It’s Time for the Bosses to Pay Up

One of the constant refrains of the committee which runs the UK on behalf of the bosses, ie the government, is that “we are all in this (the pandemic) together!”. That is a demonstrable lie. Covid-19 has impacted the working class disproportionately. The boss class has increased its wealth and avoided death by Covid to a far greater extent than has the working class, which has seen its income reduced and high death rates from Covid-19. The failure to extend the £20 Universal Credit uplift and Fire & Rehire are the most glaring examples of the working class being forced to pay for the government’s abject failure to manage a foreseeable pandemic. That the UK has the highest death rate from Covid-19 in western Europe (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/uk-worst-in-western-europe-for-covid-infections-and-deaths-fnf8vpgs6 ) shows that as far as the bosses are concerned, the working class is expendable.

The inequality in the UK is well illustrated by the issue of sick pay. In the UK, around 57% of employees are entitled to occupational sick pay, meaning they receive full pay when off work due to illness. However, 26% of workers have to rely on the minimum statutory sick pay (SSP), a measly £120 pounds a week.

The UK has the lowest proportion of sick pay to average wages in the developed world. (https://www.ier.org.uk/news/uk-sick-pay-nearly-worst-in-europe-and-in-breach-of-international-law/ ) The large numbers failing to take time off when poorly during the pandemic highlighted the problem – prompting the erstwhile Health Secretary Matt Hancock to press (unsuccessfully) for higher SSP.

It is disturbing that the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) employs thousands of staff in Covid-19 test centres through subcontractors. Mitie employees at a test centre in Scotland complained about not receiving occupational sick pay that this was a major contributory factor in a Covid outbreak at the test site run by Mitie in Scotland. When confronted with this, the DHSC claimed that “occupational sick pay is built into the DHSC Covid contract with Mitie” (https://theferret.scot/mitie-workers-claim-failures-led-to-covid-outbreak/).

On pressing for details, however, it emerged that the DHSC had not instructed Mitie to pay occupational sick pay. Rather, the contract says staff must receive “self isolation payments” equivalent to full pay, but only if they test positive for Covid-19 or are asked to isolate by Test & Trace – leaving workers reliant on SSP for anything else. This is also the case on sites run by Sodexo. It would seem that subcontractors are only doing the bare minimum to prevent cross infection, no doubt in order to maintain profitability. Throughout the Pandemic it has always been the wealth of the boss class before the health of the working class.

Working class parents are also disproportionately and adversely impacted by Covid-19 outbreaks in schools. Parents who have to take time off work to look after children who have been sent home have to take unpaid leave and this is often classed as an “unauthorised absence”, which accrues Bradford Factor points. Many working class parents, therefore, are faced with the choice of either looking after their children properly or cutting corners to avoid penury or the sack.

We at No Safety? No Work! do not believe that our economic system works for everyone. Capitalism is about making profits for the bosses not the welfare of workers and their families. If we were really “all in it together”, then all workers would be receiving full pay for any absences from work as a consequence of Covid-19. 

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