Governments must put people first

Globally, trade unions know that the financial and humanitarian impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will stay with us for many years to come if governments don’t protect workers, supply chains and small business.

Liberty (@SIPTU)
3 min readApr 19, 2020

As shops close and demand falls in G20 countries which are the engine of the global economy, the impact on global supply chains and the millions of workers whose livelihoods depend on them will be felt in the weeks and months to come.

This pandemic has mercilessly exposed the deep fault lines in our labour markets.

Often the first to lose their jobs are those whose employment was already precarious — sales clerks, waiters, kitchen staff, baggage handlers, cleaners and those in the gig economy.

The crisis has shown how government support for health is vital and the need to ensure adequate paid sick leave for all workers and income provisions to maintain jobs for when the pandemic restrictions can be lifted.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) only 58% of governments in countries that are in lockdown are offering additional funding for their public health systems.

They have also identified the top five policies that governments are putting in place to respond to the economic impact of the virus; provision of free health care; employment protection for those self-isolating; tax relief for businesses; paid sick leave for a period of self-isolation and bailout funds for businesses or sectors of the economy.

They have identified five demands which will have the most direct impact on working people — paid sick leave, wage support and income support for freelancers, self-employed workers, gig economy workers, as well as loan relief for rent or mortgage payments and free health care.

The involvement of unions representing working people is key to ensuring that governments act to put people first in their response to the crisis. Direct government support for the real economy is the only way workers will be able to stay in their homes and feed their families while the economy is shut down.

The ITUC has identified countries that have demonstrated positive response to the pandemic. It has been recognised that these have occurred as a result of either strong tripartite or social dialogue structures or traditions, or concerted and successful campaigning and lobbying by trade unions.

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