COVID-19: Urgent economic stimulus and workplace measures required

The International Trade Union Confederation and its Global Unions partners have today called for urgent action by governments and employers on the COVID -19 Crisis, with a statement adopted at the Council of Global Unions (CGU) meeting today in London.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Governments must act to put in place urgent economic stimulus plans and workplace measures to protect the health and the income of workers and their families and stabilise the real economy.”

The huge strains on health systems caused by COVID-19 are provoking massive public health challenges. Health workers are on the front line of the economic, social and health impacts of the crisis, and while workers in every sector are exposed to risk, we recognise the courage of health and care workers bearing the immediate brunt of mitigation and treatment.

Urgent economic stimulus packages must include the following: paid sick leave; maintenance of income to cover the cost of housing, electricity, food and other essential items; and extension of social protection for all workers regardless of their employment status. This is the only way to sustain jobs and the economy, protect wages, the welfare of workers, and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The lessons of the 2008/9 crisis must dictate that the income support that working families need and businesses benefit from is the target, and not a bailout of banks and financial institutions. Governments will need to cooperate and engage with multilateral institutions and monitor the devastation for countries less able to respond – as well as ensure vital aid necessary to guarantee the capacity to deal with the threats posed by COVID-19.

Steven Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Chair of the CGU, said: “We acknowledge that this pandemic is a difficult environment to do business in, but employers must act decisively and responsibly to provide protections for workers throughout their supply chains. This must start with their duty of care to protect workers from transmission of COVID-19 and extend to protecting the wages of all employees regardless of their employment status, guaranteeing sick leave and flexible working conditions during the crisis. We call on employers to prioritise the rights and welfare of workers as we collectively respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19.”