25 June, 2020Seventeen unions in South Asia and South East Asia have vowed to defend workers’ rights during the pandemic, urging governments to enforce safety and health practices to protect workers’ lives.
IndustriALL Global Union’s Asia Pacific affiliates in electricity, nuclear, oil and gas sectors held two virtual meetings on 22 and 23 June to discuss workers’ situation during the outbreak of Covid-19.
Electricity demands declined during lockdowns, and workers are concerned about their safety and health while carrying out installations, repairs, and meter reading. Unions have negotiated for personal protective equipment and extended the schedule of meter readings.
“Our union will make sure every workplace provides face masks and hand sanitizers to workers. It is compulsory to check body temperature before entering the workplace,”
said Lamyuang, secretary of Labour Union of Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (LU-EGAT).
Similarly, the demand of oil and gas has dropped across the region due to restricted economic activities. All Pakistan Oil and Gas Employees Federation (APOGEF ) from Pakistan was hit hard, as many refinery plants were closed and workers laid off as a result of the plunge of oil and gas demands.
“Pakistani oil and gas workers have been critically affected by the pandemic. Workers have been terminated, as drilling and refinery companies have stopped its operations and transport companies are not receiving any orders,”
said Syed Ejaz Hussain Shah, APOGEF general secretary.
The chairperson of Asia Pacific energy union network and the president of Denryokusoren, Koji Sakata urged unionists to remain vigilant on the impact of Covid-19 on employment and working conditions in the energy sector.
He also urged unions to take on numerous policy challenges, like eradication of poverty, reducing inequality and adapting new technology.
“Governments should provide more comprehensive employment protection packages to retain jobs and decent working conditions. Employers’ unilateral decision to cut benefits must stop,”
stressed Chuang Chueh An, chairperson of Asia Pacific oil and gas union network and president of Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union.
IndustriALL energy director Diana Junquera Curiel called on the unions to remain united and extended solidarity to the workers who are suffering:
“If the struggle continues, we will find strategies to overcome the challenges. Let’s build stronger union networks to create safer and healthier workplaces.”