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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 March 2020

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Low pay doesn't mean low skill

photo (public domain)

photo (public domain)   (Click to enlarge)

The Tories don't know what they are on about when they class care work as 'low-skilled'. I was a support worker for people with learning difficulties and challenging behaviours for 20 years.

First I worked in the public sector - the NHS - and then transferred over to the private sector, which was a lot worse. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my work helping people, although it could be stressful at times.

Support work is not just about helping people with personal care - doing their shopping, washing, and so on, and taking them out to educational and cultural activities, medical appointments, and organising their holidays.

It also involves drawing up important care plans for residents, filling in communication sheets, attending meetings, liaising with doctors, nurses, social workers, the families. You need a wide range of skills.

You go on countless courses and take mini-exams. I already had a BSc (Hons) in psychology before I started, but I learnt loads as a support worker, which added to my knowledge.

Even in the NHS, the pay was low, the shifts 12 hours long, and you had to work two weekends in the month. When I was transferred over to the private sector it was more weekends in the month, no weekend enhancements, and no overtime pay. My holiday weeks were also cut. If you worked extra hours, you got the same rate.

A support worker does a valuable, skilled job. It is poorly paid, but it is certainly not 'low-skilled'. I would like to see Boris Johnson try and do a 12-hour care shift.

Chris Fernandez, former support worker

Retail unions - stand up and be counted

Sainsbury's recent derisory pay award for Band 2 and 3 workers equates to a 1% increase - 1.5% below the current rate of inflation. It's the first pay rise since September 2018 and, as always, non-negotiable.

"Non-negotiable?" I hear you say, "but doesn't the retail sector have some of the largest unions in the UK, representing shopworkers?" Yes it does, but these unions still accept and dutifully work within, longstanding, outdated, sweetheart agreements that are excessively in favour of the employer.

Recently, I received a message emphasising the point that a union is only as strong as its members; and I agree that this point has some merit. However, the agreements I have described totally undermine union members' efforts to fight for change. Since these agreements were introduced, as all retailers like to tell you, "retail is changing and we have to change with it".

The only thing that has not changed and neither the bosses nor the unions seem to want to change them, are these worthless agreements!

These existing agreements continue to diminish union members' ability to make a stand on pay or conditions; and have increased the margin of inflexibility shown by employers.

It is strong, capable, union leadership that, on behalf of their members, has to demand a review of outdated agreements. I'm confident that, when unions have leaders who prove they are there to serve and fight for their members, who secure agreements that are not heavily weighted in favour of bosses, workers will then show their support and fight for their rights!

Bernard Davies, York

Open up Labour

I was very interested to tread the letter 'Bending under pressure' (the Socialist 27 February) by Amnon Cohen.

When Luciana Berger was shadow health minister I found her to be the most self-serving person on the planet!

Were Rebecca Long-Bailey to "welcome" Berger returning to the Labour Party, it would in my view, as a party member, be open season on Labour Party admissions.

I believe if such a situation were to occur then every member of the Socialist Party should have an automatic right to become Labour Party members.

I would prefer you all as members than fighting austerity as a small but active unit.

Adrian Rimington, Chesterfield

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

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In The Socialist 4 March 2020:


Covid-19: A socialist response to the Coronavirus crisis

International Women's Day 2020

International Women's Day: Fighting sexism and austerity

A legacy of women workers and the class struggle

Workplace news

Uni strikers determined to defeat the bosses

Defend the right to strike! Southampton solidarity meeting

Strike wave around London - this is why we need socialists in city hall

West London parking workers' strike

Charity workers' strike

Electricians pay victory

Anti-academy strikes kick off in Redbridge


Royal Glam A&E: Victory is within our grasp

What will we do if they cut Camden nurseries?

Labour councils miss opportunity to stop Tory cuts

30,000 strike for the climate in Bristol

Why I joined the Socialist Party: I resent the 1% and the system that allows them to exist

Secret cuts meeting couldn't prevent protests in Newham

Socialist Party Congress

Socialist Party Congress 2020: A world in turmoil and weak British capitalism faces working-class anger

International news

India: Bloody pogrom fuelled by Modi's sectarianism

Readers' opinion

The Socialist Inbox


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