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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 February 2022

Covid pandemic: Fight for full sick pay and trade union control of workplace safety

Tories threaten to remove access to free Covid testing

Tories threaten to remove access to free Covid testing   (Click to enlarge)

Katrine Williams, Cardiff East Socialist Party

Numbers of Covid cases and hospital admissions are at a similar level to February last year. There are still over 200 deaths per day. But, for political reasons, the Tories are using a drop from the record-high Covid case rates to abandon the last of the Covid protections.

The government plans to stop publishing the number of deaths, an inconvenient reminder of their reckless plans. Scrapping self-isolation requirements will cause chaos and increase risks in workplaces and on our health and care services - forcing workers to return to the workplace while they are still unwell and infectious, unable to afford to lose pay.

It is necessary for the trade union movement to resist this latest attack. Employers still have a responsibility to protect our health, safety and welfare. Where trade unions have won full pay for self-isolation and a relaxation of the sickness absence policies for Covid-19 there's been a reduction in overall sickness absence. Workers unwell with cold and flu-like symptoms have stayed away from work to get a Covid test.

'Presenteeism', where workers attend work when sick, means bugs spreading around workplaces like wildfire. Many come in, worried about harsh sickness absence policies and dismissal. Bringing Covid-19 into normal sickness absence policies puts workers even more at risk.

Since December, the government has been reimbursing employers for the statutory sick pay they have paid to workers who need to self-isolate. But not all workers, especially those on low pay or in bogus self-employment, qualify for the paltry £96.35 per week. The pandemic has shown the need for full-pay for all workers during sickness absence, paid for by the employers; this is what the unions should be fighting for.

The brunt of Covid legislation has taken aim at individuals, not employers. Workers breaching lockdown restrictions face fines up to £10,000, the same applies to employers. With the end of self-isolation rules, the government wants to ditch this limited measure which could be used to pressure bosses to keep workplaces safe.

But the most effective fights for Covid safety have been organised by workers, health workers' fights for PPE at the beginning of the pandemic, and the teachers refusal to work in unsafe schools in January 2021. The battle continues for workplace ventilation and other measures to keep us safe at work.

Our trade union movement must campaign and mobilise collectively to ensure that workers are not put into danger. We should fight for:

Government hypocrisy

Just weeks ago the government was insisting that tens of thousands of NHS staff, including outsourced workers, should be sacked on 1 April if they had not had the first two doses of the Covid vaccine.

Now they are saying they may scrap all Covid restrictions in late February, a month earlier than planned, including the legal duty to self-isolate for people who test positive for Covid!

This underlines the utter hypocrisy of the government. No wonder many people have lost trust in government advice on Covid. Not only do large parts of the government not follow their own rules, but they are in total confusion.

NHS worker

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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 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.
  • 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.
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In The Socialist 16 February 2022:

What we think

Britain's economic growth figures mask fragile false recovery


'Labour by name - Tory by policy'

Covid: Fight for full sick pay

Met police boss ousted

Tory stealth taxes burden 'packhorse generation'

Left Labour MPs under pressure over Erdington

'Stand together and fight'

Neither Washington, London nor Moscow

Australian nurses strike against understaffing and low pay

Erdington by-election

Birmingham Erdington by-election

Campaigning in Birmingham Erdington by-election

Saltley Gate

From our history: 1972 miners' strike

PCS elections

PCS Elections 2022: Time for new union leadership

Workplace news

Barts NHS strike

NEU strike at girls' school chain over pensions

University workers striking back

"If we don't fight, we won't win!"

Just Eat strike spreads and forces concessions

Join the scaffs mass picket at Scunthorpe steelworks

Worksop Wincanton workers win pay rise after strike


West Sussex care campaigners' victory

Why I'm going to Socialist Students conference

Campaigning to make 2 March student walkout happen

Stop eviction of Camden homeless collective

East Sussex: Poverty and cuts bring people to Socialist Party

Save St Mary's Leisure Centre

Fund us to fight for socialism

Readers' opinion

TV: 'Death of Two Black Men: Police in the Spotlight'

TV: 'A Killing in Tiger Bay'

How Cardiff Bay's redevelopment led to 'social cleansing'


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