THE PROTECTION OF WORKERS IN THE CASE OF COVID-19
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The rights of workers have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. The disease was discovered in December 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing suffering on a magnitude that is unprecedented in living memory.
Millions have lost their livelihoods and are struggling financially. Tens of thousands have lost loved ones, and hundreds of thousands who have been infected with the virus face the very real prospect of serious illness or death. Employers have the obligation to protect workers during this pandemic. The objective of this research is therefore to examine the protection of workers in Cameroon in the case of COVID-19. It has become clear that most governments in the world underestimated the risks of rapid COVID-19 spread especially African countries and were mostly reactive in their crisis response. As disease outbreaks are not likely to disappear in the near future, this work recommends that proactive international actions are required to not only save lives but also protect economic prosperity.
The rights of workers have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. The disease was discovered in December 2019. On 31st December 2019, a series of pneumonia cases of unknown cause was detected in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). On the 30th of January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” with 7,736 confirmed cases in the PRC and 83 confirmed cases in 18 economies outside the PRC.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing suffering on a magnitude that is unprecedented in living memory. Millions have lost their livelihoods and are struggling financially. Tens of thousands have lost loved ones, and hundreds of thousands who have been infected with the virus face the very real prospect of serious illness or death.A second wave of the pandemic will be driven by intense feelings of anxiety and despair in a world that is no longer predictable and safe due to high rates of unemployment and homelessness coupled with traumatic memories of surviving one’s own brush with COVID-19or the death of a partner, parent, or loved one. The personal, social, and economic burden of human suffering, treatment costs, disability compensation, and productivity losses related to mental health problems in normal times have been major public health issues worldwide.
According to the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, Guy Ryder; “The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount today. In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves.” This therefore means employers have the obligation to protect workers during this pandemic. This obligation of employers to protect workers during pandemic is equally provided by the Cameroonian legislators as Section Section 95of the Cameroon Labour Code states that “(1)Hygiene and safety conditions at the workplace shall be determined by orders of the Minister in charge of labour, issued after consultation with the National Commission on Industrial Hygiene and Safety.(2) The said orders, while taking local conditions and contingencies into account, shall aim at securing for the workers standards of hygiene and safety conforming with those recommended by the international Labour Organization and other Internationally recognized technical bodies.” And Section 98(1) goes further to state that “Every enterprise and establishment of any kind, public or private, lay or religious, civilian or military, including those where persons are employed in connection with work in the professions and those belonging to trade unions or professional associations, shall provide medical and health services for their employees.” Subsection 2 states that “The functions of such services shall be to supervise conditions in respect of hygiene in the establishment, the risks of contagion and the state of health of the workers, and of their spouses and children if housed by the employer as well as to take the appropriate preventive measures and provide the necessary medical care…”
It can be seen that workers have rights which must be protected by the employers even during outbreak like the case of COVID-19. The focus in this research is therefore to examine the measures put in place to protect workers since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic with focus on Cameroon.
The Cameroon Labour Code provides measures which employers must take in order to protect their workers in case of pandemics like the COVID-19 pandemic but the problem is the implementation of these measures. Most of these measures have not been implemented by employers in Cameroon since the outbreak of the pandemic and this has serious devastating effects on the employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic has collapsed so many businesses thereby causing workers to lose their jobs. The virus has very devastating effects on economic activities generally and thus the urgent need to reduce the spread but the situation in Cameroon is difficult to handle as the negative impacts of the virus are further compounded by lack of support from the government to boost economic activities like supporting small businesses with funding and reducing taxes for big enterprises so as to reduce costs and encourage production.
There are several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which can be instituted by employers to ensure the safety of their employees. Employers are expected to provide facemasks and hand sanitizers to workers and provide washing points within their establishments. Employers are equally expected to ensure that measures are put to respect the one meter social distancing. But the reality is that, these measures are not really respected especially in Cameroon. Most employers have instead lay-off their workers and those retained are not provided these items regularly.
Another problem is that most employees and employers especially in Africa do not believe the virus exist anywhere in Africa including Cameroon and thus do not respect the measures this explains why the spread of the various is on the rise.
This work is broken into four chapters.
Chapter One looks at the background to the study and identifies the research problems. It sets out the research questions and synopsis of the work.
Chapter Two examines Health Measures Provided for by the Labour Code in Face of COVID-19.
Chapter Three assesses Reinforcement of Security and Health Measures in the case of COVID-19.
And finally chapter four is the conclusion and recommendations.