Special message in solidarity to nurses around the world on the occasion of International Nurses Day (May 12)
Fighting against Infectious Diseases at the Front Line,We Shall Get Over Greed of Capitalists and Be United beyond National Borders.
○ In celebration of the Year 2021 International Nurses Day, we at the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (the KHMU) would send warmest greetings of appreciations in solidarity to nurses fighting COVID-19 around the world.
○ Over the past year and three months, COVID-19 pandemics have brought about a plenty of challenges to the entire human race. COVID-19 has clearly illustrated the future direction that the Korean health and medical system should take. With that in mind, the KHMU held the 2nd round of ad-hoc congress on April 29 and finalize our requests to be submitted at the industry-level collective bargaining: 1. Establish a infectious disease response system and expand the public medical services 2. Root out illegal practices and increase employment levels in hospitals 3. Improve shift work systems and phase in a four-day workweek system.
○ We also have put an emphasis on active roles of the government in overcoming COVID-19 crises and mapping out a infectious disease response system. Hence, we will continue to propose our requests to and negotiate with the government, while being firm in our positions at industry-level negotiations with employers and organizing powerful struggles at the industry-level. Plus, we will make sure the agenda of the collective bargaining will be socially responsible for health and safety of people. If our requests are not accepted by them despite all our efforts mentioned above, we will organize the general strike in early September.
○ We painfully learned from COVID-19 pandemic that human being is all connected as one at the global village. On the occasion of International Nurses Day, we would like to highlight the importance of solidarity among workers across the world, proposing you, our nurse brothers and sisters around the world to join in the following actions:
○ First, let’s fight for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for ALL. Today, anyone can never be safe unless all in the world is safe. It should be ensured that everyone is accessible to free vaccines and treatments anywhere in the world. Nurses fighting at the front line should raise one voice that COVID-19 vaccine should be considered public goods for all. The World Trade Organization must suspend the application of TRIPS to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Such vaccines and treatments should be exempted from patents. Let’s urge each government to endorse fast and efficient production and use of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to be offered to everyone in need.
○ Second, let’s try to give pressures to each government to ratify ILO’s Nursing Personnel Convention no. 149. This year, the ILO will collect country reports from its member states and write a comprehensive report on this convention. Trade unions in the health and medical sector of each country should intervene and participate in the reporting process and act to revise the convention into one reflective of today’s pandemic situations.
○ Third, let’s fight for the 32-hour workweek system (4-day workweek system). It is more pressing than any other times to increase the number of nursing staff to ensure nurses’ rights to labor, health and safety. Most of workers in hospitals are suffering due to irregular shift work, night shift and emotional stresses. In Korea, the law set working hours at 40 hours per week at the moment. But, we at the KHMU insist that working hours per week should decrease to 32 hours or 4 days per week, which will advance better working conditions and more jobs for health and medical workers.
○ Fourth, let’s fight together to secure a sufficient level of workers, remove irregular job positions and improve working conditions. To ensure the number of nursing staff is enough, the ratio of nurse per patient should be set by law. Health and medical workers treat lives of people. Such services should be taken care of by responsible regular and permanent workers. Contract workers in charge of permanent and continued services should be re-hired as permanent workers. Also, let’s work together to give pressures to improve shift work systems and secure a sufficient level of nursing staff.
○ Fifth, let’s take the lead in saving the earth out of such climate crises as did we to save lives of people from infectious diseases. Climate changes have facilitated the spread of infectious diseases. We have to make joint efforts to protect lives of people and to make our society sustainable. Joint actions are integral part of the efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, increase renewable energy sources and uses, and use energy in more efficient ways.
○ Virus easily fly across borders. True solidary among workers should go beyond greed of capital, nations and borders, seeking universal values of human being. Fighting and struggling workers have changed the world and history. Let’s struggle in solidarity, walking toward more just and more equal society.
May 12, 2021
The Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union