Dr Inga Thiemann together with the Moving Labour Collective published a blog post on the Futures of Work on ‘Re-imagining Work and its Regulation after COVID-19’.
The blog post includes an edited transcript of an online meeting hosted to discuss implications of COVID-19 for labour, its embodied practices, regulation, and the theoretical and activist engagements with both. In particular, the discussion focused on issues such as the nature of work in the contemporary world and possible influence of the pandemic on its future shape. The academics and researchers from the Collective also discussed whether the pandemic could create any new opportunities for labour and social movements and the role of law in exacerbating or remedying the impact of the COVID-19.
In the discussion, Dr Thiemann pointed out that the nurses’ pay has been declining over the past decade and despite the increased responsibility as key workers there are no governmental plans to increase the pay. Moreover, women’s work, paid or unpaid (caring responsibilities), is often taken for granted without any consideration of compensation or adjustments for the additional work during the pandemic. Dr Thiemann also noted a decreased scrutiny on the part of employers in regards to migrant workers until the pandemic rendered their living conditions and lack of social distancing measures a threat to a bigger population.
Considering the future of labour, Dr Thiemann noted that the public perception of the value of certain types of work has increased as well as awareness that these types of work are disproportionately performed by migrant workers. Regarding collective actions to emerge, Dr Thiemann proposed looking to non-traditional communities of workers, such as sex workers and gig workers to create new forms of worker mobilisation and collective solidarity. Moreover, the pandemic offers an opportunity to rethink social security, universal basic income, work-life-balance for everyone, regardless of worker status.
Dr Thiemann pointed out that categories like ‘key worker’ have been left vague by the government that is unwilling to create any new legal obligations necessitated by the pandemic for employers. This leaves a plethora of matters a personal responsibility rather than employer or state obligation.