COVID-19: PSI, MHWUN, NANNM task FG on workers’ safety

The Public Service International (PSI) and its Nigeria affiliates, the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, and The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) have urged the federal government to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPPE) to health workers at the forefront of the response to the Coronavirus pandemic 

In a joint statement by the unions, they said protection of health workers during the pandemic was important for effective response to the coronavirus.

The trade unions lamented that  years of austerity measures with cuts in public funding of health and other social services had resulted in inadequate staffing levels and   

“Privatization and other forms of public sector reforms have further weakened the health system and undermined crisis preparedness.

“Government strategy should consider the weakness of the Nigerian health system and the fact that people do not have access to food, and lack the financial means to sustain themselves without working and generating income daily, due to the high level of informality of employment and labour relations,” the statement read partly.

It stated further that “workers, and particularly public sector healthcare workers have been at the forefront of the response globally and in the emerging response in Nigeria.”

It said: “These workers were faced with the occupational hazard of becoming exposed to the virus during their work. Members of their families equally have a higher risk of infection than other members of the population as a result of this.

 “Public health risks increase when workers are unable to act collectively to address occupational safety and health risks; when full, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is not provided to all workers likely to come into contact with infected people; when workers are not provided with adequate sick leave; when workers will not be adequately paid if they voluntarily quarantine themselves, and when governments and employers refuse to implement the precautionary principle, fail to provide transparent and detailed information about the state of the virus and the risks and when governments and employers do not involve workers’ representatives in developing occupational safety and health and public health policies.

“As trade unions and workers, we call on government to ensure the general public are well informed about the dynamics of the spread of the COVID outbreak. We shall engage with the relevant health authorities, to have relevant information. We shall utilize information of best occupational safety and health practice in other countries to demand improvement in OSH measures implemented in Nigeria workplaces, especially in the health sector.

“Effective infection prevention and control is fundamental to safeguard workplace safety. Governments and employers are responsible for making sure that all necessary preventive and protective measures and procedures are put in place.

“And we as workers are duty-bound to follow established occupational safety and health procedures and use provided protocols.

“We call on Nigeria government/employers/management to respect the right of workers to choose not to work when their health and safety may be at risk or when workers or their families have underlying health issues that could be aggravated by the virus and ensure that any worker, including informal sector workers, casual or sub-contracted workers, suffers no loss of wages or conditions during any period of quarantine,” the statement further said.

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