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Young unionists in MENA discuss impacts of Covid-19

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12 April, 2021On 31 March, the MENA youth network met online for the first time since November 2019. 34 young leaders from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain shared experiences of the impact of Covid-19 on young workers and union responses.

Participants reported about economic and psychological effects on workers and acknowledged that they have been under a lot of pressure and stress. The unions have played a crucial role in coordinating and implementing sanitary measure at their workplaces, coordinating testing, the return of workers who had been infected, and pushing for payment of wages during quarantine, illness and lockdown.

There were reports of layoffs and company closures. In some cases, workers will be re-employed when work is resumed. One union leader stressed that massive layoffs also lead to an uncertain future for the unions.

In Morocco, the government continues attempts to privatize the electricity sector. The union is using online platforms to organize and coordinate their response.

A Palestinian participant reported that young people, many informal workers, working in Israel were laid off as they are not vaccinated. Young workers cannot get their jobs back since they are not vaccinated and they lack access to vaccines.

Domestic violence increased in all countries during the lockdown, and many women leaders stressed the danger it has put women in.

Almost all of the participants reported having used digital platform to communicate and maintain contact with the workers. Many of the young leaders at the meeting have gone through the Empowering young MENA trade union leaders programme.

The focus of the 2021 MENA youth network action plan was discussed, including improving knowledge on digital communication and technology, capacity building in new forms of work and occupational health and safety.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, young workers were disproportionately affected by precarious forms of work. Coupling awareness raising strategies with a more practical and active angle, participants agreed to hold a campaign to stop precarious work this year, with a day of action on 7 October.