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Valter Sanches: Welcome to the Global Worker (#1-2021)

22 April, 2021It has been over a year since large parts of the world ground to a halt as our lives were overcome by the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus is still wreaking havoc, and hospitalizations and deaths continue. By the time we close this edition the world counts more than 140 million cases and more than 3 million deaths. The social consequences follow with the elimination of over 300 million formal jobs and 1.6 million informal ones.

Global Worker No 1 May 2021

Although vaccinations have begun, the rollout is slow and unequal. IndustriALL supports the temporary TRIPS waiver on vaccines at the WTO, as proposed by India and South Africa and supported by the WHO. With a temporary suspension of the patents’ rights, hundreds of pharmaceutical units around the world could be quickly reconverted and added to the global effort of production of vaccines. We must continue our strong stand for people before profit. A fair and equitable access to vaccines is crucial for overcoming the pandemic and for the health and safety of our members. 

Telework has expanded massively during the pandemic and is here to stay. For some workers it has been a positive experience but working remotely over a long period has also revealed limitations and risks. IndustriALL is opening a consultation for a guide to advise our affiliates in negotiations to making sure that workers benefit from teleworking while avoiding potential pitfalls

We continue to support our unions as they fight to protect the health, safety, jobs and income of their members. This year on 28 April, as we observe International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD), an opportunity to remember all workers who have lost their lives at work due to occupational ill- health and safety failures, the global trade union movement is making the case for occupational health and safety to be recognized by the ILO as a fundamental right at work, along with the other eight fundamental rights’ conventions This can contribute to raising the degree of institutional protection and coverage by collective bargaining agreements.

Unions do make a difference. The Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers Association (ASSRGWA) is a successful example of organizing India’s informal sector workers. The union has contributed to improving wages, social security measures and occupational health and safety for shipbreaking workers. 

Some governments are taking a twisted advantage from the pandemic to seize power and democracy like in Belaurs, the Philippines and Myanmar. The people of Myanmar, led by the trade unions are standing up in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the military regime that overthrown a democratically elected government in a coup in 1st February. In her interview, IWFM president Khaing Zar is calling for international support for their struggle. 

Our affiliate Industrial Chile-Constramet was declared illegal during Pinochet’s dictatorship in the 1970s, but celebrated 40 years of defending workers’ rights in December last year. Along with the Chilean national center CUT, Constramet now campaigns for workers’ rights to be improved in the new constitution.

While this pandemic is not yet over, we will continue to demand equitable access to vaccines, to defend workers’ rights, and to ensure workers’ right to health and safety, jobs and income. 

A luta continua! 

Valter Sanches