Solidarity 541, 31 March 2020

Covid-19: fight for workers' control

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

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...

Defend migrants, defend us all

Migrant communities are largely being overlooked during this pandemic, even though migrant NHS workers, migrant supply-chain workers, and migrant carers are doing the most essential work. Immigration rules like No Recourse to Public Funds leave migrants especially vulnerable to economic hardship and incentivise them to disregard public health advice and continue working. Migrants seeking to self-isolate to protect their own health, or the health of others, face destitution and potential homelessness without access to the social security net currently being ramped up to support British...

NHS: full isolation pay, PPE, carers

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

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...

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

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...

The politics of "war"

Since 12 March, so for two and a half weeks now as we write on 30 March, the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths has been increasing exponentially both worldwide and in the UK. Worldwide the numbers of cases and deaths are both doubling about every week. In the UK, the number of cases is doubling about every three and a half days, the number of deaths about every three days. The neatness of the pattern is probably coincidental. Country case-counts vary widely with the width of testing, and if the figures were accurate the death graph would lag behind the cases graph rather than tracking it....

Government U-turn on abortions

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has warned abortion services are “buckling” under the pressure of the coronavirus chaos, and some women have been unable to access abortions. Many clinics have already had to close due to staff isolation. Those wishing to access abortion who have been advised to self-isolate have been left with the choice of exposing themselves to greater risk of infection or continuing with unwanted pregnancies. On Monday 23 March, the Department of Health announced temporary changes to abortion regulations. During the Covid-19 crisis abortion pills could prescribed...

Mutual aid and politics

Our Labour Branch got its (left wing) council candidate and our Campaigns Committee to set up a Facebook group for people in our neighbourhood who were interested in a mutual aid group. This group now has 600 members on Facebook. We have divided the ward into its polling station areas and set up a WhatsApp group for each one. The co-ordinators of those groups and the leading people in our Branch Labour Party are in a central “co-ordinators’ chat”. Everywhere we say that the group was set up by the Labour Party but everyone is welcome. “Leaders” from the polling station areas have been co-opted...

Empty the jails!

Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, has said that elderly prisoners and those with underlying medical conditions should “immediately” be considered for release “if they do not pose a threat to themselves or society”. The government has said (25 March) that it is “looking carefully” at releasing some prisoners. As of March 2019 (the latest official figures), about 25% of prisoners were in jail on “violence against the person” counts, large or sometimes small, and about 15% on sex-offences counts. Theft and drug counts are the biggest other categories...

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