Politics matters, even against a disease

Politics matters, even against a disease

It would be odd not to comment on the CV19 pandemic. For various reasons I have been looking back at my blog and remember at one stage it was a semi-public diary. Because it’s my blog, this is quite abstract and very political, I hope that my readers are keeping safe with their families.

It would seem that the worst of it may be over in the UK, provided that there isn’t a second wave. The best, most understandable charts are held at the FT and I have posted a screen grab of the their chart as at 19th April 2020. These charts and the Govt. numbers underestimate the deaths cased by CV-19 because they only count those that died in hospital; those who dies in care homes or at home are not counted.

The figures are probably double the official ones.

 

Within the Labour Party the fight for the tone of Starmer’s Party continues with some, including, it seems, him saying that we need to be a responsible opposition, which it seems to mean is not to oppose. The role of Labour in Parliament must be to act in the interests of people’s lives and safety; the Govt’s response to the COVID19 outbreak must be held to account, and where wrong opposed. The lack of preparedness, the lack of speed, the lack of PPE, the failure to test, all in breach of WHO guidance, the stupid exceptionalism in refusing to co-operate with EU & WHO are all failures, and the constant lying are things that as an opposition we should be challenging and where it makes a difference seeking to get changed.

The lack of tests and lack of hospital staff PPE is a continuing disgrace, to which there are simple answers. NHS Staff are dying. At least the Tories have postponed their Immigration Bill, but the current Brexit transition laws on immigration and citizenship are driving EU citizens back home, which is critically effecting the NHS ability to operate.

Much of the so-called economic security measures are problematic. Firstly, for the wage subsidy there is too much discretion left to the employers, whether to declare work essential and whether to apply for furlough subsidy. Firms can only get the subsidy if the workers are not working; instead of furlough, some people are having their hours & money reduced which is causing real hardship. People, even vulnerable people, have no say in whether they have to work i.e. if their work is essential. This is all compounded by the shit level of statutory sick pay, which the companies often avoid by using bogus personal service contracts. Some companies fear that the lockdown and consequent slump will cause their companies to fail and have started redundancy programmes, where again the statutory minimum is unsatisfactory for the low paid, often being less than their notice entitlements, and certainly less than their bosses’s. (The notice period for consultation was reduced from 90 days to 45 by the Tories).  The support for the self employed/personal service companies is weak and the paperwork requirements onerous as is the furlough scheme. Not the least of its half arsed provisions is that this is only available to companies with a three year trading record and it only protects the average profit over that period; so it’s a bit amusing for those that have been hiding their income in a bloated expense budget, but less so for those with marginal profitability or companies started more recently.

Other factors increasing the misery is that Universal Credit is appallingly low, and there is a five week waiting period for it. This is a problem well known to anti-poverty campaigners, the only upside is that a bunch of people who have never considered themselves as possible benefit claimants are now learning what hostile environment means as they have to put themselves through the degrading application process.

Another under considered fact is that the Courts are hard to keep safe, they’re old and under cleaned and they have reduced their capacity s a response to CV19. This means that those unfairly dismissed will have difficulty getting justice as their representatives and the courts struggle to adjust with the extra work and reduced capacity caused by lockdown. The Tribunal notification deadlines should be extended.

Another group of workers who will suffer are those with less than two years service who will be denied any redundancy payments or any protection against unfair dismissal and will thus be more likely to succumb to threats to make them comply with reduction of hours or made to work in unsafe environments. Since the lockdown is to isolate the disease, these failures risk everyone’s health.

In the long term, we should be looking to see,

  1. Sick pay & Redundancy increased and made state payed
  2. The two year service requirement for unfair dismissal to be abolished.
  3. Universal Credit’s waiting period to be abolished, actually this should be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch

The final piece of the jigsaw, is aggregate demand. It’s one of the reasons we should be subsidising wages during the crisis, the economy will not recover if people aren’t spending, and the poor spend more of their next £1 than the rich. The government is doing this through monetary quantitative easing (QE) i.e. giving money to the banks; they have rejected a universal basic income as in Spain, increasing Universal Credit payments or even a people’s QE. …