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Pharmaceutical unions support universal access to COVID-19 vaccines

26 May, 2021The IndustriALL Global Pharmaceutical Unions Network sends a clear message: We are ready to produce, we want to contribute to the effort against the pandemic, in the spirit of solidarity.

Meeting online on 25 May, union delegates representing pharmaceutical workers in 42 trade unions from 27 countries addressed the challenges faced by their members from the pandemic. The group took a strong stand and adopted a statement on universal access to vaccines, tests, treatments, therapies, and drugs to fight COVID-19, and other aspects including:

“Demanding a common commitment by countries to not hoard or stockpile large numbers of vaccine doses; and calling upon all vaccine-producing countries to allow exports and to avoid measures that disrupt supply chains.”

Tackling the extreme global inequality of vaccine access, that sees 75 per cent of vaccines so far administered in only 10 countries, and only 2 per cent of people in Africa vaccinated, the meeting heard expert contributions from the WTO and Third World Network. This group meets biannually and consistently follows the policy line of universal access to medicine.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary said,

“This is an emergency, only through solidarity can we get the vaccines and treatment to all regions at the necessary speed. The pharmaceutical workers of IndustriALL are ready to contribute, to reconvert production, to transfer technology and skills. We must lift the barriers that block most of the world from receiving what is needed to stop this pandemic.” 

10,000 people are dying and at least 500,000 new cases of infection are registered every day now, with Brazil and India among the worst affected.

Just prior to the meeting, IndustriALL leadership met WTO Director General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and discussed trade barriers for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies, and discussions around a temporary waiver of WTO intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The network also conducted a session on building union power in multinational companies in the sector, addressing union activities in Takeda, Sanofi, Fresenius, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis, AstraZeneca, and B. Braun. Differing levels of recognition and dialogue have been built in these priority companies, with all unions involved committing to continuing its ambitious plan of international solidarity and coordination.

The IndustriALL Philippine pharmaceutical union network was showcased as a strong example of building union power in the sector, following years of work the group has achieved government recognition for its demand for sectoral bargaining.

In conclusion of the conference Masato Shinohara, chair of the IndustriALL Global Union global pharmaceutical unions’ network said,

“What is really important is that we work together to be able to create a safe working environment. COVID-19 is an important topic, and we must work hard to overcome the pandemic so that all workers around the globe regain safe working life in a safe society. Vaccination for everyone is a vital objective globally to improve public health around the world, and this is our common objective.”