Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Kenan Malik discusses how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of the UK's social and economic structures:
The economic burden imposed by the policy of social distancing has fallen most upon the poorest and the lowest paid, many of whom cannot work from home and have few savings on which to fall back. In response, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, unveiled on Friday a major package of measures, including grants to businesses covering up to 80% of employees’ wages, and increases to universal credit and working tax credits.

The measures are significant, necessary and welcome. There are holes in the package, especially for renters and the self-employed. Nevertheless, Sunak was right to call it “unprecedented”. But it also raises the question: why does it require a pandemic for the needs of low-paid and insecure workers to be taken seriously?
Coronavirus has exposed the fragility of social life. It has revealed, too, that a large measure of that fragility is the result not of the pandemic, or of the attempt to combat it, but rather has been built into the system through deliberate policy. The worry is that beyond the pandemic, and the temporary measures announced by the chancellor, the issues of poverty and inequality will once more be ignored.

The 2008 financial crisis was resolved with vast amounts of public cash. And then the public was made to pay for that generosity with a decade of austerity. We may need to do “whatever it takes” to bring the pandemic under control. But once it is under control, will we also then do whatever it takes to deal with low pay, insecure work and inadequate benefits?
- Sarah Jones weighs in on what the pandemic is telling us about which work is truly skilled and essential. And Robert Reich writes about the corporations exploiting COVID-19 to seek bailouts and preferential treatment while extracting even more concessions from workers and consumers. 

- Geoff Dembicki discusses some needed calls for the federal goverment to focus on helping workers, rather than subsidizing a dying oil sector. But Robert Fife, Emma Graney and Kelly Cryderman report on the Trudeau Libs' plan to funnel money toward fossil fuel operators while continuing the limited and delayed availability of help for workers. And Geoffrey Munson reports on Alberta's simultaneous decision to pay bills and assume liabilities only on behalf of the oil patch, even as public services and other industries face cuts on top of the pandemic.

- PressProgress exposes the grossly deficient response to COVID-19 in an oil field work camp. And Bryan Eneas reports on the City of Regina's belated recognition that the CCRL refinery's scab camp is creating glaring public health risks.

- Finally, Andre Picard is the latest to highlight the need for testing and tracing to accompany social distancing as part of our public health response to COVID-19.

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