At the start of the lockdowns in March wrapping around Centrelink buildings around the country were large queues of people who just found out they were out of work. The MyGov website crashed in less than a day after lockdown was announced due to the amount of people trying to access the website.
Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to pay rent, are put out of work, forced to risk infection in essential frontline work or have had their small businesses forced to shut down. But during the same time the big bosses have been busy further lining their pockets.
We have been told that we all must make sacrifices to keep people safe and many people were sympathetic to this. But whilst ordinary people have made great sacrifices the rich around the world flaunt the rules and profit off of this pandemic.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, saw his net worth grow by $US48 billion from March to June this year. Because it’s much safer for people to purchase essentials online he has benefited tremendously from the pandemic.
Whilst Bezos certainly hasn’t worked harder during the pandemic his employees have. Their reward for risking COVID-19 infection was a small $US2 per hour hazard pay increase in March that was promptly cut in June. In realityworking in the US has become much more dangerous since June because of surging virus infections. Multiple Amazon warehouses have had outbreaks of the virus.
Workers at Amazon and all other frontline essential workplaces around the world should get substantial hazard pay immediately, at the expenses of billionaire’s profits.
Amazon relies on the fact that 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment during the pandemic and no longer feel the need to incentivise workers to come in and risk themselves or their loved ones catching Coronavirus.
In Australia, during the worst recession since the Great Depression, the National Broadband Network believed it was justified in giving millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money as executive bonuses. NBN’s boss Stephen Rue is now the highest paid public servant, having made over $3.1 million in 2020.
NBN’s argument was that the infrastructure has helped Australians through the pandemic. No doubt that is true, but it’s not an argument for making bosses richer.
Instead of boosting executive bonuses NBN’s taxpayer funding should be used to fix the technical issues many people have faced trying to access online meetings or classes. It could also be used to hire more workers, provide hazard pay where it’s needed, or raise the wages of essential workers who provide and maintain internet services.
At the same time as the rich are still getting richer many Australians reliant on Jobkeeper and other welfare payments are being cast back below the poverty line. These same people are now expected by big business to spend more to revive economic growth.
Many frontline workers in supermarkets, hospitals, hospitality and those working in the gig economy as ride-share drivers did not receive pay increases during this time despite the extra work pressures and risk they have taken. And none received any increase that could even come close to the amount received by Rue or other big business figures.
There is no logical reason for such wealth inequality. There is no need to give bosses millions in bonuses, especially during Australia’s first recession since 1991. Instead this money should be used to fund vital services like mental healthcare and public housing, and raise wages and living standards.
Workers who are actually taking huge risks and keeping society running should receive permanent pay increases instead of those profits being used to line the pockets of the bosses.
As socialists have explained since the 1850s all profit comes from the exploitation of workers, and not from hard or clever work by capitalists like Jeff Bezos. In fact capitalists aren’t necessary at all.
Working class people could run the world without them and re-invest the stolen wealth of profits and bonuses in better services, higher wages, and a safe sustainable planet for everyone. That’s the socialist answer to the obscenity of worsening wealth inequality in this pandemic.
By Kai Perry