KARACHI: On the occasion of Labour Day, the Women Democratic Front called for workers’ action committees and a left united front to fight for the lives and health of workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement for Labour Day, the leaders of the Women Democratic Front said that the global pandemic had laid bare the inefficiency of the capitalist world order.

Doctors and healthcare workers across the world have to risk their lives due to lack of life-saving protective equipment, workers are being laid off without pay, violence against women is on the rise; all of this is evidence of the failure of an unjust economic system, they added.

Ismat Shahjahan, president of WDF, said “The system needs a complete overhaul to deal with the ongoing crisis, post-Covid world can either have the same inequalities with increased surveillance, authoritarianism, and security states or it can be a step towards a better more just world with free universal healthcare, public housing, gender and economic justice.”

Left united front sought to fight for workers’ rights

She said that the ‘neoliberal’ economic system could not provide for the people and structural changes in the economy were the only way forward.

It can no longer remain the same especially in developing countries; the populist narratives in mainstream politics and national security rhetoric will have to be replaced by a system which provides true relief to the working people, she added.

She further said that “The bulk of the government’s economic response so far has been in the interests of industrial elites. The government’s coronavirus relief package has included hundreds of billions in a bailout package for major industrialists; 9.3 million women workers have been laid off permanently or temporarily but for workers the relief package of 3,000 rupees is not enough, the government must ensure paid leave and dignified basic income for daily wage earners”.

She said that the current crisis was indicative of the fact that neoliberalism created a crisis of social reproduction and care. “Healthcare systems across the world are crumbling under the disease burden. American healthcare system turned out to be one of the worst in the world. Capitalist globalisation appears not just economically but also biologically unsustainable.”

Free universal healthcare

Tooba Syed, secretary information of the WDF said: “Neoliberalism ... undervalues care-work and social reproduction. Thousands of women who provide most of the care-work are suffering from an increase in patriarchal violence during the pandemic, the government has failed to address how the women are being disproportionately affected in this crisis.”

Talking about the protesting healthcare workers across the country and world at large, she said that neoliberalism causes the crisis of care. The big pharmaceutical firms and the global neoliberal economic system work on market-based logic and do not have the agenda of provision of free universal healthcare as a right or to value the lives of healthcare workers.

She stressed that the government of Pakistan must ensure the provision of PPE and immediately regularise the contract workers in essential services, especially health workers.

They said that Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting the working class with thousands of workers being laid off or not having work anymore.

“The workers have been given two choices between disease and poverty: this is the failure of neoliberal economic system,” she added.

“The government must ensure provision of basic income, food security and provision of public housing during the pandemic,” said general secretary Alya Bakhshal.

The members of WDF called upon all progressive forces to form a united front and take action.

They also emphasised the importance of workers’ action committees to act to protect workers’ rights and secure their ability to meet their basic needs.

They said it was time to form international socialist solidarity and work together on reclaiming the post-Covid world.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2020

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