UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman has issued an International Workers’ Memorial Day message calling on us to honour the workers we have lost during the Covid-19 crisis, but to “fight like hell for the living.”
Using her personal experience and examples from UNI affiliates, GS Hoffman stresses the importance that unions play in establishing safe workplaces and holding employers accountable:
There are valuable lessons we must learn from this crisis.
And one that we must remember is the difference a union can make in terms of health and safety. And it is not only about negotiating the conditions of safe work — it is about representation and a voice on the job lead by rank and file workers. A union health and safety committee is a watchdog, making sure that employers don’t cut corners or require a pace of production that is too fast to be safe. They enable workers, those who are closest to the problem, to expose the hazards and recommend solutions.
Additionally, UNI is joining the ITUC and other global unions in calling on governments and occupational health and safety bodies around the world to recognise Covid-19 first, as an occupational hazard and also an occupational disease.
ITUC Global COVID-19 Survey: Global gaps in adequate provision of PPE and preparation of safe workplaces to protect workers from spread of Covid-19 in spotlight
As lockdowns are eased in some countries with partial re-openings of workplaces, government and employer preparations to protect workers from Covid-19 as they return to work are in the spotlight. Trade unions from just one in five (21%) countries would rate the measures that are in place to protect workers from the spread of the virus at work as good. Most (54% or 58 countries) would rate these protections as fair. Twenty-six countries (24%) would rate the protections as poor.
The findings in the third ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey of 148 trade unions from 107 countries, including 17 G20 countries and 35 OECD countries carried out between 20th April – 23 April 2020 show the gaps in access to safe workplaces and global concerns on the provision of personal protective equipment for health and care workers.
“Preparing workers to return to work safely in consultation with unions is a critical next step in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Workers need official recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational disease and governments to require reporting and recording of work-related cases, as well as compensation schemes and medical care for victims for work-related Covid-19 and for their bereaved families. Governments in Australia, Denmark, Germany and Malaysia are showing the way – others must follow.
Globally, occupational health and safety must be included by the International Labour Organization as a fundamental right with global standards to protect workers,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.
Almost one in five countries (17%) say they are undertaking partial re-opening of workplaces, businesses and community spaces.
Of the 19 countries planning a partial or full re-opening:
- Just five rate the protections in place for workers as good.
- Six rate the protections in place as poor.
- Eight would rate the protections as fair.
In the Americas 44% of countries say measures for safe workplace are poor, and in Africa 41% of countries say workplace safety is poor. Only 25% of countries in Europe rate measures to protect workers from the spread of the virus as good.
While many countries continue to respond to high levels of infections and deaths, shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health and care workers is a serious issue in the majority of countries.
Under half (49%) of countries said that they always or very often have adequate supplies of PPE available for all health workers and care workers responding to the virus. Fifty-one per cent of countries said PPE supplies are sometimes, rarely or never adequate, exposing the risks faced by millions of frontline health and care workers responding to the pandemic.
“Frontline workers including health and care workers are putting their lives on the line to care for Covid-19 patients. The failures to supply enough PPE for workers puts workers, patients and communities at risk and has led to lawsuits by in the US by the New York Nurses Association. On International Workers Memorial Day we remember all those wh have died at work or from work-related diseases and we pledge to fight for the living. Workers must have secure supplies of PPE, and the G20 has a responsibility to ensure trade flows of PPE are not restricted and that prices are stabalised, ” said Sharan Burrow.
The ITUC Global Covid-19 Survey, which includes tracking data from countries which responded in the week of 20th April – 23 April found:
- The majority of countries (61%) are containing the spread of the virus with national lockdown measures including the closure of schools and non-essential businesses.
- Most (54% or 58 countries) believe their government is responding quite well, while just 12% (13 countries) believe their government is responding very well.
- Thirty-four per cent (36 countries) believe that their government is responding badly. This includes 27 (25%) that believe they are responding badly and 9 (8%) that believe they are responding very badly.
- Just over half (51% or 55 countries) believe that employers are responding badly to the needs of workers. Nine countries (or 8%) believe that employers are responding very badly.
“In many countries the struggle will be to keep the meaures governments have put in place for income and wage protection, while in many countries the struggle to achieve guarantees of decent work with jobs, income and social protection has just deepened. Social dialogue between unions, governments and employers is critical. The world cannot go back to business as usual – recovery plans must ensure a socially just future,” said Sharan Burrow.
Education International (EI)
International Workers’ Memorial Day on occupational health and safety, observed the 28th of April every year. The international day was born in 1996 to mourn those who had died on the job and to fight for the living. It has spread to all continents of the world.
On this day, EI mourns all workers, but especially education workers, who have died at work and in the line of duty. We also will fight for their health and lives in the present and for the future.
COVID-19 is a pandemic that is lethal on a large scale. For those in direct contact with others, including many working in education, it is an occupational health and safety challenge. Some deaths, with proper precautions and protections, could have been avoided.
Although in our sectors, many are tele-working or on leave, this will change with the opening of schools. Already, opening dates have been announced in several countries. With re-opening, in addition to the ongoing public health danger to all, exposure at the workplace will become a major, perhaps the major risk.
COVID-19 and other infectious diseases contracted at work, should be recognised. They should be given the same treatment, including compensation, as other occupational diseases.
Every situation is different. In countries where great progress has been made and where tests and protective devices are widely available, reopening may be relatively safe. However, even in those situations, there may be a risk of unleashing a second wave.
Regardless of circumstances, even though more information is becoming available, what is not known about this virus remains more important than what we know. It is another reason that re-opening must be careful and methodical.
Social distancing, a crucial element of the combat against COVID-19, under the best of circumstances, will be difficult in schools and, in some cases, may be impossible. Hallways and staircases in many schools before the pandemic were already too narrow to easily accommodate normal traffic.
For small children, social distancing is bizarre behaviour and hard to understand. Even for older students, it may be difficult to respect due to limits of space, but also because of the normal rush of school life; getting from one class to another, to lunch and leaving at the end of the day. That means that social distancing will require considerable logistical and cultural changes.
To make school reopening as safe as possible, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration. They include whether there has been a significant decline in the general risk, the existence of widespread testing and monitoring, the availability of protective devices, regular disinfection, and modifications of physical arrangements and measures such as staggered classes and reduced class sizes. Such protections will be especially challenging in countries with limited possibilities to provide those protections and weak public health systems.
Workers in education, particularly teachers, are often older than the larger population because it has been hard, in recent years, to recruit new talent. That means that teachers may be especially vulnerable to infection. Education personnel, particularly from high-risk groups, should not be required to go back to school. They should be permitted to continue to work from home or make other arrangements.
Work-related stress has become a major issue for teachers in many countries as has been documented by the recent OECD TALIS report. Existing stress factors in education will be aggravated by fear of contamination during re-opening and, perhaps, for months to come.
In some countries where school re-opening has been scheduled, there have been consultations and/or negotiations with education trade unions on the details of occupational health and safety protections. Often, they are the same countries, with strong social dialogue traditions, where there were already discussions of closures.
However, the EI survey of member organisations on COVID-19 showed that the governments that acted correctly at that time were exceptional. Reopening decisions are neither urgent nor abrupt. They are planned. Trade unions should be fully involved in reopening planning and decisions.
David Edwards, Education International General Secretary stated: “For growing numbers of workers in education and other sectors, the worksite will become the greatest source of risk for COVID-19. There is no excuse for not involving the representatives of workers, their trade unions, in reopening decisions and ongoing occupational health and safety vigilance. It is the health and lives of those workers that are most at stake.”
“The reopening of schools can be a massive risk for teachers and other education workers. Every effort should be made to ensure that risks are reduced to the minimum through best practices based on science, not politics, and anchored in cooperation and social dialogue.”
“COVID-19 may be a natural disaster, but avoidable illness and death is human failure. International Workers’ Memorial Day is, in this dark year, not only a way to recognise those who have already sacrificed, but to chart a path that restores trust and hope and gives us a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Statement of the Council of Global Unions on the recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease, released on the occasion of International Workers Memorial Day 2020, is also available here
“Home care workers are the first line of defense against #covid19 for millions of elderly & sick patients. This crisis is showing the world the vital role caregivers play in our societies,” said Christy Hoffman General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
#ProtectHomecareWorkers • Read more • UNI Global Union
28 de abril: Jornada Internacional para recordar a las/os trabajadoras/es fallecidas/os, lesionadas/os y enfermas/os producto del trabajo
ALTO A LA PANDEMIA EN EL TRABAJO
La salud y la vida de las/os trabajadoras/es no son mercancía
Cada 28 de abril el sindicalismo internacional conmemora y recuerda a las/os trabajadoras/es que han muerto, están enfermas/os o han sufrido accidentes durante el trabajo. Fecha declarada por la ONU “Día Mundial de la Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo”, en la cual reivindicamos la necesidad de hacer visibles las graves condiciones de inseguridad en las que millones de trabajadoras/es del mundo realizan sus labores.
En 2019, la OIT llamó la atención ante la gravedad de que 317 millones de trabajadoras/es fueron víctimas de accidentes de trabajo en todo el mundo y 2,34 millones murieron debido a accidentes o a enfermedades profesionales. En las Américas, las cifras aproximadas según la OIT para el mismo período son 11,1 accidentes mortales por cada 100.000 trabajadores en la industria, 10,7 en la agricultura, y 6,9 en el sector de los servicios; esto a pesar del subregistro existente en todos los países.
El Covid19 agrava las condiciones de salud y seguridad de las/os trabajadoras/es
Este año del 2020 la pandemia del Covid19 ha cobrado hasta el momento la vida de más de 100 mil personas en las Américas, según datos de la Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS). Para la CSA, esta pandemia aparte de ser una crisis sanitaria y de salud pública, es sobre todo una crisis del sistema económico neoliberal en tanto evidencia el fracaso de sus políticas de reducción del Estado, las privatizaciones, la precarización del trabajo y la disminución de derechos sociales y laborales.
La situación se agrava cuando encontramos que, en nuestra región, según la OIT, existen alrededor de 300 millones de trabajadoras/es en condiciones de informalidad, quienes se ven obligadas/os a salir a trabajar (porque si no trabajan no comen) y se contabiliza un aumento de 14 millones de desempleadas/os a la primera quincena del mes de abril en el marco de la actual crisis por la pandemia.
Este 28 de abril queremos hacer visible de manera particular, la situación de inseguridad en que se encuentra un gran número de trabajadoras/es de servicios esenciales, que están en la primera línea de atención a la pandemia (trabajadoras/es de los sectores de la salud, funerario, transporte, bomberos, trabajadores de gestión de desechos hospitalarios), que no cuentan con la suficiente protección, con escasa provisión y dotación de los elementos de bioseguridad, expuestos al contagio, muchas de las cuales han muerto. Razón por la que la CSA se une al llamado del sindicalismo internacional para que se declare el Covid19 como enfermedad profesional.
Igualmente, ante la flexibilización de las medidas de aislamiento por parte de los gobiernos, bajo el argumento de recuperar la dinámica económica de sus países, se están llamando a las/os trabajadoras/es a retornar a sus labores sin ofrecerles las debidas medidas de protección.
Junto al riesgo de contagio, es necesario visibilizar el impacto psicosocial en las/os trabajadoras/es asociado no sólo a la incertidumbre y vulnerabilidad de la exposición al virus, sino también a las derivadas de su situación laboral; por ejemplo, el teletrabajo que está siendo usado por muchas empresas y gobiernos de la región. Esto representa una novedad para muchas personas quienes están trabajando por causa mayor en sus casas, con los equipos, espacios y mobiliario propios; conviviendo, además, con las otras personas confinadas en el mismo domicilio, incluidos menores, adolescentes y de edad avanzada, teniendo que combinar su trabajo formal con todo lo que implican las tareas de cuidados.
Afirmamos que las diversas situaciones asociadas a accidentes, muertes y a enfermedades en el trabajo y los nuevos escenarios que se abren en el marco de esta crisis sanitaria, son consecuencia del actual modelo de desarrollo económico perverso y concentrador de riquezas que prevalece en nuestros países; modelo contrario a la lógica del desarrollo sustentable que proponemos en la PLADA, que coloca como eje central del desarrollo el trabajo decente, sano y seguro.
Ante este cuadro, este 28 de abril la CSA reafirma que:
• Es necesario un cambio de paradigma para que la salud y la seguridad de las personas trabajadoras se convierta en la prioridad de las políticas públicas efectivas.
• Es urgente fortalecer el diálogo social y la negociación colectiva para que juntos, gobiernos, empleadores y sindicatos, podamos definir acciones concretas para garantizar la vida y la salud de las/os trabajadoras/es incluyendo a las/os trabajadoras/es en situación de precariedad e informalidad laboral, en concordancia con las normas y acuerdos internacionales ya establecidos.
• Se requiere garantizar las medidas mínimas como los Equipos de Protección Personal (EPP) y de bioseguridad para todas las personas trabajadoras que hacen frente a la pandemia. Sólo de esta manera estarán en mejores condiciones de salvar vidas. Igualmente, garantizar medidas de protección de salud para toda la población trabajadora.
• En el contexto de la pandemia es necesario proporcionar ingresos mínimos que permitan a las/os trabajadoras/es garantizar sus necesidades fundamentales.
• La salud, la vida y la salud laboral son derechos humanos y son condiciones necesarias para garantizar trabajos decentes. La salud y la vida no son una mercancía.
Este 28 de abril, desde la CSA recordamos a todas las víctimas de la pandemia y en particular a quienes han perdido la vida por ejercer sus trabajos; reafirmamos nuestro compromiso de luchar por mejores condiciones de trabajo, por la defensa de la salud laboral para todas personas trabajadoras, en todos los lugares de trabajo. Por lugares de trabajo sanos y seguros. Hagamos visible lo invisible. Alto a la pandemia en el trabajo.
The IUF joins with our sister international union organizations in calling for speedy official recognition of COVID-19 as an occupational disease by governments and national health and safety bodies. Official recognition of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 as a preventable occupational hazard, and work-related COVID-19 as a work-related disease, would require employers to take necessary measures to protect workers against the risk of exposure, establish liability for failure and provide compensation to workers and their families sickened and killed by COVID-19.
A short policy brief explains how and why this recognition is needed to protect workers, their families and their communities.
Today, 28th of April, is Worker’s Memorial Day. “We must all take responsibility for better health and safety at work in New Zealand. 100 working people were killed in workplaces in the last year,” said Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff. “It is a sombre reflection that today we also open up many workplaces under COVID-19 level 3, and the health and safety of working people is on everyone’s mind.”
” At midday today, union members across New Zealand and the world, will be taking a minute to light a candle and remember the 100 people killed in workplaces, 100 lives too many.”
“We also turn our minds to the international theme of Worker’s Memorial Day, which is ‘Stop the Pandemic at Work’, timely for the re-opening of many worksites under the cloud of COVID -19. We know that internationally there have been thousands of working people exposed. Hundreds of those working in healthcare around the world have died at work trying to save others.”
“In New Zealand, we are proud that our ‘go hard go early’ lockdown has prevented any workplace exposure deaths from COVID-19. We should be taking the same attitude to all health and safety risks at work. “
“The Council of Trade Unions will today be surveying those who went back to the work site today about whether the ’10 checks for a safe return to work’ have been followed. Alert Level 3 is no return to ‘business as usual’ for health and safety. Let the Level 3 re-opening be the reset button we need to treat every workplace risk with the same level of caution we will for COVID-19 – there is no reason any Kiwi should be killed at work,” Wagstaff said.
— EUROPEAN TRADE UNION (@etuc_ces) April 28, 2020
#IWMD20 Have a look at trade union actions across the world 28april.org
28 April 2020 15:00-16:00 (Geneva)
Please register at this link
The aim of this webinar event is to stimulate dialogue on the importance of ensuring safety and health at work, not only to protect the lives of workers but also to ensure business continuity.
Global OSH experts will bring us the views of the scientific community, workers and employers on:
- Safety and health and the response to the pandemic
- The mental health impact of COVID-19 in different work scenarios
- How to prepare for return to work under a risk-controlled scenario
Mr Joaquim Nunes, Chief, LABADMIN/OSH
Ms Manal Azzi, Senior OSH specialist and coordinator of the world day report and campaign
Ms Silvana Cappuccio, ILO Workers’ Group member from Italy
Mr Kris De Meester, Senior Adviser at the Federation of Enterprises, Belgium
Mr Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Regulatory Engagement, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
Mr Lode Godderis, Leuven Centre for Environment and Health, Department of Public Health and Primary Care
Ms Chris Laszcz-Davis, Founder and President of The Environmental Quality Organization and Co-Chair, Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA)
Ms Michelle M. Robertson, Executive Committee, International Ergonomics Association
Mr Barry Kistnasamy, Head of Occupational Health, Department of Health, South Africa
Ms Teresita S. Cucueco, OIC Assistant Secretary and concurrent Director IV, Bureau of Working Conditions, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippines