Hundreds of trade unions around the world, have penned an open letter to governments who oppose removing IP restrictions on Covid vaccines, accusing them of compounding supply chain crises and inflicting ‘economic self-harm’.
amely, 376 unions including Unite the Union, ver.di and kapers, wrote to leaders from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, and the EU Commission demanding that they end their opposition to a temporary intellectual property waiver on Covid vaccines, treatments and diagnostics proposed to the WTO, known as ‘TRIPS waiver’.
According to the letter:
“Throughout this pandemic transport workers have brought citizens home, transported key workers to work and kept critical supply chains moving. But the inequality in access to vaccines and treatments is an existential threat to our safety and the recovery of our industries.
From aviation and seafaring to road transport and public transport, workers have been grounded, left stranded, faced shut-downs and shortages, and risked their lives to keep the world moving. This has put the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of workers across the global economy at risk”.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) delivered the letter to the leaders ahead of the second day of the WTO’s TRIPS Council meeting in Geneva. A waiver system, it said, is vital to speed up the global vaccination roll out without which the IMF has warned that $5.3 trillion could be further wiped from global GDP in the next five years.
“The toll placed on transport workers has been immense. We have lost countless colleagues to the disease. We have been more than three times more likely to die from Covid. Millions of us have been cast adrift by self-interested governments. The treatment of seafarers, who have been effectively imprisoned on ships months over their contracts due to callous travel restrictions, is perhaps the clearest illustration of this.
But at the same time, the global vaccination programme has stalled because the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the EU have chosen to safeguard the interests of Big Pharma corporations at the expense of our lives. This is not only criminal, it is self-destructive”…the letter adds.
The transport industry put world leaders on notice that the global transport system faces the imminent threat of collapse unless governments take coordinated action to end the ‘global humanitarian and supply chain crisis’. Transport leaders from IATA, ICS, IRU and ITF called for “urgent leadership to increase global vaccine supply by all means at our disposal in order to expedite the recovery of our industries”.
Following the situation, Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary commented: “Throughout this pandemic transport workers have brought citizens home, transported key workers to work, and kept critical supply chains moving. But the inequality in access to vaccines and treatments globally is an existential threat to transport workers’ personal safety, but also to the resilience of supply chains, and reinvigoration of the global economy.”
“Every day of delay means more deaths, more lives lost, and more setbacks to the recovery of our industries and economies. You have no more excuses. You must pass the TRIPS waiver without delay. Our lives and our livelihoods depend on it.”
Removing the major barrier to the production and supply of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics that fight Covid-19 is not only essential for our workers, but for the recovery of the global economy.