The WFTU affiliate in South Africa NEHAWU organised a virtual seminar to honor the International Nurses Day under the slogan: “With a militant voice, united for dignified work. For our vision, for a free and public healthcare for all”.
The WFTU was represented by comrade Olga Siantou, Vice President of National Federation of Healthcare Workers of Greece who addressed the participants with the WFTU militant Message for the day.
Below her speech:
From the World Federation of Trade Unions on behalf of its 105 million members in 133 countries on the five continents, we extend our internationalist solidarity to the healthcare workers, nurses, doctors and militants of NEHAWU on the International Day of Nurses.
During this period especially, when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great tragedy. Where in many countries, millions of workers have contracted the disease, losing their health, their jobs or even their lives.
The pandemic revealed the tragic consequences of the commercialization of health, especially in the developed capitalist countries, such as the USA, Great Britain, Italy. Where for years the hospitals, the health structures, the medicines are being privatized, thousands of our fellow human beings died because there were not enough hospitals, doctors, there were not capable health systems to treat them. Many of our colleagues, nurses, doctors, who were on the front lines against the pandemic, lost their lives in this situation.
All over the world the Public Health system was supported by the Public Health, despite the huge shortages of doctors, nurses, but also in infrastructure,
The staff works non-stop for more than a year. At the same timethe private health sector continues to operate as if there is no pandemic and increases its huge profits.
Today, the debate on the shielding of the public health system in staff, infrastructure, protection measures, but also the need to order the requisition of the private health sector without state funding, in order to save human lives, has become more intense.
The debate has started about the huge offer of nurses and health workers, but also our rights that are far behind our needs and the real possibilities of the time. Instead of mass hiring, wage increases
At the same time in the spotlight are drugs, vaccines and patents has become more intense. A debate that both the WFTU and class unions around the world have put in place in a timely manner. We note the following. The main method of combating communicable diseases is extensive, rapid and effective immunization. Unfortunately, capitalism in the 21st century is incapable of applying this basic formula to a global disease, as seen in the COVID-19 pandemic. To date only about 2.16% of the world’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Big capitalist states have stored multiple doses of vaccines in relation to their population, thus contributing to the even slower rates of vaccination in the less developed capitalist countries. In fact, the United States and Britain have banned almost any export of vaccine or vaccine components. As the pandemic continues to rage with about 100,000 deaths each week worldwide, the World Health Organization notes that more than 80% of all vaccine doses are given in high-income countries, while in low-income countries is given only 0, 3%, which delays the response to the pandemic and as a result new variants of the virus emerge. A typical example is the situation in India, one of the most powerful capitalist countries, which is also the largest producer of coronavirus vaccines, which had not vaccinated its own population, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths.
In this way, the pharmaceutical companies that trade such a critical commodity make huge profits, having reaped the work of millions of scientists and workers for the development and production of vaccines. For example the American pharmaceutical company “Pfizer” has astronomical expected profits in 2021, as the income from the vaccines will reach even 26 billion dollars,
In contrast to these examples of capitalist barbarism, we have the example of the Cuban Revolution, of the heroic Cuban doctors and health workers, of the Henry Reeves brigade, who in practice expressed the international solidarity of the workers and people of Italy, Latin America and elsewhere against the pandemic. While today despite the US embargo Cuba is trying to develop vaccines against the COVID.
At the same time, in capitalist countries, healthcare union activists are fighting and claiming Exclusive Free Public Health for all, protection of peoples against the pandemic, with demands such as the WFTU for May 1st “Free Access to Vaccines for All”
We believe that today we are more experienced, through the pandemic and the new circumstances, to show that we cannot leave any public health issue to the “goodwill” of the profit-seeking monopolies and the competition between them. To condemn in every way the profiteering on vaccines. To demand that all information on vaccines and therapeutic preparations be presented in a transparent manner to international scientific bodies. Research in this area should be conducted on the principle of international solidarity and cooperation and not on competition.
To demand the substantial recognition of the offer of the nurses and the employees in the health units as a whole with, permanence of our contracted colleagues and increases in our salaries. Full state funding of public health units and order the requisition of the private sector.
To claim the abolition of patents for all vaccines for COVID-19 and therapeutic drugs used or developed, as well as the corresponding necessary legal regulations in all countries. Production, distribution and implementation of vaccines must continue entirely by public means. Strengthen the struggle of peoples for the protection of health. To clash with the interests of the monopolies, who sacrifice human lives for profit.
Long live the healthcare militats
Long live NEHAWU
Long live the WFTU