Together against COVID 19 and its Effects

On the occasion of the celebration of this year’s May Day, the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), on behalf of the Executive Committee of OATUU and on behalf of the millions of African Workers, wishes to congratulate Workers all over the world and Africa in particular for the  continued struggle in protecting, defending and promoting Workers interest and rights at work as well as contributing to the socio-economic development of the Africa.

In particular; we wish to extend our heartfelt appreciation to all our frontline health workers and other Organisations and Individuals who have contributed and continue to contribute in diverse ways in the fight against the Coronavirus –COVID 19 Pandemic which has become an albatross to the world.  As we take stock of our achievements, let us not also forget the current challenges confronting the African Workers, their families and the population at large especially in the area of employment, lack of basic needs, health, and education amongst others.

As Workers, we are concerned that this year’s May Day celebration is overshadowed by the COVID and its negative impact on the economy , employment and workers’ rights: Workers in the Informal Economy are the most affected. Furthermore, women and the youth are greatly affected because most of them are found in the Informal Economy. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 25 million jobs were threatened by the new coronavirus. The expected economic crisis over the world will be far worse than the 2008-9 financial crises.

This years’ May Day will be marked in a different way in the sense that it cannot permit Workers to celebrate with the pomp and pageantry that accompanies. Workers gatherings will be prohibited due to the deadly novel coronavirus- COVID 19 Pandemic which spreads from humans to humans.

 However, as usual we celebrate this very significant day- May Day to remind ourselves of this global workers’ day that dates back to May 1-4, 1886 when some courageous trade union leaders fought for an eight-hour working day and workplace occupational health and safety issues. Therefore, the COVID 19 should not be used as an excuse to violate workers and trade union rights. We urge all trade unions on the continent to be vigilant in the defence, protection and promotion of Workers and Trade Union rights in this challenging period.

Governments and employers should engage trade unions through social dialogue and negotiations on better ways in fighting against the pandemic and resolving all work-related issues without violation of workers’ rights. Equally important, all social partners should be committed for the implementation of the 14th African Regional             Meeting Recommendations- The Abidjan Declaration on Advancing Social Justice: Shaping the Future of Work.

The COVID 19 pandemic has also reminded us that all human beings are equal. It is against this backdrop that all workers organisations should be proactive in pushing governments to re-assess our developmental plans by reviewing our Health care policies and operations. For equipping of hospitals, training of medical personnel, making health sector competitive, thereby reducing brain drain and promoting brain gain. Social Infrastructural development must also be tackled by developing our Energy Sector, Water and other basic infrastructure to make life more comfortable for all.

We also call on African Governments to mobilize all the needed resources and put them at the disposal in the fight against the COVID 19 and get all the stakeholders involved to combat it.  They must collaborate effectively, share their experiences of tackling the virus, mobilize experts – both local and from the diaspora – and strengthen their coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders.

OATUU also urges African governments  as a matter of urgency to call for unconditional and immediate debt relief/cancellation from bilateral, multilateral and commercial creditors in order to improve their fiscal position in fighting this pandemic.

In conclusion, OATUU urges the whole world to unite in the fight against the pandemic, because in unity lies our strength. We entreat all the Global Health actors, private sectors to collaborate so as to accelerate the development, production of drugs and vaccine to combat the Corona Virus disease. We in OATUU endorse the cautions from WHO on guideline and recommendation on COVID 19 until tested drugs and vaccine to combat the Corona Virus Disease.

As we celebrate this year’s May Day in a unique and a sober way, we wish you a Happy May Day with the hope that very soon, the world and Africa will be free from the COVID 19 pandemic.