Statement by the World Federation of Trade Unions
The World Federation of Trade Unions, the world’s class-oriented, progressive trade union movement, considers the achievements of technology to be very important and positive, given that they are used to improve and facilitate the lives of workers and peoples, such as modern health services and improved working conditions.
Tele-working, working from home, which increased greatly during the covid-19 pandemic in all countries, could be considered one of the achievements of progress and technology. However, it has had a negative effect on working conditions, such as an increase in work load, the demand of employers that employees be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, not providing internet connections and necessary software, not providing free ergonomic equipment (suitable chairs, large screens, etc.), the costs of which are borne by the employee.
Also, through tele-working workers work in isolation from their colleagues, with negative effects on trade union action and on the organising of their claims and also on their mood and psychology. Work from home makes it impossible to control violations by the employer, such as forced or unpaid overtime, as inspections by the labour inspectorate are not carried out. In the event of an accident at work while tele-working, the employee is alone and helpless at home, while it is much easier for the employer to hide the nature of the accident as an occupational one and escape their responsibilities.
There have even been demands from companies to install cameras in the homes of tele-workers to monitor all their movements, leading to a complete violation of their basic rights and dignity.
On the occasion of the pandemic, governments seek to generalise and legalise this form of work, making it a form of work that employers can impose unilaterally, and for as long as they wish, or permanently, reducing their operating expenses and intensifying the exploitation of workers.
In the IT, education, health, banking and other sectors governments aim to maintain tele-working after the end of the pandemic. In such countries as India, tele-medicine is also being promoted—not, of course, as an aid and complement to modern public and free health services for all but as a stopgap in the face of huge, tragic shortcomings in health structures and the consequences of these shortcomings, which workers have been violently experiencing during the pandemic.
The militant trade unions of all countries must oppose these plans of governments and employers, which are part of the broader plan for workers and the poor to pay for the effects of the pandemic and quarantines on the economy, for the new economic crisis.
Regarding tele-working and the generalised attack on workers’ rights, the WFTU draws attention to demands that can ensure our health and rights:
- ensuring the job positions of all workers, with all the necessary protection measures in the work-place
- free tests for workers: no covid-19 cases silenced in the work-place
- implementation of health protocols
- no negative changes in terms and conditions of work, in workers’ rights, in the name of dealing with the pandemic
- emergency paid leave for those workers who need to stay at home, either for the care of children or patients or for measures related to dealing with the pandemic (such as closing buildings for disinfection)
- if for any reason an employee cannot work in the work-place in guaranteed health and safety conditions, with the responsibility of the state and the employer to take leave with full pay and insurance
- adequate disinfectants for cleaning hands and surfaces for workers who have daily contact with the public, and also measures for disinfection and proper use of the tools of work, such as headphones, keyboards, etc.
- the staffing of public hospitals with all the necessary health personnel and equipment, for the treatment of the pandemic and all other diseases and for their prevention.
On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the World Federation of Trade Unions, on 3 October 2020, let us strengthen our fight for our modern rights, with the militant workers of WFTU in the forefront of the struggle, worthy successors of its militant action and history.