Since the beginning of the current pandemic, many of us have spoken about the “new normal” and the future of our lives: work, studies, recreation, family, health care, etc. Many professional categories are ready to keep in a home office way. But how the miners and metalworkers should prepare themselves to the future?
Pandemic numbers and its coverage are terrible. Rich, poor and average countries still suffer with the virus. Although we can see the perspective of a vaccine, until that moment comes thousands of people will die infected.
Manufacturing and Mining Industries cannot stop completely, given its importance to the planet. There is a complex productive chain, but factors as the elevated unemployment, the social changes and the huge Economic crisis affected the demand for certain products.
By the companies’ side, many of them see the crisis as the great opportunity to replace men and women for robots. In many sectors, automation increases productivity and reduces the risk of diseases. In the capitalist point of view, the profit is even greater.
The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining (IFM) estimates that, until the end of 2020, around 305 million of workers will lose their jobs, as a consequence of the pandemic. The International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests, in a recent paper, a loss of 340 million positions. The social impact of that possibility, analyzed by dates as unemployment, immigration, violence, hunger and even more deaths, is uncertain.
Nations as Canada, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Peru and Colombia declared de mining sector as essential to the Economy. That decision kept some level of activity, under minimal security conditions. However, we know that this kind of policy is an answer to the business pressure, with no dialogue among the unions and the workers.
In Brazil, we noted that about 75% of the automotive industry workers suffered some kind of restriction (such as suspended contracts or reduction of in their working hours). Due to the pandemic (and the companies’ pressure), the Brazilian government changes the labor legislation, under the guise of save jobs. Once again, the trade union organizations were ignored.
In general, the “new normal” is considering just the financial health of the companies – keep jobs and the workers health are not priority. Some questions remain unanswered: (1) as long as there is no vaccine, how to keep the workers safe? (2) how assure a minimal assistance to the unemployed and the informal workers? (3) what is necessary to the most profitable business (as banks and pharmaceutical industries) pay this current social crisis?
Without organization and pressure from the unions and the workers, we will see setbacks even worst that we have already seen. We have to put our efforts in the same direction, in a global scale, forcing national governments to act with responsibility and respect to those who continue to risk their lives.
Francisco Sousa is the General Secretary of Trade Union International of Metal and Mining (TUIMM) of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).