Somali workers in urgent need of protection from unsafe working conditions and infectious disease

Today is the International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April 2020, a global day of remembrance and action for workers murdered, wounded and incapacitated in their line of duty. 

In the year of coronavirus (COVID-19), this day of commemoration has never been more significant, and the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) renews its pledge to fight for the living of working women and men of Somalia. 

FESTU recognises the sacrifice of workers around the country, particularly the health and other key workers who put themselves in harm’s way to keep Somalis safe and vital services running as this year has a special significance because of the pandemic.

Recent days, Somali trade unions have witnessed an upsurge in the number of workers who have been exposed to the virus. Trade unions have been receiving the information of workers getting infected for the past couple of days, and there is urgent need to put proactive measures to protect workers from contracting the virus while in the frontline of actively fighting the virus.

FESTU has been very insistent in stressing the need to protect and secure healthcare and other key workers who are our first line of defence against the deadly virus. The federation and its affiliated unions have indicated on several instances the risks of lack of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), education on the proper use of PPE and overall awareness on how to cope with the COVID-19 to protect workers from contracting the disease in their workplaces.

“We urge the Federal Government and the Federal Member States as well as the private sector employers to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to key workers to keep them safe. And when this is all over, we want the government to move with speed in enacting Occupational Safety and Health legislation” said Omar Faruk Osman, FESTU general secretary. 

This deadly pandemic underscores the pressing need for Somalia to designate COVID-19 as hazard and dangerous disease for occupational safety and health of the citizens including workers, and the absence of Occupational Safety and Health law in the country highlights the importance for national political commitment and legislative framework to protect most of the citizenry against unsafe working conditions and new infections that would spell disaster to the nation. 

FESTU expressly calls upon all private and public healthcare institutions at different levels in the country not to force or intimidate workers to work without proper PPE as this is equivalent to attempted murder and a criminal offence.

FESTU remains a constructive partner in the broader fight against COVID-19 with its immediate priority being the protection of all its members and workers who are breadwinners against dangerous working conditions and infectious disease.

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