No more preventable deaths! Let us defend optimal working conditions and the state health system!
The current pandemic generated by the new coronavirus has produced one million deaths and over 34 million confirmed infections worldwide. The American continent, only adding the deaths of the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, provides half of the world total. The criminal and anti-pandemic-science denialist supported by Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, first and foremost, but also by other leaders, is primarily but not solely responsible for these frightening figures. So is the stubborn refusal of governments to invest in widespread epidemiological tracking methods and to adequately support isolated populations.
For this reason, workers and popular sectors have been most severely punished. It is enough to look at the figures for the popular districts of large cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, Santiago, Guayaquil, La Paz, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Lima and Buenos Aires which concentrate the highest proportion of victims. As in New York and Chicago, the African-American population and Latino immigrant workers have contributed to the largest amount of deaths.
The pandemic has also exposed the deterioration of health systems, which results from austerity policies imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. These policies comprise two aspects. One is the budget squeeze and the disinvestment on the public health system to destroy it. The other is the outsourcing and privatisation of the system to turn it into yet another territory for generating income from capital, with the consequent widespread corruption of the system.
These policies reverse the logic of health services which, instead of being put at the service of the population guided by scientific, social and epidemiological criteria, are directed towards the search for capitalist profit to the detriment of these needs. A dramatic example is a current dispute over the monopoly of the vaccine, which disperses resources instead of concentrating them on international collaborative research, thus delaying the moment when humanity could have this tool to combat the pandemic.
Austerity policies in health mean an even more brutal increase in the exploitation of workers. Precarious labour relations and losing employment stability is a privileged aim of governments and employers, both in the public and private systems. For that reason, they fight against collective labour agreements and hospital careers where they exist and prevent their existence where they are not. To lower wages and eliminate social conquests, they call for the trivialization of health care by using under-trained workers and mechanisms such as telemedicine. Thus, for the sake of capital income, the qualified, stable and permanently trained health team capable of intervening in the health-disease process of both individuals and communities are sacrificed. Part of the offensive against wages is the attack on the pension funds.
Nothing of the above would have been possible if the governments and the employers had not counted on the complicit silence – and even the accompaniment – of the bureaucratized trade union leaders.
This offensive on the standard of living of health workers has made a leap in the current pandemic. Now, their health and lives are also under direct threat. Figures show that they are contributing to a significant proportion of infections, illnesses, and unfortunately deaths worldwide. Deaths that would have been many of them avoidable by isolating those with risky conditions.
We health workers are the ones who have resisted, albeit with different results, these plans of the international financial bodies implemented by our bosses’ governments. Today we are fighting for our health and our lives. We health workers have won the streets in many countries by resisting the abuses and demanding improvements.
In this way, we must also confront the trade union bureaucracy that acts as a cement slab to prevent the workers’ struggle. That is why a great part of the current struggles are also made against the treacherous leaders, and we adopt different organizational forms to allow the rank and file to express themselves and are suitable to centralize and sustain the movement. The struggle for leaders independent from the government and the bosses is a fundamental part of this movement.
Because the plans of the imperialist bosses are global, for all nations, we have come together comrades from different countries to exchange our experiences and to work out common tactics, international campaigns and concerted actions to help to develop these struggles.
Thus, we have determined:
Support all health workers’ struggles to defend our lives with decent wages and safe working conditions guaranteed by workers’ crisis committees at work. Stop discrimination against health workers, whether it is for lower wages or other forms.
To struggle for the centralisation of all public and private resources on the way to the nationalisation of medical attention, respecting and increasing the achievements and rights of workers and people in the health field.
In order to make the big imperialist bosses pay and not the workers, we want to impose that the financing of health comes out of the non-payment of the foreign debt and from an emergency tax on the big fortunes.
Declaration of health workers in the struggle + independent workers. International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (IWU-FI)
2 October 2020