Strippers and brothel workers are experiencing an unprecedented drop in income due to a lack of customers and clients. Misclassified as self-employed, workers have no rights to a basic wage or even statutory sick pay.
Agency workers and independent escorts, who are self-employed, are also experiencing an alarming level of cancellations and lost revenue as countries close borders and corporations introduce travel bans, disrupting the flow of clients. As people are being encouraged to avoid physical contact and, increasingly, to work from home, bookings with sex workers across the industry have drastically reduced. This leaves full service sex workers feeling an increased pressure to see dangerous and boundary-pushing clients, which they would previously have been able to avoid. In an industry already made unsafe by bad laws, COVID-19 has increased levels of physical risk to workers.
Sex workers with low immunity who entered the industry because they were unable to survive on inadequate government disability payments are particularly vulnerable right now, as some clients are attempting to book workers whilst in quarantine.
Many sex workers are still criminalised, with no access to basic labour rights, including SSP or the right to organise through a trade union, because their workplaces are illegal.
In the long term, United Sex Workers collaborates with Decrim Now and other sex workers led organisation in campaigning for the full decriminalisation of sex work.
We call now for an immediate stop to raids, arrests and all other forms of intimidation and harassment of sex workers (in brothels, flats, on the streets and of independent workers sharing a space for safety) and for financial support, in the form of universal basic income, for all workers affected by the crisis, in the sex industry and all other sectors.
For sex workers in crisis, SWARM have set-up a hardship fund and are asking allies, organisations and others sex workers to give what they can.