The Council of Global Unions (CGU)*, which represents about 200 million workers, has called for urgent collective action to provide universal access to Covid-19 vaccines and health technology. Workers have faced the brunt of the unequal access to vaccines, particularly those in the global south. In countries where supplies are scarce, health and other frontline workers are still waiting for their vaccinations. While they remain committed to keeping their societies safe, and critical supply chains moving and economies functioning, a handful of leaders and pharmaceutical companies are failing them.
Workers have stepped up, putting themselves at risk to safeguard people’s lives, livelihoods and the global economy, and driven outstanding advances in science and medicine with the rapid development of Covid-19 tests, treatments, drugs, medical devices, personal protective equipment and, most importantly, vaccines.
But two years after the pandemic outbreak, a handful of governments were accused by the union body of sabotaging global recovery by blocking the sharing of these medical advances.
The CGU said that their actions were costing lives and demanded immediate collective action to ensure equal and universal access to Covid-19 vaccines and wider health products and technologies.
The essential right to a safe workplace is only possible with access to vaccination, regardless of where one lives. Failure to ensure global equity in access to vaccines and treatments is an existential threat to workers’ safety, and negatively impacts human rights including the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, and the right to development. It also threatens the recovery of industry. The IMF has warned that failure to step up vaccination efforts could stall recovery and lead to global GDP losses of $5.3 trillion over the next five years. The production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, and associated economic activities, are faced with unprecedented disruption. Delaying effective vaccination globally will only prolong the Covid-19 pandemic and trigger future economic crises.
The international trade union movement calls on all governments, in particular Britain, Germany and Switzerland, along with the European Commission, to take all actions needed to make Covid-19 vaccines available for all and to support the temporary and targeted [trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights] TRIPS waiver proposed by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), tackling a key obstacle to protecting workers and communities around the world as the coronavirus continues to impact.
Failure to ensure global equity in access to vaccines and treatments is “an existential threat” to workers’ safety, the CGU said, as it slammed pharmaceutical companies and others for profiteering during a pandemic. The union federation also called for an end to the stockpiling of large numbers of the doses and an end to so-called “vaccine apartheid.”
* The Council of Global Unions (CGU) represents more than 200 million workers from across the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Union Federations (GUFs), including the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC)