“Living with the pandemic” demands occupational sick pay for all

Article from the comrades at No Safety No Work

A constant refrain coming from the bosses staunchest supporters in Parliament is that we must “learn to live with” or “live alongside” the Pandemic. That 99 Tory MPs voted against more restrictions to combat the spread of the Omicron variant is a symptom of this. Apparently, there seems to be a concerted effort to normalise living in a world where deadly, infectious diseases ravage the working class but leaves the ruling class free to exploit whatever opportunity there is to add  to its wealth. That this is done in the name of ‘liberty’ is both a travesty and a falsehood. We are not “free” to live our lives without restrictions if the lack of some restrictions means that we are constantly threatened by poverty, sickness and even death.

We do indeed need to learn to “live with” pandemics. Globalisation, increased international travel and the destruction of natural habitats will lead to the transmission of more diseases from animals to humans. Zoonoses (animal diseases passed to humans) are a fact of life in our global village. We need to protect ourselves from this and the fact that many working class people do not get occupational sick pay shows that the bosses are not helping to protect their workers from the consequences of pandemics. We have to protect ourselves by demanding occupational sick pay for all.

One of the reasons why the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) pandemic has gone on for so long is because we keep passing the virus on to each other. This gives it the opportunity to both multiply and mutate. This makes it more difficult to control. When a person catches Covid, they need to isolate themselves from others so that they don’t infect even more people. Workplaces, including schools, colleges and universities, are where large numbers of people congregate. Under Pandemic conditions, therefore, workplaces become “vectors of transmission” – places where lots of people become infected. That is why people who have to go to workplaces are told to self-isolate. If they keep away from others, they can’t infect them. It is no good, though, telling people to self-isolate if self-isolation amounts to homelessness and starvation for those who do self-isolate. You can’t pay your rent, feed yourself or your family and pay all of the other bills on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £100 per week. That means that we are faced with the choice of either following the rules and accepting poverty, or breaking the rules and infecting others. Not surprisingly, many of us are choosing the latter.

The obvious solution is to pay workers their full wage if they have to miss work as a consequence of Covid. If we become sick, if one of our kids becomes sick, if one of the people whom we live with becomes sick, we still get paid. Of course, the bosses will say that that is not affordable, it would make us uncompetitive and have far worse consequences than not paying people properly if they or their families or friends get sick. That is wrong. The boss class can afford it and the consequences of not doing the right stuff to bring the present Pandemic under control and protect ourselves from future variants and other Pandemics are far worse than curbing profiteering.

Unfortunately, the boss class has an aversion to spending money on anyone but themselves. We will have to make it impossible for them not to do so.