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WFTU statement on the attacks against workers

By World Federation of Trade Unions |
March 26, 2020
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following March 24 statement of the World Federation of Trade Unions.

THE WFTU STANDS SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH WORKERS AND THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD AGAINST THE ATTACKS AT THE EXPENSE OF WORKERS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The World Federation of Trade Unions, its 100 million members and friends of militant workers around the world, we express our internationalist solidarity and support to workers and the peoples of all countries affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

What is once more reaffirmed is that in difficult times, such as during extreme natural phenomena, wars, disasters, pandemics, it is the workers and the poor people who are at the forefront of danger. The workers are required to pay the price of the pandemic’s effects on both their health and their working rights, so that large business groups, multinationals and big companies can ensure their profitability.

From the first days of the spread of the Coronavirus up to the present day, where many countries register thousands of cases and victims, violations of rights, redundancies, restrictions on trade union rights and freedoms by governments and employers have not stopped. They take advantage of the pandemic in order to generalize anti-labor measures and tactics.

Thousands of layoffs have taken place since the beginning of the month in sectors where the turnover has fallen due to the pandemic, as illustrated by Greece’s example, which measures 41.000 layoffs in the first half of March. In Austria, in March, 74.000 workers lost their jobs, in Sweden the automotive industry announced 20.000 suspensions. Still other businesses have been generalizing flexible working hours and forcing workers into compulsory leaves, as denounced by unions in Europe, France and Latin America, in countries such as Panama and Venezuela. Airlines like the colossal Turkish Airlines, Imperia, Lufthansa and Emirates have forced tens of thousands of workers to unpaid leaves, threatening them with layoffs, as did travel agencies, hotels and tourism companies in general.

Many businesses, as workers in Italy denounce, continue to operate normally without the necessary protection measures against the Coronavirus for workers who went on strike across the country last week. In Peru, mining companies also force workers to work without any security protocol. In Serbia, in Turkey, the trade unions in transport, in metal, in other sectors demand the implementation of health and safety measures in the workplaces.

In Portugal, a few days ago, the dockworkers of the port of Lisbon who went on strike because of the lack of basic protection measures, were called to work after the government announced a civil requisition.

On the other hand, in businesses where turnover is rising sharply due to the Coronavirus pandemic, such as in Supermarkets etc, they are forcing workers to intensify their work. These workers are suffering exhaustion and occupational “accidents” and diseases. These “accidents” are often not even recorded by the Labor Inspection, which has been closed under these circumstances, instead of being present and carrying out intensive inspections. Also employees are denied leaves and day-offs, there is no information about COVID-19 cases in their workplace, the employers hide such cases so that a large number of staff is not quarantined.

In countries such as Palestine, measures for workers whose workplaces were closed due to the Coronavirus are summed up in a miserable allowance while Israeli forces continue to violate rights and also murder Palestinian workers. In Jordan and elsewhere there is growing concern about the unsecured workers and those who work in the informal sector, who have been found with no income and are not entitled to allowances as it is the case for the long-term unemployed workers in many countries.

In India, trade unions condemn the government’s attitude of leaving the masses of workers helpless, without financial support, while showing tragic shortcomings in the necessary material to deal with the Coronavirus, such as medical ventilators.

In the USA, in New York alone, 21.000 unemployment applications, a record number, have been submitted in just one day.

In Africa, COVID-19 outbreaks are on the rise in more and more countries of the continent, with workers in South Africa, the second-most-affected country, calling for protection measures for the most vulnerable groups of the population, and those already suffering from other diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis.

The policies of the vast majority of African governments, along with multinationals and monopolies, are responsible for the serious survival problems of workers and the popular strata, as well as for the tragic shortcomings in health systems and in securing access to clean drinking water and suitable housing for the populations.

The rights of workers who are at the frontline of the struggle against the Coronavirus, are also being violated. We are referring to doctors and other health-care staff, whose work is intensified to the fullest extent due to under-staffing and under-functioning of public health structures. Their risk of exposure to Coronavirus is high, they are required to work even if they themselves are ill, there are no protection measures for vulnerable groups among them. In countries such as Italy, where around 300 hospital beds correspond to 100.000 persons, the Health Workers are called upon to decide which patients to save and who to leave without the necessary medical care.

Today, in the face of the pandemic, and with a steady stream of aid to large companies, with billions being offered to them in various countries, all lost jobs must be restored and secured, without any conditions. All the changes in working relationships that employers have made with the cover of governments must be taken back.

The big trade union family of the WFTU, its trade unions members and friends on the 5 Continents, we are not passive observers – we continue our action to protect the lives and working rights of workers!

Under these difficult circumstances, we find the right ways to keep our workers informed and continue to play our role. We must continue our daily struggle to defend our rights without “discounts” and compromises.

Governments are announcing measures against the spread of the Coronavirus, putting forward the personal responsibility. However, it is revealed that gathering restriction measures and information campaigns for the implementation of personal hygiene measures cannot hide the inadequacy of public health systems to meet the requirements of hospitalization and health-care, due to the Coronavirus. Inadequacy that results from the deliberate undermining of all governments (both social- democratic and neo-conservative).

– The governments have the primary responsibility to provide public, free, high quality and modern Health services.

– The governments have the responsibility to stop the speculation of the capitalists.

– The governments have the responsibility to ban the dismissals and the cut of salaries and working rights.

In these difficult times, we are strengthening internationalism and solidarity among the workers of the world. We salute the initiative of Cuba to send 52 specialized doctors to Italy to help treat the pandemic.

No one must feel alone!

We are fighting to defend our health and our rights!

We are fighting for a system that prioritizes human beings and their needs and utilizes the scientific achievements to deal with a pandemic, or other catastrophic events in a timely and planned manner.

We once again congratulate the workers who continue in these difficult times to move the cogs of life, producing food, medicine, transportation, communication, services, even at the risk of their own lives.

LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

THE SECRETARIAT

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