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 to work as safely and effectively as possible in the emergency.
3. Make the labour movement operate as an essential service!
It is the duty of the labour movement to make itself an essential service in the emergency:
• to impose workers’ control on the emergency response, to stop it being impeded by bureaucratic inertia and profit priorities
• to defend workers’ rights — all workers, including those still at work in essential services, those who have to self-isolate on public health advice or stay at home to look after children, and those already laid off
• to stand up for the worst-off, who generally suffer the worst in epidemics: low-paid and insecure workers, the homeless, migrants, those in jail, the disabled.
4. Defend workers’ rights
All workers outside essential services should be at home, working from home if possible, on leave otherwise, on full pay.
In all essential services, unions must insist on full pay for every worker in the building (including zero hours, agency, and subcontractor staff) who takes time off to follow public health advice or because they have to care for children whose schools or nurseries are closed.
We demand immediately accessible fallback pay for all. The government has promised to ban evictions during the emergency. We demand cancellation of all rent, mortgage, and utility payments during the emergency.
5. Take care of the worst-off
People held in detention centres should be released and offered accommodation if needed. The same for those in jail, excluding only those whose conviction indicates a threat to human life if they are released.
“No Recourse to Public Funds” and other rules and charges restricting public services for migrants should be abolished. Suspend all enforcement of restrictions on migrants, and enable “illegal” migrants to get help, and defend their rights, without risk of deportation.
House the homeless. (The government said it would require councils to do that by the weekend 28-29 March). Hotels and similar accommodation should also be made available to domestic violence victims.
6. Defend civil liberties
There is a public-health case for restricting movement and assemblies. But the emergency powers law pushed through by the government goes beyond that in a number of ways.
7. Think internationally
The labour movement has a duty to think internationally, and to demand the resettlement in decent conditions of those held in refugee camps across the world, and massive aid to poorer countries.