Are Workers Becoming Covid Commodities?

It’s official. Workers are just commodities. The Philippines Government wants to trade nurses with the UK and Germany in exchange for vaccines.

The Philippines is one of the world’s largest suppliers of nurses to the rich world’s hospitals and health care services. Even though its own health services are desperately short of doctors and nurses, its government exports them as a major source of foreign exchange. However, when COVID19 broke out, President Duterte decided to keep Filipino nurses in the country and put a cap on the numbers allowed to go abroad.

At the UK end, the NHS is desperately understaffed and relies heavily on migrant nurses. There are currently tens of thousands of Filipino nurses in the UK, often working on frontline COVID wards. However, while it is short on nurses, the UK is not short on vaccines, with more than 400 million doses on order. The level of overordering is such that the UK government has pledged to donate some of its surplus to poorer countries at an indeterminate date, but the Philippines Government does not want to wait: It sees a useful trade to be made – workers for vaccines.

Yesterday Alice Visperas, director of the Philippine Labour Ministry’s international affairs bureau offered to lift the cap on nurses in exchange for vaccines from Britain and Germany. She has not yet indicated how much vaccine she believes one nurse is worth.

There are Filipino nurses and other care staff in UK who are unable to work because they do not have the right documents.  This situation has been created over many years by changes in legislation amongst other things. 

Be assured that there is a significant number of nurses already available in UK who could quickly and willingly jump into caring roles, if only the Government were to give Indefinite Leave to Remain to people who are undocumented and those in the legal process

Susan Cueva

Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, 24-30 Dalston Lane, London E8 3AZ  <>