TITLE: Organising during the COVID-19 pandemic – resources for workers and worker educators

THEME: Organising during the COVID-19 pandemic

TITLE: Organising during the COVID-19 pandemic – resources for workers and worker educators

LANGUAGE: English

WHAT’S IN THIS SECTION: A collection of useful materials and articles from IFWEA affiliates, partners and organisations around the world on organising and communicating during the COVID-19 pandemic

A brief report on the COVID-19 pandemic impact in Nepal from CLASS Nepal

From CLASS Nepal General Secretary, Parshuram Pudasaini:

Background:

 After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronanovirus a global emergency on 30 January 2020, countries around the world have increasingly adopting sweeping measures, including full lockdowns, shutting down airports, imposing travel restrictions and completely sealing their borders to curb the virus spread. The persistent increase in positive tests and reported deaths  in neighbouring  countries and around the globe prompted  the Nepalese  government to revoke all of its promotional Visit Nepal 2020 campaigns, and other national and international events until further information. Amidst anxieties and psychological fear about the COVID-19 epidemic, the government of Nepal declared a state emergency and national lockdown on 24 March. The nationwide lockdown was initially due to end on 27 April, but has been extended to 7 May. It is unpredictable if further steps will be taken by the government.

Government action:

In the nationwide lockdown till 27 April, all borders were sealed, and  international and domestic flights completely halted.  However, some road transportation has been maintained in this problematic situation. It is unpredictable how long this will last.

Government is using all its mechanisms such as security forces, medical staff and health resources across the nation to cope with the stress. Rapid testing of suspected individuals is ongoing. There are massive massive public awareness campaigns using posters, digital media and other means of communication. Quarantine and isolation centres are being established. The infected are treated under the supervision of government, free of cost. Government is also distributing food relief to needy and poor people.

Worker’s Situation:

In this pandemic, protecting workers from disease transmission is central and most important irrespective of their colour, cast and religion. Temporary and low wage workers and workers in the informal sectors are hard-hit and at increased risk. In this strange situation health workers and food and grocery store workers are in the frontline. Trade union organisations are countinuously urging government and employers to provide a safe workplace, and have recommended the use of physical distancing, masks, having an adequate supply of hand soaps and sanitizer, good housekeeping, and to remain vigilant about regular cleaning and disinfecting. Fortunately no any worker case of disease and death has been seen so far across the country.

COVID-19 cases in Nepal:

The first case of COVID-19 in Nepal emerged on 27 March in a 19-year-old Nepalese women returning from abroad. She has fully recovered and been discharged from hospital. According to the ministry of health and population in Nepal as of 24 April, a total of 49 infected people has been identified. Out of them, 10 have recovered and been discharged, while the rest are hospitalised. No death due to COVID-19 has been identified up until now.  Furthermore, a total of 10,573 persons are quarantined and 86 persons are in isolation.

Stay safe, Stay healthy.

Cómo se vive la crisis provocada por la pandemia del Cov 19 en América Latina

From PLADES Executive President and IFWEA Vice President, Giovanna Larco:

Los países de América Latina han respondido de manera distinta a la pandemia. Algunos países, como Brasil y México (las dos economías más grandes del continente) no han tomado medidas tempranas de aislamiento para no afectar la dinámica económica. Otros, como Argentina, Colombia o Perú, por el contrario, han actuado tempranamente dictando medidas drásticas de distanciamiento social. Los resultados de estas dos estrategias diferenciadas ya se ven en los indicadores de avance de la pandemia, cuando Brasil resulta ser el país más afectado de la región y México le está siguiendo los pasos.

A pesar de las diferencias entre los países de América Latina, existen problemas estructurales que hacen más difícil enfrentar la emergencia sanitaria. En primer lugar, las carencias de los sistemas de salud. Durante décadas, la mayoría de países ha reducido los presupuestos para la salud pública y/o privatizado sus servicios. Ahora las brechas de atención se manifiestan, y no es posible resolver en 30 o 60 días, los déficit en infraestructura sanitaria que se han venido arrastrando en los últimos años. Por ejemplo, el Perú, con 30 millones de habitantes, tenía solo 240 respiradores al inicio de la emergencia. Aunque ahora ha duplicado ese número, se requerirán al menos 1,000 respiradores para hacer frente a Cov-19.

Más allá de los temas sanitarios, en todos los casos, las medidas para enfrentar la pandemia están afectando seriamente el empleo. Así como está ocurriendo en casi en todos los países del mundo, sectores productivos, de servicios y del comercio se han detenido, provocando una reducción drástica de los empleos y una caída en las condiciones laborales.  Aunque todos los países están dictando medidas paliativas, los alcances de estas acciones son limitados. Algunos países han sido más firmes en impedir los despidos y garantizar los salarios (como Argentina por ejemplo), otros solo están dando algunos apoyos para las remuneraciones (caso Chile o Colombia). Sin embargo, a los trabajadores de la economía informal, no les llegan muchas de estos apoyos, lo que los convierte en grupos muy vulnerables. Es el caso por ejemplo de las trabajadoras del hogar, que o han perdido su trabajo, o de las vendedoras ambulantes que tienen prohibido salir a trabajar. Cómo va a hacer cuarentena una familia que si no trabaja un día, no tiene con qué comprar alimentos al día siguiente? Este es uno de los dilemas más importantes que no se logra resolver en la mayoría de países de América Latina.

La mayoría de sindicatos, que son de trabajadores de la economía formal, están actuando sin descanso para reducir los impactos en las condiciones laborales. En cada país y a nivel regional, los sindicatos están presionando para lograr al menos los siguientes puntos: a) prohibir los despidos de trabajadores, 2) fomentar el diálogo para que, en caso de ser necesario, se acuerde con los trabajadores reducciones de salarios o de jornadas, 3) que los gobiernos implementen acciones que lleguen a todos los trabajadores de la economía informal, 4) que las acciones de apoyo a las empresas se concentren en apoyar las pequeñas y micro empresas que son las más vulnerables y las que generan más empleo, 5) que mejoren las medidas de salud y seguridad para todos los trabajadores. Las banderas de la solidaridad y de la defensa del empleo se convierten en las más importantes para que la lucha contra el Cov 19 no lleve a la pobreza a millones de trabajadores en nuestra región.

ABF don’t cancel – we digitize!

From ABF President and IFWEA Vice President, Helen Pettersson:

Arbetarnas Bildningsförbund (ABF) in Sweden carries out more than 85 000 study circles every year. We are present all over Sweden, in all main cities, in small towns and rural areas.  When COVID-19  hit us we had to, very quickly, find a way to stick to our method and digitize at the same time.

To meet, to talk, reflect together, discuss and share knowledge is our method. The study circle method. When physical meetings are out of the question, we have to contribute to break isolation and create digital communities that support liberal adult education, folkbildning – in a way that is according our method and is based upon interaction between participants.

We launched “The Meeting ER” as a way to support our local branches and all of our affiliates in their work to reorient and switch to digital.  When contacting our hotline affiliates will get advice, tips and a lot of ideas on how to keep popular movements up and running through this difficult time.

Most of our activities are facilitated by our tens of thousands of volunteers. We try to encourage study circle facilitators to go even more digital. We provide digital classrooms and educate how to facilitate a study circle online.

But still, we have not yet succeeded in reaching out to a lot of the most vulnerable people in society such as elderly people, isolated populations and people with low or no access to internet. That is our challenge now, when we have digitized our perspectives and our staff. We have to reach out even more. Our aim is to lower the thresholds, bridging the digital divide and encouraging people to get online, and connect online.

As an example, we will share the story of the author Hervor Sjödin, 84 years old. She regularly does readings where she talks about different authors from her region at a café in a small town in the northern part of Sweden. The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for Hervor and ABF to follow through with these readings. But we did not cancel – with some duct tape, a smartphone and a flowerpot as a stand Hervor did her reading on Facebook. And instead of the 10 people Hervor has reached an audience of 9 000 people. That’s digitizing!

Another example is the choir Blended Voices. They will not stop singing because of a virus. Now they use smartphones and computers to sing and practice together once a week. They are led by the chorus master and study circle facilitator from her home with the singers also from their homes.

Together with a famous hip-hop collective, Redline Recordings, ABF offers digital workshops online. These workshops are where young people from all over Sweden are encouraged to tell their story, to create a beat close to their own life and experiences, all with support from eminent and experienced hip hop artists.

The fourth example is from elder care homes. During this period all these care homes are closed for visitors. No relatives, friends or musicians, no study circle facilitators can enter the premises. But instead of cancelling some concerts, ABFs musicians and choirs perform outdoors, outside the care homes. Sitting in the first lovely spring sun elderly people can listen to music from their windows.

This pandemic situation has forced us to act, fast and determined, and to prioritize our formerly quite slow digitization. We have to find new ways to do things, to act and at the same time keep focus on our prioritized groups and main aims. We have learnt a lot, and we are learning even more how to cooperate within ABF, and also with affiliates and study circle facilitators. To listen and learn, move on and never give up. ABF will come out even stronger when we are back to a new normal.

Clothing workers agreement signed

A COVID-19 Agreement was signed to ensure workers get paid during the enforced shutdown of companies in the Clothing Manufacturing Sector in South Africa. SACTWU and other unions signed an agreement with employers in the Clothing Manufacturing Bargaining Council in South Africa and this agreement was extended by the Minister of Labour to the entire industry. It is a good example of what unions can do in other Bargaining Councils and unions can also use it to engage employers in sectors that do not have bargaining councils. Unions are relevant more than ever before during this pandemic. The agreement can be downloaded from the Agreements Database of the Labour Research Service, an  IFWEA affiliate, here.

COVID-19, informal workers and WIEGO’s work in this crisis

Message from IFWEA affiliate WIEGO: While members of our global team are self-isolating, we are working hard to ensure that informal workers’ issues are heard, understood and addressed in this dual health and economic crisis. We are in close communication with informal worker organizations to determine what is needed on the ground and to assist in their advocacy work. And we have been working with public health experts to create sector-specific guidelines to help reduce the risks for essential workers such as waste pickers and domestic workers. Information is regularly updated on our website here.

WIEGO: This new crisis underscores old injustices in the global economy

For 23 years, the WIEGO Network and its allies have been calling attention to the precarious position of informal workers whose contributions are critically important yet woefully undervalued. Now COVID-19 is not just highlighting the existing problems — it is magnifying them. Sally Roever, WIEGO’s International Coordinator,  lays out how different occupational groups are experiencing the crisis and what needs to happen now to keep vital urban systems from collapsing. Read more here.

UNCTAD: UN calls for $2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries

The consequences of a combined health pandemic and a global recession will be catastrophic for many developing countries and halt their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. With two-thirds of the world’s population living in developing countries (excluding China) facing unprecedented economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis, the UN is calling for a US$2.5 trillion package for these countries to turn expressions of international solidarity into meaningful global action. Read more here.