There must be an urgent reassessment to the way traditionally low-paid and precarious professions are valued and recognised, Left MEPs urge on International Workers’ Day. 

Nurses, first responders, drivers, delivery workers, seasonal workers, and shop staff are among the ‘essential workers’ that have carried us through the Covid-19 pandemic.

For years they have been the target of brutal austerity cuts, precarious work conditions, and have been denied social protection, alongside millions of workers in the gig economy who lack recognition as employees. 

These workers have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – some paying the ultimate price – having been put in harm’s way without the necessary personal protective equipment. 

Governments and the EU must immediately provide them with safe and dignified wages and work conditions, says GUE/NGL co-President Manon Aubry: 

“May Day has a specific meaning this year in the context of the pandemic. Essential workers, including many low-paid women, have for weeks put their lives at risk to maintain vital services during the lockdown. It is time to radically change the way we recognise value in these jobs and question the salary hierarchy among workers. Pay rises are urgently needed for workers of the care, customer service, and public service sectors!

“The occupational health and safety of all workers, due back at work in the coming weeks after the lifting of the lockdown, needs to be a top priority. People’s health must come before profits! It is the government’s responsibility to ensure all workers have adequate personal protective equipment and that companies implement safety measures to suppress transmission in the workplace.” 

Co-President Martin Schirdewan said that EU institutions must do better with their own precarious workers: 

“On May 1st we remember the successes of the workers’ movement and renew our commitment to the struggle for workers’ rights. This is especially important right now. The current crisis cannot be used by employers to attack labour standards and increase exploitation. 

“At the European Parliament itself, service workers, contractors and freelance interpreters are facing threats during this pandemic. Parliament must lead by example with action, not just words. The Left is fully behind this struggle to safeguard the jobs and salaries of all the workers concerned, especially in this period.”

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