Solidarity 567, 14 October 2020

To curb the virus, reverse the cuts

The UK’s virus infections are now rising faster than France’s and Spain’s, and are at a higher level (relative to population) than Spain’s. The government’s measures, since infections started rising fast again in early August, have had little effect. The Tories are set to close bars and cafés again, in large areas at least, and maybe soon for a new lockdown similar to spring’s. In Ireland, which has a lower rate of infection increase than the UK, the government’s scientific advisers have already proposed a new general lockdown, not yet implemented. Lockdowns (with suitable arrangements for...

Hospitals refuse sick pay

A Freedom of Information request from supporters of the Safe and Equal campaign in Redbridge Trades Council has found that Barking, Redbridge and Havering University Hospitals NHS Trust (BRHUT) is in breach of government instructions to ensure all healthcare staff have rights to full sick and isolation pay. “Bank” (casual) staff working at the Trust, which includes King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital in Romford, are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay at £95.85 a week if they have to isolate following public health guidance. Most of these staff are nurses, i.e. working...

Lessons from Spain

“I really enjoyed working in the NHS”, said a Spanish nurse quoted by the Financial Times on 7 October.”You get longer holidays, more breaks. And workers’ rights are much better”. His comment tells us less about excellences in the NHS and more about problems in Spain. Those led big protests on 19-20 September about virus measures in Madrid to demand “More healthcare, fewer police”, and are a factor in why Spain’s hospitals have had great trouble coping with the pandemic, and an exceptionally high number of health workers infected. Spain’s General Nursing Council says the country is 125,000...

Self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh

Around 70,000 people — nearly half the population of Nagorno-Karabakh — have been displaced in the war which broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in late September this year, in spite of a shaky, Russian-brokered ceasefire signed on 10 October. The fighting is over the Nagorno-Karabakh region: a 95%-Armenian enclave of mountain territory inside Azerbaijan, with a population of about 150,000 until September 2020. The region set up its own parliament and declared itself independent in 1988. From 1988 to 1994, Azerbaijan fought a war to crush the self-governance of this region and return it...

Free Gyas Ibrahimov!

Azerbaijani youth activists have issued an anti-war statement: Our enemy though is not a random Armenian, whom we have never met in our lives and possibly never will. Our enemy are the very people in power, those with specific names, who have been impoverishing and exploiting the ordinary people as well as our country’s resources for their benefit for more than two decades.” Azerbaijani anti-war activist Giyas Ibrahimov was detained on 28 September. We support the call for his release.

Nagorno-Karabakh: too complex?

The Morning Star editorial of Monday 5 October was entitled “Nagorno-Karabakh: a complex conflict that must be seen in context”. In fact the editorial gave little factual information and no political steer whatsoever on the dispute. After an initial, inconclusive, section on Nagorno-Karabakh, the rest of the editorial was a rambling discourse on internationalism in general, often virtually indecipherable. However, I suspect that the following gives a significant clue as to the true meaning of the editorial: “ There is a certain narrative on the liberal left that sees each of the present-day...

Letters: What about musicians?; Full employment; NEU can prepare strikes

Full employment In the arguments about job cuts, we need Full Employment as the driver of economic policy across the board, not profitability, financial markets, or the growing wealth of the richest. Sunak says we will have to put up with millions of unemployed to “save the economy”. He does get criticised by Labour and left for not supporting jobs, but the fundamental idea that you can separate the health of the economy from the number unemployed has been internalised by the labour movement after 40 years of neoliberalism. Full Employment speaks to general working-class consciousness as a...

The labour movement and Nagorno-Karabakh

The recent outbreak of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, seems like something out of another era. Turkey and Russia each support their own side. A century ago, the Tsar would have supported his Christian co-religionists in Armenia and the Sultan his Muslim brothers in Azerbaijan. Little has changed. The response of the labour movement to a conflict which has already cost over 300 lives and left thousands homeless has been muted, to put it diplomatically. The International Trade Union Confederation, whose members include national trade union centres like the...

Universal Credit blights women's autonomy

Some women claiming welfare benefits are finding that the system compromises their financial autonomy. If a woman claims benefits, and lives with a partner who also claims benefits, then the system requires them to make a joint claim. Because this is a new claim, she is moved onto Universal Credit. Both her and her partner have individual ‘claimant commitments’, and if her partner doesn’t fulfil his or her ‘claimant commitment’ correctly then the partner will be sanctioned. But because this is a joint claim, she will also lose money, up to half of their joint income. The woman is financially...

Overdoing doom saps activism

The first 20 years of this millennium, 2000-2019, has seen a sharp increase in major recorded natural disasters, a report by a UN agency on 12 October has found. 7,348 recorded events killed 1.23 million people, affected 4.2 billion (many multiple times), and caused roughly US$2.97 trillion of global economic losses. In the 20 years previous, 4,212 recorded natural disasters killed roughly 1.19 million people, affected 3.25 billion, and caused approximately US$1.63 trillion loss. “ While better recording and reporting may partly explain some of the increase in events, much of it is due to a...

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