным заболеванием в Хорватии, восстановление Инспекций труда в Грузии и Молдове.
Также представители процентров поделились своими планами на 28 апреля, среди которых как мероприятия национального уровня, так и инициативы сообществ на локальном уровне и непосредственно на рабочих местах.
Встреча состоялась в рамках проекта по укреплению потенциала национальных профцентров Union-to-Union.
Meeting of the health and safety network for NIS and SEE nations
Ahead of April 28, the International Day of Remembrance of Workers Who Died or Injured in the Workplace, PERC held a meeting of the health and safety network for the trade union centres of the countries of South East Europe and New Independent States.
The tone of the meeting was set by the ICP Under-Secretary-General, Owen Tudor, describing the ICP’s ongoing significant campaign to promote labour standards as fundamental rights for the ILO, calling for intensified lobbying at the national level in the run-up to 28 April,and to share information on actions and successes with the international trade union movement.
Bert de Vel of the ICP spoke of integrating health and safety into the context of a fair transition. He also stressed the importance of climate change despite the COVID19 crisis. Workers must have a voice in decision-making in these areas, understand the risks and potential impact on their work and livelihoods. He also spoke about the ICP’s information campaign to ensure the sustainability of jobs to climate change #CEPOW.
Victor Kempa, who oversees the network from the European Trade Union Institute, spoke about the work being done by the EPI and the ECP and its member organizations to recognize COVID19 as a professional disease, noting that in many countries this is seen as a public health issue, not a professional risk. He also noted for trade unions the challenge not only of recognizing the disease as a professional, but also evidence that the risk occurred in the workplace.
At the roundtable, participants from the two sub-regions exchanged the main issues that require increased attention from trade unions and health and safety experts. Among them, in addition to measures aimed at reducing morbidity and prevention of COVID19, there are: ensuring the implementation of health and safety standards in remote, platform, remote and other forms of employment, the growth of which was triggered by the pandemic, the provision of workplace safety measures for workers hired under civil contracts, the restoration of mandates and the functionality of the Labour Inspections.
The key achievements of trade unions in this area in the region were the recognition of COVID19 as a occupational disease in Croatia, the restoration of labor inspections in Georgia and Moldova.
Representatives of the union centers also shared their plans for April 28, including both national-level events and community initiatives at the local level and directly in the workplace.
The meeting took place within the framework of a project to strengthen the capacity of the Union-to-Union national trade centers.
We remember the workers who have died at work every April 28 and rededicate ourselves to fight like hell for the living.The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the critical importance of workplace safety for the physical and mental health of workers.
The health worker death toll due to the pandemic is at least 17,000. This means more than one health worker dies every 30 minutes. Workers across all other sectors have also been impacted to different extents.
“Every 12 seconds, there is a work-related death somewhere in the world”
Millions of workers continue to die due to lack of adequate workplace safety. Every 12 seconds, there is a work-related death somewhere in the world. Many more suffer chronic or acute diseases. Stress and burnout also contribute significantly to undermining the mental health of overworked and often underpaid working people.
This worrisome situation must stop. Despite the formal inclusion of occupational safety and health as a core aspect of the decent work concept, it is not yet an International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental right at work (FRAW).
ILO’s recognition of workplace safety as a key FRAW would lead to its inclusion along with freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and conventions against child labour and forced labour as components of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW). In remembering the dead we will fight to win this recognition today, and until victory.