The Safe and Equal campaign safeandequal.org is pressing on three fronts.
Firstly: we want to popularise the idea, adopted as Labour Party policy in conference 2019, and recently re-raised by Nadia Whittome MP, that the care sector must be re-organised as a well-funded public service, rather than as the patchwork of small privately-run companies that currently makes it up.
Instead of a jigsaw puzzle of frequently inefficient, abusive and despotic private fiefdoms, we want instead to see a democratically-run service offering the same high standards of care and workers’ rights to all users and staff. We are beginning this work by circulating a campaign statement which has drawn the signatures of over a hundred trade union activists, Constituency Labour Party secretaries, and elected officials.
We plan to launch it more widely in the week beginning 1 June.
Secondly: the campaign is trying to make a noise about the farce and waste of the Tories’ £600 million “infection control fund”, announced on 18 May. This fund, provided by central government to local authorities, was advertised (quietly) as a means of funding infection control measures in social care. And yet we are still hearing reports across the board from care workers of inadequate access to PPE and great difficulty in getting more than Statutory Sick Pay if you need to self-isolate.
We suspect that the great majority of the “infection control fund” is stuck in the pipeline or has maybe been poured into the pockets of care companies without reaching workers. We are systematically making Freedom of Information requests to get the truth about this.
We are also organising a letter, signed by Labour MPs, which calls for the government to do more to ensure that this money is actually used for infection control and points out that really controlling the virus requires all workers, not just care workers, to be able to afford to isolate when necessary.
Finally, we are working to link up those groups of workers who are asserting their rights to safety. In various workplaces around the UK in many different industries, workers have collectively asserted their right to refuse work on health and safety grounds (some invoking the famous “Section 44” of the 1996 Employment Rights Act).
We are talking to these groups of workers wherever we can, to share information and best practice, and make it widely known what the best way is to defend your safety at work.