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ILO, unions and employers signal potential social and economic consequences of influenza A(H1N1) measures

Posted to the IUF website 04-Jun-2009

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The ILO issued the following joint communiqué together with worker and employer organizations on Influenza A(H1N1)

This is the original text of the statement:

'ILO signals potential social and economic consequences for workers and their families from actions taken to address the influenza A(H1N1) virus

Since the influenza A(H1N1) outbreak has been announced 53 countries have officially reported 15,510 cases of human infection including 99 deaths. The speed with which the outbreak has spread and the risk of a pandemic certainly merit the implementation of all measures necessary to protect the health of the world’s population.
The safety and health of workers is the primary concern of the ILO and its tripartite constituents, including the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Association (IUF) and Public Services International (PSI). In this context, we encourage governments, enterprises and workers to put in place all appropriate measures to guarantee the safety and health of employees at the workplace. Those measures must be careful, targeted and based on sound scientific evidence in order to avoid unnecessary social and economic consequences.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring the spread and nature of Influenza A(H1N1), assessing the risks associated with the spread of this virus, as well as identifying the respective measures to be implemented to prevent transmission and to provide care for those affected. The most up-to-date information can be found at www.who.int/en. National authorities responsible for the protection of workers are advised to consult the WHO website (and http://www.who.int/foodsafety/consumer/infosan_influenza/en/index.html) for information and advice for workers (including those on farms) on how to protect themselves.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) officially stated that 'influenza viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs'. Nonetheless, we have witnessed a series of disproportionate reactions in some countries that are exposing enterprises, workers and their families in the food industry to unnecessary social and economic stress.
Initial emergency measures, in some countries, have already led to significant falls in pork commodity prices, reduced consumption of pork products and loss of consumer confidence in the industry. This could lead, on top of the current global economic crisis, to closure of businesses, mass layoffs and loss of household revenues, affecting the most vulnerable categories of workers, such as seasonal, temporary and migrant workers. These scares can threaten enterprises and the livelihoods of entire communities employed in the food industry.
The ILO and its constituents strongly urge the international community to respect the latest official advice and base measures affecting the trade and consumption of pork and food products derived from pigs on scientific evidence.
We stress, once again, that social dialogue between governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations is fundamental in the design and implementation of any preventive and/or recovery actions in the context of measures coordinated and adopted at national level'.

The ILO has also setup a specific page with resources on how to prepare and confront an epidemic at the workplace can be accessed here.

To read an earlier IUF article about Influenza A click here.