More than ever, workers have a sense of urgency to unite in fighting for their fair treatment. Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), worker associations are mobilizing efforts to inform workers on their rights, providing them with resources to preserve themselves and their families amid the devastating COVID-19.
The workers unions and NGOs, from an array of countries, are demanding basic financial safety, shedding light on issues such as expired residencies, delayed salaries and unsafe living arrangements. Although it proves to be a fight, they well understand the power in numbers.
The Teachers’ Union in Jordan created a $705,218 fund to assist workers throughout the nation, after the government’s decision to suspend all public and private enterprises for an indefinite time period. The union calls on the government to launch a health fund to combat the pandemic, urging neighboring unions, affiliates or business to donate.
The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) is distributing sterilizers, masks, and informative fliers mostly in areas where Palestinians are forced to cross to Israel in order to make a living. They are also placing pressure on employers to pay their employees wages in accordance with labor laws.
Union members conducted medical examinations for workers, distributed pamphlets on COVID-19 prevention, food packages and sterilizers to families throughout Bethlehem.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health, the union launched a virus-long campaign to sterilize commercial buildings, taxi stations, public transport, and institutions in Ramallah.
Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) gathered 100,000 Tunisian dinars ($32,240) to financially-back workers who lost their income due to the virus. They are fighting for workers to be paid and teleworking to be implemented when possible.
The federation plans to postpone all its strikes but in turn asks that the government provide social protections during the crisis, to insure the wages and rights of public and high risk private-sector workers such as those in restauration and tourism.