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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 April 2020

Coronavirus

From the frontline: B&M Bargains management puts profit before safety

B&M Bargains, photo Hugh Venables/CC

B&M Bargains, photo Hugh Venables/CC   (Click to enlarge)

A B&M Bargains worker

The attitude of B&M Bargains management has been 'business as usual'. Some staff are furloughed, often in stores in shopping centres which have closed anyway, and some admin staff. But most are still working, with the company's attitude being that we can pick up sales from competitors while they are closed.

B&M management is using the argument that we are key workers because we sell food, but it's a minority of what we usually sell, and in my store we're selling even less than usual at the moment. Instead, most of the people coming in are in the garden, DIY and paint aisles.

In the rush to sell as much as possible, health and safety is going out the window. We've had cages blocking fire exits so people can restock quicker. The cleaner in store had to self-isolate, yet for days no-one replaced her. Our till screens are next to useless. They are free standing but they keep falling and hitting the cashiers on the head. It's been reported to management but nothing is being done.

Easter weekend was the worst period. We had a policy of only allowing 20 people in the store at a time, then it went up to 30, 35, 40 and then 120 at a time! Management told us they were letting in "only how many we feel safe" - I think they really wanted to make as much money as possible. To cap it all, we had a regional manager in on Good Friday. Was he concerned about our safety? No, he was more bothered about stock on the paint aisle!

It's only through the union, Usdaw that we've managed to win 10% hazard pay for those still working, but only from 29 March on old wage rates. We've also managed to get the company to agree to furlough staff, with letters telling them to 'shield' on 80% pay instead of just sick pay.

With a low union density at the moment, and just nine union reps across the country, we need more B&M Bargains workers to join Usdaw and get organised.

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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.
  • 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 Fighting Fund.

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In The Socialist 26 April 2020:


Coronavirus news

Workers' safety before bosses' profits

Dispatches from the front: PPE chaos goes on

Private firm causes weeks of delay to free school meal vouchers: bring it back in-house!


Lessons from history

No return to the 1930s: World War Two and 'a land fit for heroes'


May Day

May Day 2020: join the protests - wear red, bring flags and banners

130 Years of May Day in Britain: Fight for workers' rights more relevant than ever

May Day greetings pull out 2020


Workplace news

Workers fighting to defend safety and livelihoods - NSSN national meeting a huge success

Civil servants in Paisley protest after Covid outbreak

Irish police use Covid-19 emergency powers to disperse Dublin shop workers' protest

B&M Bargains management puts profit before safety

Schools: No return without a national union agreement that guarantees safety!

Unions must organise throughout crisis

Waltham Forest trade unions discuss the fight for PPE and workplace safety

Woolwich ferry - workers secure 100% furlough agreement

ISS workers' pay victory


Organising during coronavirus

Should the Socialist still be produced during the Corona crisis? An exchange with Mark Serwotka about sales of the Socialist

Coronavirus crisis finance appeal

Adding demands to the weekly claps


Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters


 

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