Government and employers are hoping to avoid further concessions on workers’ rights in the crisis: evidently their idea is that outpourings of patriotic rhetoric in the media and weekly clapping sessions will create a chorus of national unity that can drown out workers’ demands for equality and safety.
The Safe and Equal campaign is trying to amplify those workers’ demands, by reporting on, lobbying around, and drawing together the many issues and fights arising among frontline workers.
This week our supporters in the NHS have highlighted the duty of the Chief Nurse (and indeed all nursing staff) under the Nursing and Midwifery Council Code to escalate patient safety and public health concerns. We argue that as NHS England has now admitted, bad terms and conditions constitute a public health risk! If, as the GMB union has estimated, 400,000 care workers are without adequate self-isolation pay, that is a major public health emergency.
This week we have run two new stories from supermarket workers: firstly, on new layouts in self-checkout areas – apparently in Tesco, USDAW union leaders signed off on new dividers in self-service areas without even looking at the gear! And secondly, on Tesco’s 10% bonus on hours worked and the suspension of the chain’s degrading attendance review routine – workers shouldn’t accept a rolling-back on either of these things when we “return to normal”. We should demand a “new normal” – where we all get decent pay and aren’t treated with suspicion by managers, even when we’re not under attack from a killer virus!
We have received contact details, requests for campaign materials, and messages of support from hundreds of workers, and we are running phone-banking sessions to process these new contacts, and promote workers organising and asserting ourselves politically as the solution to the public health crisis prepared by the bosses and their parliamentary servants