Casual Workers Can’t Afford To Isolate During The Pandemic, And It’s A Problem
"Insecure work" has been blamed for the huge number of people who haven't isolated after feeling sick, or being tested for COVID-19
Anecdotally, we’ve known that people in insecure forms of work have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic.
Today we’ve seen the cold, hard stats relating to the impacts not just on them, but on our exploding number of new COVID-19 cases.
Victoria is currently in a dire spot, to say the least. Today they announced 484 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
But the data drawing everyone’s attention relates to the sheer number of people who have not isolated after feeling sick, or not isolated after being tested. Suddenly, the fact the state’s new cases have consistently hit triple-digit figures for three weeks makes sense.
Premier Daniel Andrews said that nine-in-ten Victorians who have tested positive between July 7 and July 21 — that’s 3,400 people — did not isolate between when they first felt sick and when they got tested.
And 53 percent of those who tested positive over the same period — 2,056 people — did not isolate while waiting for their test results.
Seriously, what is wrong with people? #covid19vic
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) July 22, 2020
But it’s not as simple as just blaming people for being idiots (although many people undoubtedly are — looking at you, man who decided he couldn’t delay his fishing trip). While people were quick to slam Victorians for not taking the pandemic seriously, according to the data a large chunk of the people in question are in insecure work and literally cannot afford to miss a pay cheque.
Going about your day while you’re sick and potentially infecting others during a pandemic? That’s fucked up, on a personal level.
But being too afraid to take a sick day because you literally can’t afford to miss a pay cheque? That’s really fucked up, on a societal level.
Sometimes things drive me crazy, like when a virus is being spread in workplaces by casual workers who don't have paid leave and the Federal Government does nothing about it. People are dying, jobs are being lost, infections are spreading. It's time for action!
— Sally McManus (@sallymcmanus) July 22, 2020
Goodo. Where’s the announcements about work being the priority? Where’s the truth that casualisation of the National workforce thanks to John Howard & successive bipartisan Govts have allowed the massive economic & health disaster we are now playing out as a nation. https://t.co/pNzTHKl9AD
— 👣 🌏 💫 Paul Dutton 🌳 🦅 🐾 (@pauldutton1968) July 22, 2020
Insecure Workers Vulnerable During The Pandemic
Premier Daniel Andrews said the statistics were “a commentary on insecure work”.
“There is a large proportion of these people who are making these choices because, in their judgment, they’ll look at their bank balance, they’ll look at the fact that if they don’t work the shift, they won’t get paid for the shift, they don’t have sick leave,” he said.
“This is a commentary on insecure work. This is a commentary on this as a feature of the Victorian economy and our national economy.”
Earlier this week the premier also said about 80 percent of new infections since mid-May were driven by transmission in the workplace.
The data did not come as a surprise to many who have ever depended on casual work.
none of the stats coming out of vic today surprise me, because of the way calling in sick is framed as being a bad thing that can literally make you lose your job in so many casual and service working environments
— Georgia Griffiths (@georgiajgriff) July 22, 2020
I had to forfeit two shifts at my restaurant job when I got a covid test to isolate but I was lucky enough that I was fine financially to do so, not all casual workers have that luxury https://t.co/CBUUb7FkpT
— ben freeman ! (@b3nfreeman) July 22, 2020
Thinking about all the times I did a retail shift or taught a class feeling like absolute dog shit because I, y’know, needed to eat and pay rent
— Joshua Badge (@joshuabadge) July 22, 2020
All my other jobs I would come in with the flu or whatever other awful disease because it was either that or not make the rent, this crisis is just worsening every pre-existing cleave in our society
— Sean Kenny (@Formid) July 22, 2020
However, Daniel Andrews said that’s a debate for another time. He also pointed out there is a $1,500 payment available “if your bank balance is driving you to make bad decisions” — but since it’s only available if you test positive to COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone who has, it’s not super helpful if you’re just waiting for test results.
The state government is looking at the eligibility criteria of the $1,500 payment and might announce more support during that waiting period. In the meantime, anyone wanting to access that $1,500 can find out more here.
Andrews said unless people start staying home and isolating the number of new cases will keep going up — and then the six-week shutdown will stretch for much longer than that.
“We can’t have, any longer, nine out of 10 people taking too long between when they first feel sick and when they get tested. And we certainly cannot have one in two people who are waiting for a test result simply going about their business as if they didn’t have symptoms, as if they weren’t waiting for a test result, as if this wasn’t a global pandemic.
“That will continue to see more workplaces with positive cases. More businesses shutdown. Hundreds and thousands of people isolated at home either as positive cases or close contacts. Ultimately, there’s no reason to be going to work when you’re sick. It’s simply unacceptable. If you have symptoms, the only thing you can and must do is get tested immediately.”
I really don’t think the numbers are going to start properly going down at a decent rate til essential workers can take time off without fear of penalty/losing their income/jobs.
— Sarah Thompson (@slthomthom) July 22, 2020
Victoria’s COVID-19 death toll is now 44, not far behind New South Wales which sits at 51. Australia’s total number of new cases sits at 502, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began.