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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 May 2020

West Midlands trade union activists discuss the battle for safety on the front line

Trade union activists meet via Zoom

Trade union activists meet via Zoom   (Click to enlarge)

West Midlands Socialist Party members

Socialist Party members in the West Midlands met online in a forum to talk through workplace situations during the coronavirus pandemic, and discuss strategy to defend workers' health against some truly despicable management practices from the private and public sectors.

The meeting included tax officers, teachers, union staff, probation officers, railway staff, shop and warehouse workers and more, as well as workers recently made unemployed.

We heard that some Ministry of Justice and HMRC office management have been flagrantly ignoring government advice on working from home. We heard that most supply teachers have been furloughed, but no money has been paid out from the furlough scheme yet.

And that rail staff have had to fight for weeks to get social distancing in work. Despite heaps of praise for shop workers by their employers, supermarket senior management have utterly failed in protecting their staff by denying them PPE and anything close to social distancing.

Success in health and safety has only been won by the organised determined action of workers. Vigilant campaigns have ensured adequate PPE, social distancing, remote working, and even furloughing at 100% pay.

Action success

In an incredible success of workers' action, one non-unionised office in the West Midlands organised its own rotas to ensure skeleton staff to keep the office functioning, keeping the majority of workers home and the rest safely distanced. Management there had insisted they would all need to be in the office, but the workers forced the managers to adopt their rota model!

Many workers have successfully struggled to ensure their safety from coronavirus in the West Midlands and across the country, but too often this has been with the absence of trade union leaders.

The leaderships of some of the biggest unions in the UK, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, have failed to lead the fight to defend their members' safety. In this meeting Socialist Party members spoke out against union right wingers and careerists who have been far too concerned with bureaucracy and stalled negotiations with the government and employers, risking workers' safety week after week in a rapidly changing situation.

During and after the coronavirus crisis there will be massive attacks on workers as the capitalist class seek to recuperate their losses and minimise any increased consciousness among workers. Events so far have only been a small test in terms of what fighting leadership is needed from trade unions as the core organisations to defend the working class.

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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 13 May 2020:


What we think

Stay alert to bosses putting profit before safety

Tories put profit before lives - unions must stand firm on workplace safety

Furlough scheme extended - workers need 100% of wages


Schools

No going back to unsafe schools


Workplace news

Dispatches from the front: bosses prepare fresh attacks on NHS

Transport union RMT tells members: refuse to work in unsafe conditions

Leicester care workers face pay cut and worse conditions

West Midlands trade union activists discuss the battle for safety on the front line


Spanish flu 1918

The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it "fanned the flames of revolt"


Lessons from history

A new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

'Victory in Europe' 75th anniversary: A resurgent workers' movement and the fight for socialism


Socialist planning

Pandemic shortages caused by capitalist market - socialist planning is the alternative


Campaigns

Safe social-distancing car-cavalcade protests

Starmer in full retreat over C-19 rents crisis


Readers' opinion

Johnson's plan terrifies me - readers react to lifting lockdown

Going Viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis


 

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