Labor inequality and COVID19
All workers, irrespective of social class, must organise and unite during this time of massive upheaval or social stratifications will wreak further devastating effects on wages post-COVID19.
COVID19 will deepen income inequality if we don’t act now.
Things are unequal. While we’re all ‘in this together’ we’re not all experiencing COVID19, nor it’s after effects, in the same way.
Within this group of workers are low and high income earners who have different access to medical care.
Communication inequality exists within the group ‘essential workers’ as they do not have equal access to updated, validated information that could protect their lives. Who assumes responsibility for this and counsels workers accordingly? Should employers provide post-traumatic stress counseling?
With low income ‘essential’ workers including nurses at the forefront of COVID19, should they receive a ‘danger pay’ allowance?
Low income workers are more likely to suffer with chronic illnesses compromising their resistance to the corona virus. In addition to living month to month, for many, their job security can be precarious even at the best of times.
We pay for ‘essentials’ without dwelling too much on where the cashier sleeps at night.
The cab driver taking me home doesn’t wear a mask. The windows were closed when I jumped in and a four letter word exploded in my brain.
Society in a straightjacket
We are all forced to exist within the same series of limitations, some of us with wi-fi challenges, others without water.
Irrespective of view or ventilation, our current social and economic limitations have different negative impacts on us now, which will stretch into the future with ever worsening consequences – unless we act.
Unequal access to healthcare makes it especially costly for lower income workers to get sick. Should they be paid a ‘danger pay’ allowance throughout this time, including if they fall ill? What toll will the stress of reporting to work each day place on them?
A casualty trade-off, casually paid off
If a worker dies as a result of COVID19, can their funeral be covered by a government / industry fund? Can their families receive a grant as a result of their loss? Who is held responsible for workers falling victim to more than circumstance, for you and I?
Low income workers have few options but to work. Savings don’t cushion them when labour market realities force them to their knees.
Weak labour protections in South Africa and elsewhere are bound to worsen unless workers unite. Those workers who were never unionised pre-COVID must do so now.
Cultural and race barriers must be dismantled, particularly in South Africa. Whites who believe unions are only for black people must shift a mindset modelled by apartheid managers.
Black people who think unions are decrepit and incompetent in a hostile BEE or pro-poor space – well friends, what if you’re right, does it count? Isn’t it true that what you do with what you know is what counts?
Workers must participate and compel others to do the same in order for change to occur.
We Are Everywhere
Labour conditions and safety are critical factors which can be traded for economic and political stability.
It’s essential employers and workers are on equal footing. Currently, employers have monopsony power in South Africa, meaning they are able to unlawfully control how conditions for employment are established.
Employers exploit a lack of labour protections by driving wages down and price-fixing according to inequality standards established during apartheid.
Future pandemics are likely
Some are saying the Corona virus doesn’t distinguish race or social class. Tell that to the dead black people who outweigh the white bodies in the US.
Pandemics are not social equalizers.
They feast in densely populated areas, filling stretched bodies starved by stress. Sometimes breaking through privileged barriers throwing a few cents worth of validation in the ‘we are all in this together’ cup.
Inequality traps low earners in a vulnerable cycle. They can’t afford medical care yet are more likely to face chronic illnesses and be at the forefront of pandemics, particularly as ‘essential workers.’
Labor inequality and poor workplace protections may exacerbate the spread of norovirus, a highly contagious stomach bug. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five food service employees went to work while sick with vomiting or diarrhea for fear of losing their jobs if they stayed home, turning restaurants into vectors for norovirus outbreaks.Max Fisher and Emma Bubola, New York Times
NO MATTER WHERE IN THE WORLD
WE CAN UNITE, LOBBY, WRITE, SUPPORT, DEMAND, SING, RESEARCH AND ROBUSTLY FORCE ENGAGEMENT ON TOPICS OF POWER AND INEQUALITY
About the author
Leonie Hall consults in economic development and education management. Founder of PaySlipBanSA, She ranks herself as the world’s most ‘un-suable’ and unlikeable individual to anyone stripping labour markets and learners of their rights.
With stand-offs won against PSG Wealth, Allon Raiz and Webber Wentzel who were hired by Henley Africa, she’s no lawyer but she sure knows how to make them wimp out quick!
Check out Leonie’s list of 20 companies perpetuating inequality by applying wage discrimination during recruitment. A few have threatened to sue, they all know about this list but can’t do anything about it.
Leonie is thrilled by the number of views the list attracts and appreciates the encouraging feedback from job seekers who are empowered to negotiate their wages from an informed position.