By Victor Ahiuma-Young
LIKE others, for Nigerian workers, 2020 will not be forgotten in a hurry.
According to the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba “Surviving 2020 is no mean feat. We thank the Almighty God whose grace and mercies saw us through the vicissitudes of 2020.”
Reviewing the year that just gone by, Wabba who is also the President International Trade Union Confederation that represents 200 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 332 national affiliates, said “The year 2020 was largely defined by disruptions by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the way we work, live and play occasioning some of the broadest global lockdown and dislocation in recent history.
“The impact of COVID-19 pandemic with a current global death toll of more than 1,700,000 and an infection rate of more than 82 million persons has left giant craters in our psyche and a lot of sour tales on the lips of billions of people in the world.
“There is no other place where the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt than in the workplace. Millions of workers all over the world including Nigeria lost their jobs and means of livelihood as businesses contracted owing to the extensive lockdowns and the spill over economic shocks.
“According to estimates by the International Labour Organization, ILO, as at September 2020 about 94 percent of the global workforce was already impacted by the hiccups occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The income losses from this impact currently stand at 495 million Full Time Equivalent, FTE, jobs.
“The monetary equivalent of this loss of income by workers totals to the tune of about 3.4 trillion United States Dollars. The real bite of the virus, apart from the high death toll, is the fact that it has recruited in its wake a huge army of working-class poor. The ILO estimates that the contraction in productivity as a result of the extensive lockdown and associated slow economic recovery has exacerbated and deepened the crisis of working-class poverty globally.
“The grim outlook painted in 2020 by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease appears gloomier when we consider the fact that before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was already faced with the prevalence of massive inequality: income inequality, racial injustice and gender discrimination in addition to the destruction resulting from extreme weather events due to climate change.
“We were also confronted with the choices associated with the best and worst impacts of technology which were devoid of a rights base. These events were already driving an age of anger barrage especially as marked by civil unrests and distrust in democracy in different countries of the world before COVID-19 made landfall in virtually all the countries of the world.
Vaccine not enough
“The long shadows thrown by the COVID-19 insurgence will not just go away in 2021 by the wave of some magic wand. The global community would need to keep up with international solidarity and a great invocation of the appeal of our shared humanity if we are to survive the looming second wave of this deadly virus.
“The development of vaccines for the management of the novel coronavirus is a step forward in the mobilization of our basic human instincts of survival for the great push back against this uncommon invisible foe. Yet, we must be modest to admit that the mere development of vaccines is not enough.
“We must think of how to make the vaccines affable, affordable, and available. We reiterate the call for the production of pro-poor vaccines for developing and underdeveloped economies of the world. If there is one lesson that this virus has taught us, it is that we are all in this together.
“While we await the mass production, distribution and administration of the vaccines, we use the occasion of this New Year to salute the contributions of the Nigerian working class in steering the narrative of 2020 away from the precipice of complete breakdown to a plateau of recovery, resilience and resurgence of hope.
“We salute the uncommon sacrifice of our frontline workers. To the nurses, doctors, laboratory workers, nutritionists, health environmentalists, morticians, transport workers, informal sector workers, security personnel and journalists who stoically kept the wheels of survival rolling at the most turbulent times of 2020, we owe you oceans of gratitude.