This is true for every capitalist country no matter where you are.
Of course in the USA we were all appalled at the meagre 1200$ while the stock market was bailed to the tune of trillions, but that is an isolated case and it does not represent the whole range of covid relief plans.
In my country, it’s been like this. If you have a job but there’s not enough work for every employee, your boss can put you on leave. You will make 8/10ths of your salary during leave, and only work when your employer calls you to work. This is, from what I’ve seen elsewhere, more common.
Looks good so far. You may think that at least some part of your wage is guaranteed and you can still pay your bills for the duration of the epidemic and economic crisis. The guaranteed wage is paid by the government and I think that making the money back will lead to austerity measures in 2022 as well as an economic crisis even worse that what we’re dealing with now.
It should also be noted that the government has offered low-interest (or even 0-interest) loans to local businesses in parallel to the 80% wage. It’s not quite a bailout, but it’s also not something the common worker has access to: they are only allowed their decreased wage (if the employer puts them on the plan, this is a unilateral decision) and if they lose their job, they will make even less on unemployment.
But this relief plan is only meant to benefit the bourgeoisie. There are expenses that every worker has to deal with: rent, care payments, groceries, insurance… this money goes back directly to the companies we depend on, i.e. the bourgeoisie. This keeps consumption going and staves off the economic crisis for a time.
Moreover, putting their employees on leave allows the employer to reduce costs while avoiding the costs of hiring new employees afterwards, when compared to a standard mass terminations. They only have to pay their employees for the hours they actually worked while on leave. This is the dream of every capitalist: pay their employees only for the hours worked (ie hours being productive); the worker’s downtime is an externality and not the employer’s responsibility.
Finally, and perhaps most aggravating, this plan has not changed since its inception last year. That means you now have workers being evicted or falling behind on payments because receiving 80% of your wage, when you’re spending almost all of it, will only carry you so far and it will eat your savings. It can’t possibly last for a full year. Being on leave also does not prevent your employer from simply firing you, and as I mentioned before unemployment benefits are worse than covid leave.
Covid relief plans are not meant for the workers. Don’t forget that labour intervenes before capital; that there would be no capital without labour. This epidemic clearly made it plain to see, as we see that “essential workers” are clearly needed and the economy tanks when people are not working anymore. All the capital funds of the world did not create any GDP last year.
And here business owners have the gall to complain that they didn’t get that much in loans (it’s true that some countries have set aside much higher funds). Worst case scenario, they lose their company, they go on unemployment, they make about what I’m making right now – even more since your benefits are a percentage of your previous wage, and a boss certainly makes much more money than I do.
Good for them. We’ll remember it when our turn comes.
Edit: Just for thoroughness. This is how a covid relief plan would actually work in favour of the workers. First, it requires to put health before profits. That means a full lockdown like China did: everyone stays home, we deliver food to you every week, you can’t leave the house for any reason. Secondly, guarantee 100% of the wage. Third, force working from home for everyone that could potentially do their job from home. If the business doesn’t have the capabilities, give them a loan to make it happen. Finally, prevent employers from firing anyone. Employees have a guaranteed wage that the employer doesn’t pay for; there’s no reason they should be fired during a pandemic.
Making loans to small businesses that need them during this epidemic is not necessarily a bad thing if it is accompanied by these measures. In the capitalist system, your livelihood is tied to an employer and if your employer goes bankrupt, you’re out of a job anyway. However, what we have seen happen in mishandled epidemics was to bail out businesses while they kept making mass layoffs, thus increasing the burden on the national budgets and not preventing a spike in unemployment rates anyway.
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