Fellow Workers,

Covid-19 has had a profound effect on our, and indeed, every society. I’m sure there those amongst the readers of this very message who have suffered, and suffered enormously, from being infected. Of course, the harm inflicted by Coronavirus has not restricted itself to the physical symptoms of the virus itself; we have also been harmed socially and emotionally.

One community that has suffered more acutely than most is the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community. In virtue of being disproportionately represented in low-wage labour, BAME workers tend to occupy positions that are essential and front facing. Many of our BAME Fellow Workers were not sent home on furlough, nor were they given adequate protection as swiftly as they ought to have been.

The economic and physical catastrophe inflicted upon this group has been enormous. Some people may say that the suffering inflicted upon this group was due to government indifference to the well-being of BAME people specifically, and marginalised communities generally… I think I would be one such person. Indeed, a significant amount of research

BAME people are likely to be paid less for their (chronically undervalued) labour. As such, it is simply not economically viable for some fellow workers to self-isolate and miss work when this would entail profound material hardship. There are some simple ways to mitigate this problem – thus efficiently and effectively preventing the further transmission of Covid-19, protecting the safety of BAME people, improving the material conditions of BAME people, and reducing the overall stress and anxiety of some of our most vulnerable Fellow Workers.

The TUC has made a number of proposals that government must be aware of. Most obviously, the government should guarantee 100% of the wages paid to workers who have to self-isolate due to sickness. Telling vulnerable people, employed precariously and on a low-wage, that they morally ought to isolate if they get Covid is bourgeois posturing if those same workers cannot support themselves (and their dependants) if they do so. Ought implies can, and many BAME people simply cannot… and in doing so, put themselves and their families at enormous risk.

We are the fifth-largest economy in the world. We have been able to find all sorts of funds to guarantee the job security of various white-collar work. The Conservative government tend to help those who already have the means to help themselves and ignore those who need help. We simply cannot let these Fellow Workers go unrecognised, and unacknowledged.

There is a campaign you can join fighting for sick pay for all. Please sign and share the petition so we can support vulnerable workers during this lockdown https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/sickpayforall-guarantee-decent-sick-pay-for-every-worker

As a union, supporting fellow workers is our bread and butter. We cannot let this vicious government’s victimisation of our BAME go unnoticed.

Should you wish to familiarise yourself more with research on this issue, you can find articles here and here.

In solidarity,

Andrea Gilbert
BAME Officer for the IWW (WISE-RA)

William Sharkey
Secretary for the IWW (WISE-RA)