Amid the chaos and fears of this worldwide pandemic, Unite today received a message of solidarity and support from Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL, the global union, representing over 50m workers in mining, energy and manufacturing industries in 140 countries.
In his letter Sanches writes, “To express our solidarity with the workers and people in the UK at this difficult time.
“We wish to commend the great sacrifice and enormous contribution that workers, in particular those in essential industries, are making to ensure basic services to the population, helping to stop the transmission of the coronavirus, and caring for people who have COVID-19.”
Sanches called on the UK government, “to adopt the necessary economic and social policies to assist companies and workers to guarantee the sustainability of the companies and the livelihood of workers and their families.”
He also added that IndustriALL urged the UK government, “to protect the health and safety of all the workers who continue to work because they are providing essential services or working in vital manufacturing industries during this pandemic.”
Key to his demand was the union’s call for “safe factories or simply shutting down workplaces,” adding IndustriALL has issued occupational health and safety recommendations for workers and employers on how to deal with Covid-19.
“IndustriALL Global Union fully supports you in your current efforts to achieve the common objectives, along with the government and the economic and social partners, aimed at containing the virus, guaranteeing essential activities for the community and, first and foremost, ensuring the safety and health of those workers in the front line,” declared Sanches.
He continued, “Furthermore, in saving lives and livelihoods, it is imperative that unions participate – along with government officials, including public health specialists, and employers’ organisations – in the discussions that are starting to take place in many countries to develop a strategy that at one point will allow to ease lockdown restrictions while ensuring the health and safety of those workers returning progressively to their workplaces, while also avoiding a second wave of infections.
“We believe that the determination and commitment the international community is showing to deal with this pandemic, which is underpinned by a spirit of solidarity, gives us hope that the same resolve will be used to tackle inequality and climate change,” he concluded.
Unite assistant general secretary for international, Tony Burke, was delighted with the solidarity of workers across the world.
“Unite very much appreciates this support from IndustriALL Global Union as now is the time for Unions to show global solidarity and support during this crisis,” said Burke.
He continues, “Workers in the UK are fearful for their future and those in work in essential industries also have concerns about their own health and safety.
“Many members in manufacturing and energy are working to provide essential services and equipment and Unite has proposed along with other unions and employers’ organisations the creation of “an army of manufacturing workers” who can help build vital medical equipment that will save lives.
“Our members in the pharmaceutical and science industries are also working day and night to combat the virus and hopefully provide the life-saving drugs that are going to be needed.”
Burke also pointed out that Unite has called upon the UK’s governments to work with our unions as we have the expertise to undertake the work that is necessary. “In the UK trade unions have made a massive difference and over 30m people are receiving pay and have their jobs protected through the movement’s efforts.
“All workers across the globe deserve to be supported by their governments and for those working to have their health and safety protected,” he added.
One thing is clear – no one disagrees that when the crisis is over the world of work will have changed radically and perhaps for ever.
Burke is keen to point out that no more shall unions be shut out of key decision making, forced to work under vastly inferior terms – including zero hours, forced self-employment, the lowest wages and more.
He insists that now and in the future, “Working people and trade unions must be part of the process of rebuilding and restructuring economies. There can be no going back to ‘business as usual’.”