McDonald's workers in Marseilles Saint-Barthélemy have responded to widespread distress and food shortages in their poor neighborhood by taking over the restaurant and converting it for local food storage and distribution. McDonald's France provides no protective equipment to workers in the dozen outlets it has maintained open in the lockdown, and is pressing for nationwide re-opening.
The government of Maldives has been issuing contradictory regulations in a scramble to keep the resorts operating. Management of the JA Manafaru resort has capitalized on the situation to victimize union officer Ibrahim Ziyaadh, a branch leader of the tourism workers' union TEAM which is fighting to defend the rights, health and safety of tourism workers.
The IUF has called on the G20 to take immediate action to protect tourism workers being laid-off in their millions as a consequence of COVID-19 lockdowns and the collapse of the industry, which directly and indirectly employs more than one in ten workers worldwide.
After 763 days of continuous picketing at AB InBev Sonepat, the union has temporarily closed the picket line to reduce any possible risk for union members and the local community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Some of the largest food companies in Peru are using the COVID-19 crisis to impose 12-hour shifts, despite government regulations which establish an 8 PM to 5 AM curfew, limit the workweek to 48 hours and mandate negotiations on any changes to work practices. The IUF-affiliated Federation of Food Industry Workers (FNT-CGTP-ABA) is fighting back, and demands strict measures to protect worker health and safety.
On March 31, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) jointly called for coordinated international action to keep international food supplies flowing across borders in the COVID-19 crisis - including the unimpeded flow of the migrant workers who sustain global agriculture. The IUF has written these bodies to highlight a supremely irresponsible defect in their appeal for "responsibility": the total absence of advocacy for action to protect the lives, safety and livelihoods of the agricultural workers on whose labour food security depends.
SENTRO, the trade union center affiliated to the IUF through its food, beverage and HRCT membership, is demanding income guarantees for all workers affected by the nationwide lockdown, including informal workers and the unemployed.
Many food processing companies in Brazil, including some of the largest groups, are failing to take the necessary measures to protect industry workers, putting public health and food security at risk. The IUF-affiliated national food processing federations in Brazil, CNTA and CONTAC (CUT), supported by the IUF Latin American regional secretariat, are calling for workplace and government action to maintain food security and protect worker health and safety.
The IUF-affiliated United Workers Union (UWU) is promoting an action program for the COVID-19 crisis and beyond which stresses the need for comprehensive social protection and public investment and ownership of key economic sectors. The status quo is not only untenable, says the union: 'Moments of rupture create space and impetus for change.'
Workers from tea plantations who have migrated to other states in India to work in hotels, restaurants, plantations, construction and as daily wage workers are now returning to the plantations due to loss of work and income. The water and sanitation committees organized on plantations in Assam and West Bengal with the support of the IUF are fighting to secure the water they need to protect tea workers and their families against the coronavirus.
The rural workers' union SINTRAINAGRO has negotiated comprehensive COVID-19 support and health and safety protection measures for some 22,000 banana workers in an agreement signed on March 25 with the industry association Augura, representing national and transnational producers. The union insisted on the safety measures when the government decreed a partial country-wide lockdown which exempted many economic sectors, including agriculture.
As borders close one after another, looming labour shortages in agriculture and the particularly vulnerable situation of agricultural workers everywhere spotlight the precarious foundations of food security and a major, but unexamined, challenge to containing the spread of the virus. To maintain food supplies while defending against the spread of the virus, governments and supra-national authorities need to take immediate action to protect the living and working conditions of the agricultural workers whose labour feeds the world.
Former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter, has been appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, effective May 1. De Schutter worked collaboratively with the IUF and spoke at meetings of our governing bodies. We congratulate him on this new appointment.
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) is an international federation of trade unions representing workers employed in agriculture and plantations; the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages; hotels, restaurants and catering services; all stages of tobacco processing. The IUF is composed of 425 affiliated trade unions in 127 countries representing over 10 million workers.
How to contact the IUF: Email: [email protected] Post: Rampe du Pont-Rouge, 8, CH-1213, Petit-Lancy (Switzerland) Phone: + 41 22 793 22 33 Fax: + 41 22 793 22 38