June 22, 2020

Post COVID-19: Global Union calls for Africa’s reindustrialisation to save jobs

Comrade Issa Aremu

Issa Aremu

By Victor Young

IndustriALL Global Union, IGU, through its Africa’s Vice President, Issa Aremu, has called for reindustrialisation in Africa, urging governments and trade unions to collaborate and intensify campaigns for sustainable industrial policies for the continent to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on jobs and investment.

Issa Aremu, in his address at the virtual meeting of the 60-member executive committee attended by the President, General Secretary and Vice Presidents from Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East & North Africa, North America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

The meeting brought trade union representatives from around the world together online to reiterate the demand for a just and better future for workers worldwide.

Contributing to the discussions on the Union’s political statement in the wake of the pandemic, Aremu agreed with the view that “decades of de-industrialisation and reliance on global networks of production and trade have depleted the capacity of Africa to produce or commandeer, at short notice, essential goods; from food to personal protective equipment — even basic pharmaceutical and medical supplies.”

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He observed that the recent massive disruption of the supply chain from China calls for reindustrialisation, value addition and self-reliance in Africa.

‘Africa must learn to produce’

While hailing some of the economic stimulus and workplace measures introduced by various African governments, Aremu said with the global lockdown, sustainable economic development rested on industrial revival, contending that Africa’s leap into the fourth digital industrial revolution was not only desirable, but an imperative survival strategy.

According to him, “we have seen that every nation hoards personal protective equipment to meet home demands.

“We must simply learn to produce through industrialisation. Reliance on outsourced goods and services either from China or Europe is gone forever. Nations must produce what they consume and create sustainable jobs for their citizens.”

He commended IndustriALL Global Union for condemning institutional racism, xenophobia and insurgent fascism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in USA and also called for intensified workers’ literacy on occupational health and safety.

Aremu argued that “endemic ignorance still abounds about infectious diseases among the working class made worse by fake news and misinformation.

“We annually lose hundreds of thousands of workers due to criminal negligence of occupational safety by some employers as witnessed during the collapse of the Rana Plaza building that housed garment units killing 1,134 garment workers in Bangladesh in 2013.

“An unseen killer, COVID-19, might cause more harms in workplaces without massive health and safety awareness.”

Earlier in his opening remarks, President Jörg Hofmann of IG Metal Germany, called for a united labour movement to fight the pandemic.

He said: “The crisis is impacting trade union activities and is being used to roll back the rights we fought to have. The strength of IndustriALL is based on the strength of its members, on their negotiations, campaigns and other actions.

“We must stand together, as the majority of the 3.3 billion workers worldwide are worried about their existence and future.”

ILO on job loss

The International Labour Organisation, ILO, is predicting that by July this year, 300 million formal jobs will have been lost, even more in the informal economy.

In his report to the executive committee on the impact of COVID-19 on IndustriALL’s sectors, General Secretary Valter Sanches, among others, said that IndustriALL was working with global unions, national unions and sector level unions to ensure that workers were protected.

According to him, “we see our affiliates fighting against the negative impacts of COVID-19, defending the health and safety, jobs and income of their members.

“And at the same time, unions work with companies to reconvert production facilities to manufacture goods mostly needed in the front line of care, like ventilators and hand sanitisers.”