PSI Shapes Emerging Debate on Global Pandemic Treaty

PSI's affiliates from across the world contributed to ongoing WHO discussions surrounding a new Pandemic Treaty to defend adequate working conditions and wages, access to PPE, the strengthening of health systems and policy action around intellectual property rights

On 29th and 30th of September, the WHO’s International Negotiation Body held the second round of public hearings on the New international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response on 29-30 September. 

In total, nine trade unions affiliated to PSI participated in the public hearings to highlight the need for strengthened public health systems. Ina Duran (FARKES Indonesia), Gavin Edawards (UNISON UK), Jury Capera (SINTRASANIGNACIO Colombia) and Rodrigo López (ANPE Costa Rica) spoke about the importance of public funding of health systems as the only way to prepare for future crises.

Unions expressed significant concern at the lack of access to PPEs and the poor working conditions which healthcare personnel had to deal with while saving lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Carolina Espinoza (Confusam Chile) and Fabio Melo (SINDISTRITALES Colombia), denounced low salary levels, long working hours without rest and the high risks healthcare workers were exposed to due to the lack of access to PPEs. George Poe Williams (NAHWUL), a nurse and union leader from Liberia, from Liberia highlighted how the IMF and other institutions needed to end conditionalities so that country’s like his could have the fiscal space required to boost public sector employment and bolster health systems.

Another topic covered was the suffering and harassment healthcare workers dealt with during the pandemic. Kamala Luite (NHWEU Nepal) outlined how “during the pandemic we worked long hours with no leave. We were regularly denied our rights and were not even given adequate PPE. We faced harassment, abuse and even evictions from our homes and insecure work, no guaranteed staffing levels and wages below a living wage.”

PSI Health and Social Security Office Baba Aye called for the suspension of intellectual property rights during health emergencies, the removal of public sector salary cuts as conditions for loans from international financial institutions and reshaping supply chains to allow all healthcare workers to have adequate access to PPEs.

PSI is closely following the emerging Pandemic treaty process to ensure that governments acknowledge that the brutal conditions faced by frontline workers through the covid crisis were not inevitable - and that through better funding, better frontline conditions and the end to dangerous privatisation and profit seeking, we can build public health systems which will be ready to protect workers through future crises.

Check out our playlist with some of the submissions: