ITUC welcomes WHO independent panel report

The ITUC welcomes the far-reaching and essential recommendations of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), chaired by Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Immediate and longer-term action is needed by revitalised multilateral institutions.

The ITUC backs the panel’s vital and urgent call for sharing wealth, productive capacity and intellectual property. The World Trade Organization needs to enact a pandemic TRIPS waiver, and the G20 needs to provide the resources to ramp up productive capacity, vaccination and testing.

As well as the raft of reforms to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended in the report, the WHO needs to rely more on the ILO to ensure that jobs and workers are protected from future pandemics, and it needs to consult with unions and employers more effectively and consistently about how to manage pandemics in, and their effect on, workplaces.

Social protection

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “The IPPPR Report highlights the dreadful impact of the failure to invest in health and aged care, and also in social protection, which should be universal but is riddled with gaps. We need a Global Social Protection Fund to start the process of plugging those gaps and making social protection sustainable. People shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and taking the necessary steps to avoid catching and spreading deadly diseases.

“There is justified praise in the report for frontline health workers, and a recognition for the many other workers – in food production, distribution and retailing, and in transport, education and care, with low pay exacerbating the threat of infection – all of whom have also gone above and beyond to care for and provide for others. Workplaces have been major sites of infection and have suffered from the necessary steps taken to tackle the pandemic.

“Nationalism and inequality bear a large part of the responsibility for the huge death toll and the increase in poverty, especially among women, vulnerable racial and disabled groups and those working in the informal sector. Knowledge and competence have been validated and must be promoted and defended against conspiracy theorists and populists like former US President Trump and President Bolsonaro in Brazil.

“Public health needs better funding so that people’s health does not depend on how rich they or their country are. But we also need a New Social Contract to underpin recovery and resilience, and occupational health and safety must be recognised as a fundamental right at work.”