Published: 30/11/2021

The IUF has joined with sister global unions representing more than 200 million workers to call on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to immediately act to ensure universal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

  • The Council of Global Unions (CGU) calls on all governments to take the action needed to make COVID-19 vaccines available for all, and to support the temporary and targeted ‘TRIPS waiver’ proposed by South Africa and India at the WTO
  • The CGU strongly supports trade union and civil society campaigns around the world for a temporary waiver of WTO intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Workers have put themselves at risk to safeguard people’s lives, livelihoods, and the global economy, and driven outstanding advances in science and medicine with the rapid development of COVID-19 tests, treatments, drugs, medical devices, personal protective equipment and vaccines. Much of this work was assisted through public funding
  • In countries where supplies are scarce, essential workers are still waiting for their vaccinations. While they remain committed to keeping their societies safe, and critical supply chains moving and economies functioning, a handful of political leaders and pharmaceutical companies are failing them
  • Unions have taken action in support of the waiver in 127 countries. Workers’ lives and livelihoods, and our communities, depend on it

The WTO postponed its Ministerial meeting scheduled for the week of November 29 because of new travel restrictions imposed by Switzerland following the emergence of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. The lack of vaccine availability had made the emergence of new variants inevitable and the failure to agree on the ‘TRIPS Waiver’ was a key ingredient in preventing global distribution. The WTO must act now to help end the pandemic with a waiver on intellectual property rights for vaccines that will facilitate rapid universal access. Waiting for a meeting of trade ministers where wealthy countries will strive to protect the profits of pharmaceutical companies is a catastrophic option for all of us.

The full text of the Council of Global Unions Statement can be read here.

The great crises of our age are global and cannot be resolved by protecting national or corporate interests. The failure of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to put public health before the interests of a few pharmaceutical company investors increases suffering, entrenches inequality and prolongs the pandemic.
Sue Longley, IUF General Secretary