Covid-19 exacerbates precarious work in West and Central Africa

“Workers in precarious employment relationships are exposed to greater COVID-19 risks.”

This was the conclusion reached by BWI affiliates in West and Central Africa as they discussed ways on how to address COVID-19’s impact on the already dilapidating situation of precarious workers in the region. 

In a webinar organised by BWI with the support of FES TUCC Sub Saharan on 10 November, trade unions agreed that workers in precarious employment relationships are more vulnerable to COVID-19. BWI Regional Committee (West Africa) titular member and CBMWU General Secretary Pius Quainoo said that the lack of safeguards, social protection and job security expose precarious workers to greater economic and health risks. 

To help trade unions combat precarious employment, ILO Actrav senior workers’ specialists Hervé Sea and Marinna Nyamekye gave an overview of the status of precarious work in the region and the various International Labour Organsation (ILO) Conventions that unions can use to respond to the rise of precarious work made worse by a pandemic. This was complemented by ITUC-Africa General Secretary Akhator Joel who presented different trade union strategies to protect workers' health and livelihood from employment relationships that are poorly paid, insecure and where labour rights are unprotected. 

BWI affiliates agreed to continue to advocate for the full implementation of standard COVID-19 containment/prevention protocols and revisit collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and demand more occupational health and safety provisions and social protection measures. 

The webinar, which was participated by 37 trade unionists, was presided by BWI Regional Representative Crescentia Mofokeng and FES TUCC South Africa Director Iris Nothofer. Mofokeng said the event was a good opportunity for BWI and its partners to revisit and strengthen their initiatives to combat precarious employment made more challenging because of COVID-19.