Covid-19: Unions urge governments, employers to protect workers

Governments should prioritize protecting workers and not to bail out banks and financial institutions.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and other global union federations have urged governments and employers to urgently act to protect workers, and the global economy and society that depends upon them.  Lee Kok Leong, executive editor, Maritime Fairtrade, reports

The International Monetary Fund has warned that Covid-19 could cause an economic crash similar to the 2008 recession.  The need for governments to act together and through multilateral institutions to shore up the economy and keep people in work is clear.  The world needs economic stimulus that reaches the real economy, i.e. workers and small businesses. Government and employers should prioritize employment, livelihoods and communities.  

Income support for all workers, including for part-time, migrant, non-resident, precarious, gig and informal workers, is essential.  Governments must rise to the challenge to tackle the crisis today and to prepare and prevent future disease crises.  Workers and their workplaces are central to this.

The Council of Global Unions (CGU) called for urgent economic stimulus and for dialogue between unions, employers and governments to work collectively to protect workers’ health and their rights at work.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) general secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Urgent economic stimulus packages must include paid sick leave, maintenance of income to cover the cost of housing, electricity, food and other essential items, and extend social protection for all workers regardless of their employment status. This is the only way to sustain jobs and the economy, protect wages, the welfare of workers, and small and medium-sized businesses. 

“The lessons of the 2008/9 crisis must dictate that the income support that working families need and businesses benefit from is the target and not a bail out of banks and financial institutions.  Governments will need to cooperate and engage with multilateral institutions, monitor the devastation for countries less able to respond and to ensure vital aid to create capacity to deal with the threats posed by Covid-19.”

Steven Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and chair of the CGU said: “We acknowledge that this pandemic is a difficult environment to do business in, but employers must act decisively and responsibly to provide protections for workers throughout their supply chains.  

“This must start with their duty of care to protect workers from transmission of Covid-19 and extend to protecting the wages of all employees regardless of their employment status, guaranteeing sick leave and supporting flexible working conditions during the crisis.  We call on employers to prioritize the rights and welfare of workers as we collectively respond to challenges posed by Covid-19.”

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