Too Much News: Sex work, precarious work, masks in (healthcare) work

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      As a kid, reports are something you have to write for school. Book reports, school vacation reports, a lab report in science class. And then you become an adult and reports are studies that are sometimes all spin, sometimes important, and sometimes seem so unrelated to anything happening in the real world that it’s unclear who funded it or why.  

      Here’s a round-up of two interesting reports, as well as the latest on the human rights impacts of BC’s decision to drop the mask mandate in hospitals. 


      A third of BC workers have precarious jobs 

      A pilot study from Understanding Precarity in BC found that less than half of all workers in the province had a “standard job” with permanent full-time hours and at least some benefits.  

      The project, led by Simon Fraser University and the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, surveyed over 3,000 workers in late 2019 to analyze the state of the provincial labour market right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit—meaning this may well be different from the current state of employment.

      The BC Precarity Survey found that not only did 37 per cent of respondents have precarious jobs (as compared to 18 per cent in secure jobs), recent immigrants (55 per cent) and young people (44 per cent) were the most likely to have unstable work.

      “Our study finds that the burden of precarious work falls more heavily on racialized and immigrant communities, Indigenous peoples, women, and lower-income groups, compounding systemic and intersecting inequalities in the province,” co-author Iglika Ivanova, senior economist and public interest researcher with the CCPA-BC, said in a press release. 

      Temporary residents applying for permanent residency generally must have a secure employee job—meaning the state of the labour market, where non-standard jobs reign, makes it increasingly difficult for immigrants to fulfill the work conditions necessary for permanent residency. That can lead to becoming undocumented, accompanied by an inevitable lack of access to healthcare and legal protections.

      “Uber drivers and Skip the Dishes come to mind when we think of precarious work, but our study shows that almost half the workforce lacks the job security, benefits and training that some of us take for granted,” co-author, Kendra Strauss, director of the SFU Morgan Centre for Labour Research, said in a release. 

      You can read the report here


      Sex workers need more protections

      A unique report developed by and run by sex workers in southern Victoria Island and the Lower Mainland surveyed more than 200 sex workers about their experiences, looking for ways to meet their needs and minimize risks. 

      The By Us, For Us report found that a large majority of sex workers live with disabilities (73 per cent) and were worried about a loved one dying from toxic illicit drugs (60 per cent). Nearly half struggled to afford food (46 per cent), and Indigenous people were overrepresented (45 per cent of respondents). 

      “Sex workers have been telling us their needs for decades, and now we have robust data and approaches to systemic change for all levels of government to act on,” said nour kachouh, co-executive director of PACE Society, in a release. “Sex workers’ safety, needs, and well-being must be centred in all systemic, health, legal, and policy changes that impact sex workers’ lives.”

      The top call to government action was decriminalizing sex work, along with recommendations to provide more funding for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice; increasing the woefully low disability assistance rates; and increasing responses to the ongoing unregulated poisoned drug crisis. 

      “Many of the calls to action in this report align with those of other sectors and segments of the community. This is a clear invitation for all of us to pay attention to, and advance the rights of, sex workers across BC,” said Mebrat Beyene, executive director of WISH Drop-In Centre Society in a statement.

      You can read the full report here.


      BC Human Rights Commissioner slams end of hospital mask mandate

      Kasari Govender, BC’s Human Rights Commissioner, says the decision from the province to end the mask mandates in hospitals and healthcare settings will put vulnerable people at risk. 

      On April 6, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that masks would no longer be compulsory in hospitals and long-term care homes. Requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and rapid testing for visitors were also scrapped. 

      “Based on risk assessments and workplace safety plans, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks in designated areas or certain situations only,” Henry said in a presentation. “While some situations will require masks, they will no longer be universally mandatory.”

      However, Govender said in a statement that removing the mask mandate would negatively impact the ability of disabled and vulnerable people to participate in society.

      “All of those present in health care settings—from patients to visitors to staff—are only there to promote the health of patients. In this setting in particular, the minor inconvenience masks cause for some must be balanced against the more profound harms to the rights of marginalized people to participate in society and, in this case, to access healthcare,” she wrote in a statement.

      Masks will be optional in hospitals and may be required in certain settings. 

      Public health long ago stopped providing comprehensive COVID-19 numbers, making it impossible to know how many people presently have the virus. University of Toronto researcher Tara Moriarty estimated that 1 in 12 people in BC currently have COVID-19, one of the highest levels recorded during the entire pandemic. 

      It remains more dangerous for seniors, immunocompromised people, and people with disabilities to catch COVID-19, as it can have long-term consequences besides immediate hospitalizations or death—and, Govender said, these are the people most likely to be affected by removing masks in healthcare settings.

      “My role is not to make public health decisions; it is to shine a light on how those decisions may disproportionately impact certain marginalized communities. This week’s removal of universal masking directives in healthcare settings does not uphold a human rights-centered approach to public health,” Govender said.