Union Expert Slams EC Policy on Mobility of Critical Workers amid COVID-19 Restrictions, Urges Government to Ensure Income for All during Crisis
March 31 (BTA) - The econimic adviser of the influential Podkrepa Labour Confederation, Vanya Grigorova, slammed the European Commission for its guidelines for ensuring the mobility of critical workers between EU countries amid the COVID-19 restrictions on movement and said the Bulgarian government should make sure everybody has an income during the crisis so as not to see some Bulgarians becoming "Europe's dead men".
She said that some of the most vulnerable Bulgarian people will have no choice but take up jobs as care givers for older people or children in the richer European countries without even having life insurance.
Her comment comes a day after the European Commission adopted what it called "new practical advice" to ensure that mobile workers within the EU, in particular those in critical occupations to fight the coronavirus pandemic, can reach their workplace. This includes but is not limited to those working in the health care and food sectors, and other essential services like childcare, elderly care, and critical staff for utilities.
Euroactiv.eu reported Monday that the same day Austria flew 231 health workers from Bulgaria and Romania to make sure care for its citizens who need it is not interrupted by the severed transport connections across the EU. The story points out that the Austrian health system is strongly dependent on Eastern European workers.
Grigorova calls the EU position "schizophrenic": on the one hand they issue instructions for limiting non-essential travel within the EU and on the other they urge facilitating the mobility of critical workers.
"Now they will take from Bulgaria and Romania vulnerable people who are ready to do anything to secure income for themselves. They will quarantine them for 14 days [...], then for six weeks they will work as care givers for seniors and after that they will send them back, which will heighten the COVID-19 risk for Bulgaria and open the door wide for prolonged circulation of the virus for economic reasons," Grigorova said.
She said that the countries which take in such workers should just increase the pay and hire local workers.
"We will be feeding a predator system unless measures are taken," Grigorova said.
She argued that what the government needs to do is provide direct state aid for all Bulgarian citizens, including those who have worked without a contract, to the amount at least equal to the minimum monthly wage. This will be some protection during the crisis, she said.
Grigorova said that the government also needs to provide urgent support for the self-employed by offering them a tax break, as well as for the parents of children younger than 12 - who are forced to take a leave to look after their children while schools are closed and schooling is done online - and older workers with health conditions. Grigorova's Podkrepa union insists that the government's 60/40 wage support measure - with the government paying 60 per cent of wages in coronavirus-affected businesses for three months to avoid large-scale job cuts - should be reviewed two weeks after it starts to be applied to see what could be tweaked to improve it.
She said that she knows of several companies which are doing great during the crisis but would take advantage of the 60/40 scheme because they can. On the other hand, there are badly hit companies which will be unable to use it because they can't afford to pay their 40per cent share of wages. RI/LN