Health & safety

"Our union is an essential service": statement from members of RMT

Published on: Tue, 31/03/2020 - 11:44

The following statement has been put out by members of rail union RMT

During the Covid-19 crisis, workers need strong unions more than ever. Many employers are placing workers in danger, with unsafe working practices and refusing to pay wages to people who stay away from work under government guidance. Workforces need collective action, workers need reps, reps need union support.

RMT reps have been working hard on workplace issues throughout the crisis, and have won important victories and concessions in many companies, for example full pay for outsourced cleaners on London Underground who

Covid-19: fight for workers' control

Published on: Tue, 31/03/2020 - 07:17

1. Requisition (in other words, take into emergency public ownership)
• private hospitals, as Ireland and Spain have done
• the pharmaceutical and medical-supplies industries, so that production can be ramped up in a coordinated way to meet the crisis
• high finance, so that the epidemic is not compounded by a snowballing economic slump resulting from an implosion of credit
• and other sectors where coordinated mobilisation is necessary.

2. Fight for workers’ control
The workers ourselves, taking expert advice, should have a decisive voice in identifying and running what is essential, and how

Councils: essential local services, full isolation pay for all

Published on: Tue, 31/03/2020 - 07:11

A local government worker

My union branch, Lambeth Unison, organises three main groups of workers — workers for Lambeth council, support staff in schools in Lambeth, and workers in Elis Laundry. We also have some members in smaller private sector workplaces.

Our first step, and early on, was to win full pay for all workers in the council following public health advice, or staying home for childcare because of school and nursery closures, early on. For absolutely all workers in council workplaces, including agency workers and zero-hours workers.

The next battle was in the libraries. On 20 March the library workers

NHS: full isolation pay, PPE, carers

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 21:57

By an NHS worker at ELFT

At my workplace, the East London NHS Foundation Trust, we’ve been putting together information on pay for workers following public health advice.

There are many zero-hours and contract workers in NHS buildings, and it wasn’t clear what they would get. We did a couple of weeks’ agitation among all the workers in my workplace — of all grades — and had a prolonged to-and-fro with senior management.

At the end of that we discovered that the Trust already had a policy of full pay if following public health advice for all workers in the building, and then that NHS England

Running the Tube safely for essential workers

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 21:49

As of 29 March, these are the issues being worked on by the RMT union on London Underground, with the aim of keeping the service running for essential workers while also keeping it as safe as possible for those workers, for London Underground staff, and for everyone around them.

• Full pay for any ABM [cleaning contractor] staff who have to self-isolate — Agreed
• No detriment, including loss of pay, for anyone who stays home due to being in a vulnerable category (e.g., with an underlying health condition), but not identified by the NHS for “shielding”; or who stays home due to having a family

Close to full pay

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 21:20

John Moloney

We think we’re close to an agreement with the Cabinet Office that all outsourced workers on the civil service estate will get full pay if they go off sick and self-isolation, where previously they’d only have had access to Statutory Sick Pay or in some cases they would not be paid at all.

We’ve won that agreement in some departments already, such as BEIS London, where the union is strong locally, and the outsourced workers have a recent history of struggle. But in other places the outsourced contractors have been holding out, so we want a central agreement with the employer to ensure all

International struggles

Published on: Mon, 30/03/2020 - 21:13

In Italy, workers’ stoppages of production in major factories, Arcelor Mittal, Fiat-Chrysler, Fincantieri, Maserati, Yamaha, Ducati, among others, about inadequate safeguards against infection within factories, pushed three trade union confederations — CGIL, CISL, and UIL — to get a joint protocol with government and employers on 14 March about minimum standards. The agreement has been criticised by grassroots activists as too soft. — Francesco Pontarelli on Global Labour Column

Amazon in France

After French Amazon workers threaten to use the equivalent in French law of Section 44 of the

Diary of an engineer: Night shift

Published on: Wed, 25/03/2020 - 07:34

Emma Rickman

I was rostered onto District Energy (DE) last week (ending 20 March). There are lots of repair jobs; because of the major leak near the swimming pool last month, sections of the network have been isolated several times.

As pipes cool and warm back up the metal expands and contracts slightly, leading to leaks at other weak-points. As well as these there is street-resurfacing to complete, and a big hole in the ground to fill.

D, my mentor, is a chatty ex-miner with dodgy knees. His role is to issue work permits to the civil engineering contractors, supervise jobs, isolate the network where

Suspend all job cuts!

Published on: Wed, 25/03/2020 - 07:30

John Moloney

The labour movement needs to assert itself in the current crisis. Whilst being sensitive to what is happening around us, we cannot suspend our struggles and demands. The movement needs to raise big political demands, such as the demand for a complete moratorium on lay-offs and redundancies.

We’re raising that demand with the civil service. We know that the Department for Work and Pensions is about to announce yet more office closures and resultant redundancies. We have made it clear to them that if they don’t back down from that then we’ll be in dispute. Exactly what form that will take in the

No going back! Fight for socialism!

Published on: Wed, 25/03/2020 - 07:21

Sacha Ismail

In the emergency, Britain’s right-wing Conservative government is going for a limited, crude and undemocratic form of “socialism”.

It is overriding market signals and criteria, and being forced to fall back on a bureaucratic and hierarchical approximation of the socialist ideal of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

In sector after sector, from the (patchy) steps to guarantee incomes for those unable to work, to banning evictions, to acquiring private hospital facilities, to taking over rail franchises to removing competition-law curbs on cooperation

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