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1st of May statement - Workers don't need applause, just a good life

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the essential role played by workers that are usually disregarded and exploited in the current neoliberal economic system.

Today, while we are in lockdowns due to the health crisis, we rely on the work of farmers, delivery people, warehouse workers, nurses, hospital workers and supermarket employees. In many countries, they are forced to work part-time, paid hourly, denied pensions, parental benefits, health insurance and work-related accident insurance--meaning workers either are obliged to work when sick, or must receive no income during the illness.

The fact that many of these essential workers are women is a key to understand why the value of these jobs is often not recognised. 78% of the workers in health jobs are women and this share is even higher in jobs that are considered “low-skill”, because the skills that are required to do those jobs are not recognised as being “high-skill”.

Picturing them as heroes and clapping for them every evening is not going to change this situation. We need to collectively stand up to fight for the workers rights, for better wages, for better working conditions and for better employment conditions. They deserve a good life too.

During the current pandemic, these workers are the most exposed. In Belgium, supermarket employees are striking/walking out in protest of not receiving better pay and protective gear. In France, Amazon has been condemned for not providing the required protection to its workers. European unemployment has risen by at least 4 million since the crisis began, while more than 7 million workers are on short-time work schemes.

In the coming months, the European governments will try to use the economic crisis that will follow the pandemic as a reason to take away workers rights even more as a way to “boost the economy”, as they did in the 2008 financial crisis.

This is not acceptable. We need to make sure those who pay for the economic recovery of COVID-19, are not those in already vulnerable positions, and are struggling to make ends meet.

Make the rich pay for the crisis!

The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.

Worldwide, 1.6 billion people working in the informal economy (half of the global workforce) are at risk of losing their livelihood whilst the billionaires have increased their wealth by almost 10 percent in the first month of the COVID-19 crisis.

Mainstream media hails the philanthropic gestures of the billionaire as if they are modern-day monarchs. In reality, a number of multinational corporations as well as big internet platforms pay almost no taxes at all.

We demand tax justice to ensure that wealth does not accumulate at the top, but is distributed in a way that enables everyone to lead a life in dignity in healthy societies.

We don’t want bits and pieces of charity, we want fair taxation to protect people’s livelihood during the crisis and to help society rebuild with the well-being and happiness of all at its core.

This spring, we are uniting for our rights!

The neoliberal economic solutions that followed the 2008 global financial crisis forced the masses of unemployed, mostly young, people to take up precarious work which was a common stance among the political decision-makers as “any job is better than none”.

Following these policies and austerity measures now during a global crisis we rely on the labour of those that are not even considered a full worker and rely on the healthcare that faced tremendous budget cuts.

Therefore today we are joining and celebrating the world’s workers that are walking out in protests of unsafe working conditions. We are joining the worker’s strike on 1 May. We are applauding the steps towards solidarity among white and blue collar workers. We are joining healthcare workers demanding for better protection and more investment in health care.

We demand a Europe that works for all!

There is more to life than work!

We are also thinking about the value of work and the value of life. Many workers are earning poverty-level wages, or fall through the gap in heavily bureaucratic welfare systems. Others engage in unpaid work, essential to society, such as care work or community volunteering. We see more than ever that the relation between the concept of work and social development is fundamentally broken.

FYEG has supported Universal Basic Income since 2008, as a solution to poverty eradication and to enable people to freely choose their way of life.

This time of crisis is the right time to introduce Universal Basic Income, in order to fight the financial implications of the pandemic in individual lives.

FYEG demands a quick and widespread introduction of Universal Basic Income, which should be directly paid into every European citizen and resident’s bank account or through alternate ways to transfer the money during and after the crisis. The European basic income should be financed through fair taxation of the richest.

We are fighting for a better Europe where every human can live in dignity. We deserve a good life as a right, we deserve to live in a sustainable, social, welcoming, feminist and inclusive societies. This spring, we are not going back to “normal”. There will be no business as usual. Times of crisis often call for radical change. This spring, we are changing everything.