For more than two years, the COVID19 pandemic has ravaged the lives of the working people across the globe, with more people from the Global South driven into dire conditions and poverty. The loss of jobs and income, combined with skyrocketing prices of fuel and basic commodities, inaccessible social protection, and health care have carved deep scars on the backs of the working people.
The unemployment numbers have remained higher than those figures in 2019. Conservatives estimates from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) states the figures are running at 207 million globally, with job losses higher in the Southern countries. Reports of recovery in unemployment are concentrated in the Northern countries, where around 18% of the global workforce are located, while the remaining 82% are seeing no recovery at all, or worst are experiencing continued destruction of jobs. The manufacturing sector, particularly the garments, the service sector, including the tourism sector were particularly hit the hardest.
The lockdowns have profoundly affected those in the informal sector, where 60% of the working people are located (ILO, 2022). Migrant workers have been discriminated against and targeted for deportation. Those in the informal sector including the migrant workers, who already have low and unsteady income, have been further pushed to the gutters, as they are excluded from the social protection policies available to workers in the formal sector. Jobs are unavailable and in the countries of the South, where almost 1 out of 2 workers are in some form of self-employment to earn income (ILO, 2022). Not taking corruption into consideration, the emergency aid provided to the working people of the South countries is anemic, to say the least, with the funds not making any dent in the dire situation of the working people.
One of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID19 pandemic is the garment sector where most are women workers. Women workers are suffering from the burden of job and income loss, as well as additional care work, especially when a family member gets sick. The youth have no or limited employment opportunities, as factory and workplace closures have become a normal occurrence during the COVID19 pandemic.
Labor rights violations continue across various sectors, including rock-bottom wages, long working hours, and violations of occupational health and safety, with multiple cases of work-related deaths. Union-busting and different forms of attack on the freedom of association are happening. Physical elimination of workers through murders and extra-judicial killings are rampant, especially in the Southern countries.
On the other side of the coin, the wealth of the 10 richest men has doubled, with these men owning more than the bottom 3.1 billion people (Oxfam, 2022). Transnational corporations, namely Big Pharma, Big Tech, and Big Finance have gained the most during the 2 years of the COVID19 pandemic. The Big Pharma companies, namely Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna will make pre-tax profits of $34 billion in 2021, which is more than 1000 USD/second (according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance)! It should come as no surprise that five new billionaires, with a combined net wealth of $35.1 billion have mushroomed from these Big Pharma companies. Amazon reported a net income of 33.36 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, higher than the 21.3 billion U.S. dollar net income in 2020. Berkshire Hathaway recorded a net income of 89.8 billion USD in 2021 (Reuters), even higher than its already staggering income of 81.4 billion USD in 2019!
Governments are favoring policies of greater accommodation to TNCs, including more quantitative easing and bailouts in the form of subsidies to TNCS, including the indemnity funds to shield Big Pharma from any public litigation related to the use of the COVID19 vaccines. The World Trade Organization continues to promote the interest of the Big Pharma by implementing the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on the vaccines and opposing efforts by countries and peoples to waive the TRIPS. The energy giants, together with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), were price-gouging oil even before the Russian-Ukraine crisis.
These continued accommodation and favorable policies for TNCs have placed upward pressure on inflation, with the prices of fuel and basic commodities skyrocketing during the COVID19 pandemic. This has resulted in an additional burden on the working people and erodes what is left of their already meager purchasing power. Conservative estimates are stating 160 million have been pushed into poverty, with 77 million adults and children were pushed towards extreme poverty during the COVID19 pandemic (ILO, 2022).
We the working people, whose lives have been made destitute by the various policies during the COVID19 pandemic, should be at the forefront of the rebuilding, with the needs of those most defiled being addressed.
We demand massive creation of decent jobs, where the working people and their families can have security and income and lead decent lives and not paupers in society.
We demand a substantial wage increase, with the TNCs providing wage increases all along their supply chains. We also demand that governments, instead of bailing out the huge TNCs, must provide wage support for workers in the micro, small and medium enterprises.
We demand for governments to expand the funding for social protection, including job and income loss support, health care, and other social needs of the working people. Social protection must be for all and not just for those who can contribute to existing social security schemes.
We demand an end to the political and physical repression of workers and their organizations. The working people must be able to exercise their comprehensive rights. We need to organize our ranks to defend as well as promote our rights.
People Over Profit | WORKINS | Asian Peasant Coalition | International Migrants Alliance | International League of Peoples Struggles | Kilusang Mayo Uno | Asia Pacific Research Network