It has been roughly a week since the World Health Organization (WHO) pronounced Omicron as a ‘concerning’ variant of the Corona Virus. Since then, almost 56 countries have once again imposed travel restrictions of various degrees. Amidst all the speculations around the new variant, world-wide transportation organizations and unions are fearing the collapse of the global supply chains and a great risk to the transport workers. They have urged the world leaders to to not reimpose ‘rushed and fragmented’ cross-border transport restrictions again. The ‘warning’ was issued by international guilds representing surface, air and ocean transport.
The Air Transport Association (IATA), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Road Transport Union (IRU), and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) represent more than USD 20 trillion world trade (annually) and 65 million transport workers on a global level. They have collectively urged the governments to learn from the initial days of the post-pandemic era and not to impose border restrictions that limit the movement of international transport workers so as to avoid the resultant issues like the shipping industry’s ‘crew change crisis’.
Now is the time for heads of state to listen to industry leaders and workers, by taking decisive and coordinated action together to ease strain on the supply chain, and support an exhausted global transport workforce during the busy holiday season”The International Chamber of Shipping
There is a real and legitimate fear that unless coordinated action is taken by world leaders we will see a return to the peak of the crew change crisis in 2020 where more than 400,000 seafarers were impacted by unnecessarily harsh travel restrictions. Our transport workers have worked tirelessly for the past two years throughout the pandemic to keep the global supply chain moving, and they are at breaking point. December is traditionally a busy time for seafarers returning home to their families and governments owe them the chance to spend that time with their loved ones.”Guy Platten, Secretary General, ICS
According to the organizations, the governments and world leaders are backing off from their responsibilities in terms of guaranteeing of free & safe movement of transport workers and prioritizing vaccinations. A crisis meeting – to discuss the impact of transport restrictions on workforce and global supply chains – will be held between the ILO and WHO on this Monday.
The same governments that have blocked global vaccine access are now the first to lock down their borders to keep the Omicron variant out. Instead of pursuing a global solution to this pandemic, their decisions further risk supply chain collapse. It’s not only morally reprehensible, it’s economic self-destruction. We need universal access to vaccines now. It’s imperative for all of us to tell governments to stop bowing down to big pharma and pave the way so that every country can produce the vaccines needed to end this pandemic.”Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, ITF
Cross-border transport workers including seafarers, air crew and drivers must be able to continue to do their jobs, and cross borders without overly restrictive travel rules, to keep already ailing supply chains moving.