As part of the class-oriented trade union movement led by WFTU, we have always propagated the Marxist argument that it is only the labour of the workers that drives and keeps society running. The capitalist class and its hangers-on of politicians and ideologues have for many years dismissed and ridiculed this truth, as they managed to manufacture the lie that it is the bosses as investors, on which society depends.
In the face of the present sweep of the pandemic of the Coronavirus and COVID-19 decease, this Marxist truth has been brought into sharp relief and disclosed to all to see. All across the world, scores of citizens are cheering this component of the workforce that is deemed essential workers as they selflessly throw themselves to the frontlines in the war against this scourge that threatens humanity. In the midst of lockdowns in various countries, it is these workers who are braving personal harm and even death in the interest of their compatriots rather than the captains of industry, bankers, mining executives, politicians, etc.
The truth is now out to the rest of us that society does not need this leisure class and humanity would be better off without them. The people we depend on in this crisis are the toiling masses on whose shoulders, blood and sweat we all depend on in our everyday life. Amongst others, these frontline foot-soldiers are the nurses, doctors, pharmacists, cleaners, dispensary and reception clerks, potters, ambulance and morgue workers. We especially pay tribute to them for their courage and humane service that they render in detecting, testing, quarantining people who are infected by the Coronavirus and in treating the patients that are suffering from COVID-19 decease.
They diligently work in spite of the shortage of personal protective equipment, and thus exposing themselves to the real daily threat of viral contamination. Many private sector workers performing such a service also suffer the same fate. They work long hours of super-exploitation without any improvement in the conditions of their employment. We equally pay tribute to those who are on guard at the ports of entry and delivering basic municipal services such as water, electricity, sanitation, etc. They also include still more others who grow our food, tellers at supermarkets and banking personnel. In the grim situation that we face, with thousands of sick people and scores others losing their lives often because of the lack of medication, ventilators and broken down healthcare facilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic only serves to deepen the already unfolding global capitalist crisis. With the breakdown of production and services, in many countries workers are losing their jobs and million others who are informal traders and small-scale farmers are ruined into bankruptcy, whilst the unemployed are plunged into even deeper humanitarian crisis of hunger and poverty.
But as part of the militant family of WFTU, we as the Trade Union International of Public Service and Allied are saying that the public sector workers must unite with the private sector workers, informal workers and peasants in a common struggle to ensure that this unfolding global capitalist crisis does not become yet another round of the socialisation of the bosses’ debts and corporate welfare. Our Directive Meeting that was held in March 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa, said that in the face of the sweeping Coronavirus, all our affiliates must demand from their governments the implementation of World Health Organization’ consolidated package of preparedness and response to the Coronavirus. Thus, in the midst of these twin crises of COVID-19 and global capitalism, we must ensure that emerging from this international public health emergency, we must mobilise the popular forces into militant struggles in the fight for:
- Large-scale stimulus packages and other interventions by governments to save jobs, address hunger and poverty and the protection of the rural livelihoods.
- Moratorium on housing evictions.
- Moratorium on debt defaults litigation and dispossessions of assets by lenders and land-lords.
- Nationalisation of healthcare and the introduction of universal health coverage to restore healthcare as a use-value rather than a commodity.
- Nationalisation of social security funds to ensure workplace injury and infection insurance, unemployment insurance and pension.
- State provision of universal and free access to basic municipal services for all.
The TUI- PS&A expresses solidarity with all public sector and allied workers in the world and extends support to families in countries affected by the Coronavirus including many who lost their lives. Healthcare and essential services workers in particular have been the bridge between life and death, working round the clock, trying to save many lives of people infected and threatened by the virus across the world.
This situation underlines the fact that actually it is the capitalist system and its desire for endless private accumulation that is badly broken, unhealthy, undesirable, and socially useless and poses a serious threat to the long term survival of humanity. Moreover, it demonstrates its incapacity to provide the people’s immediate and future basic healthcare needs. We call on all governments of the world to unlock the biggest obstacle, the lack of provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for all categories of workers essential workers in the healthcare and related employment. They must address the plight of the essential service workers who in the lockdowns find themselves stranded with no means of transportation, in the cities and towns. This costs of the unfolding pandemic must not be carried by these workers.
The people oriented community healthcare workers must break from bondage of precarious employment to provide formally recognised ancillary healthcare, visiting the quarantined, feeding the aged and undertaking contact tracing. Their work must be dignified with formal employment contracts, with full rights and benefits. Workers are also forced to endure hopeless confusion on the part of governments that have no clue what it takes to combat the virus. The most highly paid government bureaucrats cannot account for critical information and plans for the survival of our people. They don’t know the number of beds available, the capacity of ICUs and wards for isolation of patients. In some countries with no testing kits, they simply report zero Coronavirus cases, in the process endangering people’s lives.
At the moment, there is a worldwide public health emergency. Therefore, we call on all governments to declare what they can and cannot do to reveal their capacity to deal with the virus; how many patients can the hospitals admit; the number of doctors and nurses there are; the ICU and isolation wards available; the number of ventilators and test kits in inventories; the requisite thermometers and scanning devices; the degree of availability of sanitizers; the personal protective equipment and to declare overtly their plans in dealing with novel Coronavirus pneumonia.
We therefore demand amongst others that:
- All workplaces must have occupational health and safety measures to protect working people who face the threat of infection.
- The protection of wages and workers incomes beyond the corona crisis.
Furthermore, all imperialist blockades and sanctions should be lifted with immediate effect, specifically those aimed at Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and many other countries, whose effect is only hindering people’s access to treatment and their right to life. We also condemn and call for an end to the continuing military operations by the Zionist Israeli state against Palestine.
Issued by Zola Saphetha – TUI PS&A General Secretary