Health & safety

Covid isn’t over: organise for the long haul

As of 26 July, the Covid case count in England is tentatively turning down. The hospital count, and the death count, will keep going up at least for a while. Google Mobility Trends suggest that for now many people continue to be covid-cautious despite the restrictions-easing on 19 July. Traffic at workplaces and on public transport remains more below norm than, for example, in Germany, which continues legal restrictions. By now vaccination and previous infections must have made individual (relative) immunity widespread, dampening virus-spread. The government’s bluster about “Freedom Day” may...

Building-wide safety committees (John Moloney's column)

The outsourced workers’ strike at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on 19-21 July was totally solid. I had the honour of addressing their picket line, and there was good support from elsewhere in the union and the wider movement too. It was especially good to see young activists from the UK Student Climate Network’s London chapter support the picket line, emphasising climate change as a class issue. BEIS is a key department in terms of climate strategy, so it’s especially important the links are made. The perspective now is to build towards further action in...

Isolation pay in test centres: plug the loopholes!

Following pressure from Labour MPs, notably Emily Thornberry, and the Safe and Equal campaign last winter, we were told that “the Department of Health and Social Care has approved the payment of occupational sick pay for periods of self-isolation for all workers at Test Centres. This commitment has also been included in the tender specifications for the new Test Centre contract which commences in July 2021.” As Safe and Equal activists have visited Test Centres across the country, we have found that the situation is more complicated. The government has outsourced the Test Centres to G4S, Serco...

BEIS: ready for a long fight (John Moloney's column)

Outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) strike from 19-21 July. We’re prepared for a long dispute there if necessary. Neither ISS, the outsourced contractor, nor BEIS itself has offered a settlement to avoid the strike, so our members will continue taking action. Cleaners and toilet attendants at the Royal Parks will strike on 30 July. On the day of the strike, there’ll be a mass meeting where members will discuss any offer from the employer, if one’s been made, and discuss further action. Reps are proposing an ongoing programme of strikes...

Impose Covid responsibility on the bosses

It’s down to the unions — or workers self-organising in un-unionised workplaces — to hold the line on virus precautions. It’s possible. Some employers are already keeping the Covid precautions in their shops and offices after 19 July. In London Covid precautions (masks) will be mandatory on the Tube and buses. Workers whether in unions or not have a legal right to insist bosses respect workplace safety, and to refuse to enter work areas which pose danger (section 44 of the Employment Protection Act 1996). The precautions will be more effective if the labour movement can win social measures. A...

Make unions fight for workplace safety!

The Tory government is setting England on course for a gamble with Covid-19. The labour movement is not well-placed to second-guess scientists. But we must step up our fight for the social measures we’ve long been campaigning for, and which are known to alleviate the spread of Covid. On 1 July the editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) responded to the appointment of Sajid Javid as health minister with a list of demands. Those included: • Proper financial support for those who need to isolate. • Invest in ventilation. • Make FFP3 masks mandatory for all staff treating patients with...

BEIS strike from 19 July (John Moloney's column)

Our outsourced worker members at the government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will strike for three days, from 19 July. These are workers who’ve had to come into work throughout the pandemic, despite the buildings they service being mostly empty. They’re fighting for increased pay, a bonus for having worked through lockdown, and annual leave entitlement owed from last year. On 14 July we’ll get the result of our ballot of cleaners and toilet attendants in Royal Parks, who’re resisting potential job cuts and who want party of terms with those who work direct for...

Workers’ control for safety at work

Over fifteen thousand (15,263) working-aged people have died of Covid-19. Employers have registered just 387 as work-related deaths. That is just one example of the extraordinary efforts the boss class has made to deny and minimise workplace transmission. In fact, at most of the high points in the pandemic indoor, social mixing has mostly been at work, or at someone else’s workplace — shop, place of education, public transport, hospital, or care-home. A lot of household to household transmission of the virus must have happened in a workplace, and a large number of those dead workers must have...

Link outsourced workers' disputes

The union has now made a formal complaint to the Cabinet Office about the treatment of our reps in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Swansea. It’s increasingly clear that the strikebreaking campaign is, if not originating with management, certainly endorsed by them. The anti-strike, back-to-work petition was even tweeted by the DVLA’s official Twitter account. I’m pushing for the union to coordinate three outsourced workers’ disputes which are developing concurrently. On 29 June, we’ll get the result from a ballot of outsourced workers in the Department for Business, Energy, and...

DVLA out again 5 July (John Moloney's column)

Our campaign at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea increasingly looks like becoming a long and bitter dispute. The union is in it for the long haul and it’s certainly necessary here. The next selective action strikes will be on Monday 5 July, Wednesday 7 July and Friday 9 July We still don’t know who pulled the plug on the deal that was on the table a few weeks ago and which could have settled the dispute. All the signs suggest it was Grant Shapps, the transport minister. MPs have asked questions in Parliament about who withdrew the deal, and he’s simply refused...

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