Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Significantly Raising Welfare During Covid-19 Will Save Lives

‘Just been made redundant.’

Those are the words that hospitality worker Littoria Glancy wrote in a hospitality support group on Facebook on Tuesday morning. She and half of her co-workers were fired less than 24-hours after Jacinda announced on Monday that the wage subsidy is available to every employer and the $150,000 cap has been removed. Employers are now also able to apply more than once for the subsidy. In theory no employer will have to make their workers redundant in the next three months in response to Covid-19 and the looming recession. Jacinda’s message to employers on Monday was clear:

“Use it. Use it to keep your staff with a wage. There is no need to... make someone redundant. You can continue to pass on that wage subsidy.”

I guess Littoria’s employer missed Jacinda’s memo.

Already in the past week tens of thousands of workers have been fired at will or made redundant in industries such as agriculture, hospitality and tourism which are historically already precarious industries. I’ve spoken to at least 40 workers in these industries who’ve been fired in response to Covid-19, who said they’ve one to six weeks before they'll need to apply for state support. Following Jacinda’s announcements workers are still being fired en masse as I type these words.

Clearly, there is a gaping hole in Ardern’s bailout plan for businesses and it’s our lowest earning and most precarious workers who are falling through it.

I asked Littoria what she will do now.

“There are no jobs at the moment, so I am forced to go back on the benefit. It is the only way to get an income.”

I asked how she’d cope on benefit payments,

“At the moment I live with family, who are also beneficiaries and how we get by is we share what income we have with each other. Just to pay for the power; to pay for the rent, we share what we have. Rent prices are so overpriced that we can barely afford a loaf of bread at the end of the week.”

Littoria went on to tell me that because benefit levels are set so low she and her family are forced to skip meals even when she was employed.

“Come Sunday if you are a beneficiary, you don’t have anything to eat. You don’t eat on a Monday; you don’t eat until your money comes through.”

This is the stark reality that hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed workers will be facing in the coming weeks and months. Many people will have to skip meals and go hungry so they can pay rent and other bills.

I commend Jacinda for the steps she’s taken to keep us safe during this pandemic. She’s moved faster than any world leader to escalate us to level four. Many lives will be saved. However, those on welfare and fired low waged workers are being left behind with little option other than to apply for WINZ and attempt to survive on welfare payments that leave people in crippling poverty. When poverty levels spike, suicide levels spike.

What I’m about to say will be hard to hear but I feel it needs to be said. Some of the lives that’ll be saved during our isolation period, will be lost to suicides in the coming months and years if we don’t drastically raise core benefits. I know this because about five months ago I lost my best friend to suicide. He often skipped meals because he was poor. He avoided going on welfare when he could because the process of applying was so humiliating. I know that poverty played a role in his suicide. Poverty is deeply depressing.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better. We have to do better. Welfare payments need to be doubled effective immediately and a lump sum of at least $1000 must be paid to beneficiaries, so they can survive this lockdown period with dignity and kai that’s nourishing. If Jacinda implemented these two things she’d be lifting tens of thousands of people above the poverty line. She’d ensure that no one during this recession has to go hungry and make impossible choices between feeding their kids or paying rent.

Now is the time to collectively come together across class lines and put as much pressure on our government to double welfare and issue lump sums to those who need them. The actions we take today can ensure everyone has enough income to thrive and will pave the way for a future where people don’t have to bury their friends or watch people they love suffer under economic insecurity and poverty. We can finally fix the mistakes of Rogernomics, Ruth Richardson and The Mother of all Budgets. We can right the wrongs of the past so we can walk into this uncertain and turbulent future together, knowing we did everything we could to cushion the blow for everyone, no exceptions.

---------

Chloe Ann-King is a noted workers and welfare rights advocate who founded Raise the Bar, a non-profit which gives free legal advice, advocacy and tautoko for hospitality workers. You can email Raise the Bar at: raisethebacampaign@gmail.com or follow on FB @raisethebarnz

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Use Of Existing Drugs To Reduce The Effects Of Coronavirus

So now, we’re all getting up to speed with the travel bans, the rigorous handwashing and drying, the social distancing, and the avoidance of public transport wherever possible. Right. At a wider level…so far, the public health system has ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Oil Market And Regulation Crusades

Safe to say, Vladimir Putin did not expect the response he has received amidships from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Russia chose to walk away from the OPEC talks in Vienna that were aimed at reaching an agreement on how to reduce world oil production (and protect oil prices) in the light of the fall in demand being caused by the coronavirus. No doubt, Russia and its allies in the US shale industry probably glimpsed an opportunity to undercut OPEC and seize some of its customers. Bad move. In reply, Saudi Arabia has smashed the oil market by hugely ramping up production, signing up customers and drastically cutting the oil price in a fashion designed to knock Russia and other oil suppliers right out of contention. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On 22 Short Takes About Super Tuesday

With obvious apologies to the Simpsons….Here’s my 22 short takes on the 14 Super Tuesday primaries that combined yesterday to produce a common narrative –Bernie Sanders NOT running away with the nomination, Joe Biden coming back from the dead, and the really, really rich guy proving to be really, really bad at politics. In the months ahead, it will be fascinating to see if the real Joe Biden can live up to the idea of Joe Biden that people voted for yesterday – namely, the wise old guy who can save the country from the political extremism of the right and the left... More>>

Gordon Campbell On Shane Jones: A Liability No-One Needs To Bear

New Zealand First has needed a diversion after weeks of bad coverage over its dodgy handling of donations, but it really, really doesn’t need what Shane Jones has chosen to provide. According to Jones, New Zealand has ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Strong Man Legacies: Burying Mubarak

Reviled strongmen of one era are often the celebrated ones of others. Citizens otherwise tormented find that replacements are poor, in some cases even crueller, than the original artefact. Such strongmen also serve as ideal alibis for rehabilitation ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Humanity Is Making A Very Important Choice When It Comes To Assange

The propagandists have all gone dead silent on the WikiLeaks founder they previously were smearing with relentless viciousness, because they no longer have an argument. The facts are all in, and yes, it turns out the US government is certainly and undeniably working to exploit legal loopholes to imprison a journalist for exposing its war crimes. That is happening, and there is no justifying it... More>>

Gail Duncan: Reframing Welfare Report

Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of the 1938 Social Security Act, wouldn’t recognise today’s Social Security Act as having anything to do with the kind, cooperative, caring society he envisioned 80 years ago. Instead society in 2020 has been reduced ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Addiction To Chinese Student Fees

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison extended its ban on foreign visitors from or passing through from mainland China – including Chinese students - for a third week. New Zealand has dutifully followed suit, with our travel ban ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coronavirus, And The Iowa Debacle

As Bloomberg says, the coronavirus shutdown is creating the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. On the upside, the mortality rate with the current outbreak is lower than with SARS in 2003, but (for a number of reasons) the economic impact this time ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Dodging A Bullet Over The Transport Cost Over-Runs

As New Zealand gears up to begin its $6.8 billion programme of large scale roading projects all around the country, we should be aware of this morning’s sobering headlines from New South Wales, where the cost overruns on major transport projects ... More>>


 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog