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 the peoples, such as in modern health care, improved working conditions in the workplaces etc.
Tele-working, working from home, which increased greatly during the COVID-19 Pandemic in all countries, could be considered as one of the achievements of progress and technology.
However, tele-working had a negative effect on the working conditions of the workers, such as the increase of the workload, the demand of the employers that the employee be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the non-provision of internet connection and necessary software, the non-provision of free ergonomic equipment by the companies (suitable chairs, large screens, etc.), the costs of which are borne by the employees. Also, through tele-working, workers work in isolation from their colleagues, with negative effects on trade union action, on the organization of their claims but also on their mood and psychology. Work from home makes it impossible to control violations by the employer, e.g. forced or unpaid overtime, since inspections by the labor 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 employers 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 generalize and legalize this form of work, making it a form of work that employers can impose unilaterally, and for as long as they wish, or on a permanent basis, reducing their operating expenses and intensifying the exploitation of workers.
In the IT, education, health, banking and other sectors, governments aim to maintaining tele-working after the end of the Pandemic. In countries like India, tele-medicine is also being promoted, of course not as an aid and complement to modern, public and free health care for all, but as a “stopgap” in the face of huge, tragic shortcomings in health structures and the consequences of these shortcomings, that 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 the lockdowns on economy, for the new economic crisis.
Regarding tele-working and the generalized attack on workers’ rights, the WFTU highlights the demands that can ensure our health and rights:
- To ensure the job positions of all workers with all the necessary protection measures in the workplaces.
- Free tests for workers, no COVID-19 cases silenced in the workplaces.
- Implementation of the Health Protocols.
- No negative changes in the terms and conditions of work of workers, in their rights, in the name of dealing with the pandemic.
- Emergency paid leave for those workers who need to stay home, either for the care of children or patients, or for measures related to dealing with the pandemic (eg closing buildings for disinfection, etc.).
- If for any reason an employee cannot work in the workplace, 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, but also measures for disinfection and proper use of the tools of work, e.g. headphones, keyboards, etc.
- 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 WFTU, on October 3, 2020, let us strengthen our fight for our modern rights, with the militant workers of WFTU at the forefront of the struggle, worthy successors of its militant action and history.