International Workers Day – Sex Work is Work

Neon sign of workers holding a hammer and a vibrator

Has your income dried up because of the pandemic?

Do you put in more hours online for less money than you would have before Covid-19?

As a freelance worker do you find it hard to prove where your money came from to apply for emergency welfare?

Well, then your experience of the coronavirus is much like a sex worker’s. Sex workers should have your solidarity because sex work is work and we should all be as safe as we can be.

Unions and labour movements have fought for safer and fairer working conditions. They have changed laws and brought in regulations to ensure that society is structured to benefit the worker. Do you stand with all workers?

This pandemic shines a light on the cracks in society that we knew already existed.

There are many individuals that are shut out of traditional types of work for a plethora of reasons, people such as transgender individuals, undocumented migrants, members of the travelling community, people living with disabilities and people who use drugs.  People in direct provision are refused permission to work while being forced to survive on €38 a week. International students are only allowed 20 hours a week and single mothers without family support and college students often find it difficult to find work that fits their available hours while paying their bills.

Right now, in Ireland, a law exists which puts workers in danger. It was brought in with great fanfare by groups whose funding is dependent on the silence or compliance of sex workers, purporting to save workers from their own exploitation. The workers themselves were against the law and were not listened to when they warned that it would make them less safe. Workers were told that they would not be heard because we have a financial interest in the laws that govern our very lives and existences. What they are referring to is our survival. Since the law was passed violence against these workers has risen by 92%. But the law has made it less likely for these workers to report crimes against them. Trust in Gardaí has dropped to less than 1%. Workers want to be able to contact Gardaí without fear of worse repercussions such as arrest, eviction and deportation. Workers can now be jailed for working together for safety. Workers are being evicted and denied housing because of these very laws. This leaves them open to exploiters who take advantage of them being alone. We are flat-out refused to be recognised as workers, Ireland has criminalised our means of survival. We are stigmatised as people suffering from false-consciousness or as vectors or disease, and so at this time we continue to operate on the fringes of society, becoming even more susceptible to poverty and or ill-health. Not everyone gets to decide the type of work that is available to them but they still have rent and bills that need to be paid regardless. Every worker deserves to be safe, including sex workers.