Coronavirus: Sierra Leonean workers write IMF, World Bank ahead Spring meetings


AHEAD of the Spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank scheduled to hold virtually, the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC) has called on two financial institutions to act on the recommendations for a coordinated international response to the global economic and public health crisis posed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The SLLC, founded in 1976, is the sole national trade union centre in Sierra Leone, with 32 affiliates. It is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

As at this morning (Saturday, March 11, 2020), Sierra has recorded eight confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and the capital city, Free Town, is under partial lockdown with inward and outward vehicular and human movements restricted; a reliable trade union source told National Record.

In the letter dated April 2, 2020, signed by Max K. Conteh, Acting General Secretary of SLLC, and obtained by National Record, the SLLC called on both the IMF and World Bank to use their forthcoming Spring Meetings as an opportunity to outline a coordinated fiscal and monetary stimulus that will adequately respond to the devastating situation created by Covid-19.

The letter, written in collaboration with Global Unions, specifically asked the Bretton Woods Institutions to plan actions that are capable of bolstering public health, protect jobs, boost the real economy and provide adequate support to developing countries.

The consequences of not planning a comprehensive response, the SLLC argued, will be to loss of lives and the deepening of the global economic crisis.

The SLLC, in the letter which was passed through The bank of Sierra Leone, the country’s central bank, said: “The Spring Meetings should result in a two-part plan, comprised of an issuance of IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and an agreement for coordinated fiscal stimulus that is designed to preserve employment and the real economy. A SDR allocation was a key response to the global financial crisis, and the issuance this time should be consistent with the scope of the crisis and the needs of developing countries. Global Unions call for issuance to be accompanied by a donor trust fund that allows the transfer of SDRs to developing countries, earmarked for real economy stimulus, public health, social protection and jobs.

“Developing countries will also need debt relief that goes beyond the limited existing structures. Global Unions call for a twin approach of sweeping debt relief linked with the Sustainable Development Goals and a sovereign debt workout mechanism. This should include cancellation, restructuring, and reprofiling of debt owed to the IFIs. Debt will be a destructive constraining factor for response, recovery, and sustainable development unless action is taken.

“With the social and economic dislocation of the crisis and the disruption of supply chains, public health systems and social protection are the first line of defence. We must leave no one behind in the response, and build universal social protection including floors, and universal health coverage. Income support must be expanded to meet the rising unemployment, with no barriers to access for informal and non-standard workers. This is the moment for necessary ambition, with no time for piecemeal solutions or programmes that exclude the needy with narrow targeting and shift risks onto workers alone.

“All stimulus should be designed to prioritize the real economy and comply with the core labour standards of the ILO. With regards to IFC response funding, we call for requirements on borrowers to provide paid sick leave for all and childcare support for essential workers. IFC should closely monitor, in dialogue with workers and trade unions, respect for the IFC Performance Standards on occupational health and safety, retrenchment, and collective bargaining. The response programmes of the World Bank Group and IMF should be designed through social dialogue and in cooperation with the ILO and WHO, to ensure coherence and respect for international labour standards. Loan conditions and policy advice on deregulatory structural reforms that erode worker protections and financial regulation have no place in the response or in the recovery. Reforming multilateralism and forging a new social contract have taken on a new urgency, and governments and the international financial institutions should start immediately.”


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