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11.04.2020

Low-wage workers are key workers

The world has learned many logistical lessons from the covid-19 pandemic: accurate information is all-important. A critical mass of people following guidelines can mean the difference between a scary situation and a historic tragedy. Videoconferencing is not insurmountable.

Add to these lessons one more: while we may think of doctors, nurses, firefighters and other emergency workers as the people who get us through a public crisis, cashiers, stockers, servers, delivery drivers, and other low-paid workers are equally indispensable--and have faced heavy risks on the job since the outbreaks began. The UK has taken some measures to lighten the burdens on key workers, such as providing childcare and free coronavirus testing. But the fundamental flaws in how companies treat these segments of their workforces remain.

The pandemic has thrown stark light on the issue, but the fact is, these low-wage jobs have always been integral to the functioning of our society and have always carried risks and challenges that workers in higher-paying positions never encounter. Over the past several decades, “unskilled” labour--which was always a relative term, as any grocery stocker or janitor will tell you it does take skills to do these jobs efficiently and well--has taken on a heavier and heavier share of the tasks necessary to operate supply chains and retail locations, without any correlating increase in pay, benefits, or job security. In fact, large retailers like Amazon have set the bar even lower, offering consumers rock-bottom prices by slashing basic worker benefits such as sick leave and demanding superhuman productivity for wages that are at best barely livable.

To call this unsustainable is a vast understatement. It is a system that had already failed millions globally before Covid-19 ever hit the headlines--shortening lives, compromising the stability of families, and putting the financial security required for participation in a healthy economy completely out of reach. The virus merely sped up effects that once had to play out over decades.

The disconnect between the ‘essential’ nature of key workers and the response from businesses--many of whom have failed to so much as provide masks--is a product of a long-term mismanagement of resources. A global shift towards more sustainable pay, better options for leave time, and an overall valuing of key workers proportional to the value they generate for the organization is not just the only way forward that makes sense--it’s a bid for human dignity and the value of life.
Posted by: Extraman Recruitment