Informal worker demands during COVID-19 crisis

As COVID-19 has sparked both a health and an economic crisis around the world, informal workers' organizations and international networks have issued statements and demands aimed at getting policymakers to see and address the needs of their constituencies.

SUPPORT INFORMAL WORKERS' CAMPAIGNS


GLOBAL

StreetNet International

StreetNet International published an open letter for their affiliates calling government around the worlds, local and national, to put in place measures and resources to keep all workers and their income safe; to provide a universal health care and a basic emergency living cash grant to all informal economy workers and the most vulnerable categories of population regardless of their nationality and residency status; and for all informally engaged workers and the most vulnerable to be exempted from the bills for utilities during a time of coronavirus crisis.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

Yes

Job security

No

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

Yes

HomeNet International Working Group

The HomeNet International Working Group’s platform of demands to address the needs of home-based workers is directed at governments, local employers, big brands and financial service providers. They list several demands from governments: the provision of  constant water supply and sanitation services; free testing and good quality medical treatment for those infected; cash grants and food delivery; relief from payment of taxes, rentals, and social security contributions. From local employers, they demand that existing contracts (payment for goods already produced) be honoured, as well as the provision of hygiene and safety products. From financial service providers they demand the freezing of loans, micro credit payments and other debt repayments, and the provision of short-term low interest loans to augment the loss of income.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

Yes

Tax/fee/rent relief

Yes

Job security

Yes

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

Yes

International Domestic Workers’ Federation (IDWF)

IDWF urges governments to take actions to protect domestic workers rights amid the coronavirus pandemic, and makes four demands: 1) Right to safe and hazard-free workplace, including the provision of protective gears and measures and training to use these appropriately; 2) Right to paid sick leave and access to healthcare, including those who are in quarantine and infected; 3) Coverage of workers’ rights: in the event of dismissal, domestic workers should be paid their wages and all compensation according to their contracts and the law; 4) Right to information on the pandemic, in particular, preventive and protective measures and information needs to be in languages that migrants understand.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

Yes

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

Yes

Decent Work for Migrant Workers at All Times: Implement Zero Fees and Employer Pays Model for Recruitment of Migrant Workers

A statement, targetted for May 1, by Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Cross-regional Center for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM), South Asian Regional Trade Union Council (SARTUC), Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations, Pacific Region, and Solidarity Center. The statement asks governments to amend laws and regulations in light of the COVID-19 crisis and to require private recruitment agencies to provide support to the workers they contract. Other demands focus on the responsibility of the agencies to those they contract.

Council of Global Unions

In this joint statement, the Council of Global Unions, representing 200 million workers, urges the governments and employers to undertake a series of measures to protect workers.These include: "Immediately extend paid sick leave entitlements, maintain incomes and extend social protections to all workers, including formal, ‘gig’, precarious and informal workers, regardless of their employment status..."

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

Yes

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

No

REGIONAL

HomeNet South Asia

Home-based workers in South Asia and everywhere are feeling the brunt of this crisis . Even before infection rates began to climb in South Asia, the home-based workers (50 million people, mostly women, in the region) lost all their income because no new orders have been coming through the supply chains in which they work. In many cases, these workers are not included in government relief packages. Read their Charter of Demands to help these workers. 

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

Yes

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

No

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

Yes

HomeNet Eastern Europe and Central Asia

In their Home-based Workers Declaration, HomeNet Eastern Europe and Central Asia call on governments in the region to support both subcontracted and self-employed home-based workers. They request five supports: 1. Minimum wages per month as formal workers for the period of national emergency. 2. Ensure treatment of home-based workers impacted by COVID19 even those who do not have adequate social and health insurance coverage. 3. Payment of taxes, rents, social security should be postponed in the next 2-3 months. Home-based workers will not have any income to cover expenses next month. 4. Mortgage loans and fast credits should be frozen. 5. Supporting centres and networks of home-based workers providing information and services.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

Yes

Job security

No

Healthcare

No

Information

Yes

HomeNet SouthEast Asia (HNSEA)

Noting that "Millions of home-based workers world-wide demand support from their governments and the employers, contractors and brands that they work for, to ensure that their health, safety and economic survival be urgently addressed, " HNSEA has called for a multi-pronged response to address the needs. 

Asia Floor Wage Alliance Statement on Garment Workers’ Demands - COVID-19

This statement includes details of Asian governments' responses to the crisis (including whether they are supporting garment workers in the event of enforced shutdowns). It also includes a Garment Workers' Charter of Demands for governments and brands/suppliers that depend on their labour.

European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Trade Unions (EFFAT) – EFFE – EFSI – UNI-Europa Joint Statement on the COVID-19 Pandemic in Personal and Household Services (PHS)

This joint statement, calls on authorities to ensure sick leave and access to healthcare for personal and household services workers so they are not forced to choose between getting paid and putting at risk the people they provide support to. The statement also demands that domestic workers be given detailed health and safety instructions, and that  authorities ensure access to appropriate personal protective equipment. WIEGO's Karin Pape worked with the drafting team to ensure the statement reflects the demands of International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF), which supports this statement.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

No

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

Yes

Coordinadora Regional De Organizaciones De Trabajadores Y Trabajadoras En Domicilio De América, Latina Y El Caribe (COTRADO ALAC) (home-based workers, Latin America and Caribbean)

In this document, COTRADO ALAC appeals to the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean to support informal workers--home-based, self-employed, seamstresses, artisans, manufacturers of all kinds of products, street vendors, porters, cooks, workers in the social economy, popular economy, solidarity economy--who organize ourselves in cooperatives, associations, groups and community textile centers, unions, women's groups. They also raise concern that quaratine measures not be used as an excuse for authorities to restrict rights or penalize poor workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.


NATIONAL

INDIA

In India, the lockdown to stop COVID-19's spread was sudden, total, and enforced--leaving millions of informal workers in desperate circumstances.

  • March 31 - Noting "The outbreak is widely being considered two epidemics - a health crisis and a livelihood loss epidemic," SEWA's Federation of Cooperatives detailed -- and costed out -- what is needed to safeguard health, extend social protection and food security, and restore livelihoods. 

Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)

The Self-Employed Women's Association, a longstanding trade union with 1.7 million members, sent an appeal to the Minister of State (IC) for Labour and Employment and Union Minister of Finance, urging the government to provide emergency relief for informal workers, who comprise 93 per cent of India's workforce. SEWA addressed to the government a platform of demands with four points: 1) Income support to all the families of the informal economy workers to tide over this crisis, so that they are able to sustain their basic needs; 2) Issue a Circular to all the States directing Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Board and other existing Labour Welfare Boards to declare a compensatory package of Rs 5,000/month to all the registered workers to tide over crisis; 3) Free Public Distribution System for Ration supply as long as the crisis last; 4) Six months amortization on repayment of all loans.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

Yes

Job security

No

Healthcare

No

OHS

No

Within days, the Indian government announced a Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package aimed at the poor, including poor workers. The most important aspects of this package, which SEWA and others have demanded, are the supply of free rations through the Public Distribution system (FPD) and an accelerated disbursement of welfare funds for building and other construction workers. However, SEWA's demand regarding the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was not met in full. It falls to state and local governments now to implement/deliver this package of relief measures.

SEWA Cooperative Federation

WIEGO’s new board chair, Mirai Chatterjee, is the chair of SEWA’s Cooperative Federation and leads the social security team of SEWA. She recorded this video message of solidarity and hope in support of informal workers everywhere on March 26, after the complete lockdown in India. Speaking of the effects on informal workers, she says:

“Not only is their health in danger, but also they have lost their work. They have no source of income. Food is an issue--food security was always an issue anyway for these are workers… who have very low levels of social security and social protection.” 

SEWA has been getting information out to members fast. SEWA’s child care centres are providing food to young children and their families, and its low-cost health centres are providing medicines and have created affordable hand sanitizers. And details what SEWA sees as the necessary path forward, and its plans for a livelihood restoration fund.

Alliance of Indian Wastepickers

AIW asked India’s Prime Minister for support, including emergency basic income of INR 10,000 per month per household. 

KKPKP

The waste pickers' union of Pune, India, made an appeal on behalf of its workers. Their work and their living conditions have become even more insecure and precarious, but they are still considered an essential service and are continuing to collect waste. It is therefore essential that they have access to personal protective equipment in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The appeal also requests ration kits of food and essentials.

National Hawker Federation and others, India

A wide variety of researchers, practitioners and members of the National Hawker Federation in India sent this joint statement to government. In it, they support street vendors workers demands and call for a series of measures, including the implementation of a life insurance, cash grant provision, subsidized food services provision, health guidelines, provision of adequate gear and sanitizing materials, amongst others.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

Yes

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

No

Healthcare

No

OHS

Yes


SOUTH AFRICA

A Joint Statement by 10 South African organizations, representing millions of informal workers, called on government in March to act through financial support and other means.

Income security Yes
Food distribution No
Tax/fee/rent relief No
Job security No
Healthcare Yes
OHS Yes

On March 25, South Africa ordered a country-wide lockdown. Days earlier, Rosheda Muller, President of South African Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA), wrote an open letter to South Africa’s government: “Any halt or suspension of trade would be catastrophic to the livelihoods of thousands upon thousands of informal workers and their families.” 

However, the lockdown excluded informal vendors as well as waste pickers. Workers in both groups provide essential services in public spaces, and they rely on their earnings for survival. WIEGO worked with organizations of these workers, including SAITA and the Joburg Informal Traders Platform, helping them advocate to be allowed to work.

As a result, the government revised its Disaster Management Regulations on April 2 to include “spaza shops and informal food traders, with written permission from a municipal authority” in the definition of essential services. (However, cooked food vendors of all types remain unable to operate.) Some municipalities resisted, saying their offices were closed or even that they lacked the necessary stationery to issue permits for food vendors.

After more concerted advocacy, the Ministry of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs ordered that all offices relevant to the issuing of permits be opened immediately, and provided a template permit for municipalities to use. Within a few days, thousands of permits were issues (about 4,000 in Johannesburg alone). Informal food vendors around the country can now earn a livelihood and provide a better alternative than crowded supermarkets for residents. This is especially crucial in townships.  

Waste pickers, despite ongoing organizing and advocacy in South Africa, were not deemed essential services. They have been delivering food parcels to those in need on a voluntary basis.


BRAZIL

Federação Nacional das Trabalhadoras Domésticas (Fenatrad) (Domestic Workers, Brazil)

Domestic workers union Fenatrad is running a campaign for workers and their employers, asking to allow domestic workers to stay at home with full pay during this period. Fenatrad advises that domestic workers should be dismissed until the period with risk of contamination has passed. If this is not possible, at the very least, they urge the employer to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) intended for protection against risks of virus transmission, more specifically, gloves, masks and alcohol-gel, for the domestic worker to use both in the workplace and when moving. Fenatrad also recommends that domestic women be paid for these quarantine days, including day laborers, as they depend heavily on these funds. They have also created a petition to raise awareness and public support to the cause.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

Yes

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

Yes

UNICAB (União de Trabalhadores Ambulantes, Feirantes e Camelôs do Brasil) (Street Vendors, Brazil)

In a video, Juliano Fripp, from the national street vendors union UNICAB (União de Trabalhadores Ambulantes, Feirantes e Camelôs do Brasil), a StreetNet International affiliate, urges the government to provide some sort of “unemployment insurance” to street vendors, so they can can have income to survive the quarantine period.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

No

Healthcare

No

OHS

No

KENYA 

Kenya National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT)

KENASVIT,  a network of Micro and Small Enterprises in Kenya, calls on the Government of Kenya to take urgent and immediate measures to ensure the full protection of economic and social rights of the informal sector in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. 

MEXICO

SINACTRAHO (Domestic Workers)

Mexican national domestic workers union SINACTRAHO urges employers to maintain payment to domestic workers as they are forced to comply with the quarantine and stay at their homes.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

Yes

Healthcare

No

OHS

No

SPAIN

Sedoac (domestic workers)

The benefits that the government decreed for workers covered by the general social security system do not apply to domestic and care workers. Organizations such as Sedoac are calling on the government to ensure that the benefits that have been or will be decreed for workers under the general scheme are also applied to domestic and care workers. If restrictions are placed on the use of public transport, they ask for free means of transport to be provided, since it is impossible for these workers to travel to provide care in a taxi. They also demand that abusive practices by labour intermediation companies and web platforms, which offer services with up to 50% discounts that reduce the wages of the carers, be monitored and stopped. Finally, they demand that, like the rest of the workers who contribute to social security, they can request leave for childcare and receive tax exemptions as a population especially affected by the coronavirus

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

Yes

Job security

No

Healthcare

No

OHS

No

USA

The Street Vendor Project (New York, USA)

In this statement, the Street Vendor Project outlines a broad platform of demand focused on suspension of fees and regulatory costs street vendors have to bear. Here, we highlight the demand to ensure workers who are employed by food cart or truck owners,including undocumented workers, are eligible for unemployment insurance and any forthcoming emergency relief funds. It also calls for broad universal demands, including: Emergency Universal Basic Income at a minimum for low-income workers to receive direct assistance for the duration of the crisis; Statewide suspension of rent, mortgage, and utility payments for the duration of the public health emergency and universal healthcare access for all, regardless of immigration status.

Income security

No

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

No

Healthcare

Yes

OHS

No

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), USA

NDWA urges government agencies to put more resources toward the front-line care professionals who work in the home and the community, providing masks and other safety equipment, offered free testing and treatment for coronavirus. They want the state and federal governments to distribute prevention materials in the many languages that domestic workers speak. They also target employers, asking them to provide paid sick days, flexibility and other accommodations, to ensure that caregivers can protect their own health and their clients. “It is a good time for employers to reassure caregivers they will have a job, even if they need to stay home. It’s also a good time to contribute to benefits for your domestic worker.” NDWA offers a benefits program called Alia, that makes it easy to enable a domestic worker to take a paid day off and gain access to a safety net.

Income security

Yes

Food distribution

No

Tax/fee/rent relief

No

Job security

Yes

Healthcare

No

OHS

Yes

ZIMBABWE

ZCIEA (Zimbabwe) Press Statement on the Destruction of Vendors’ Stalls during COVID-19 Lockdown

Following the destruction of vendors’ stalls in Kwekwe, Mbare, Machipisa and other areas by the local authorities, ZCIEA calls for the government to stop the criminalization and stigmatization of informal workers and traders and instead recognize their right to earn a livelihood to support themselves and their families.

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