Health & safety

Covid-19: Bernie Sanders' six point plan

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 10:29

Eric Lee

Bernie Sanders has drafted a six point plan for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the looming economic crisis – and the strange thing is that he doesn’t mention the presidential election nor the name of America’s current president, Donald Trump.

While Joe Biden tries to make his voice heard from his basement studio in Delaware, Sanders remains an active member of the US Senate, fighting to get things done without waiting for the Democratic party primary season to end – and without waiting for Trump to be replaced in office either.

“Congress must pass, in the very near future, the

Australia in the pandemic

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 10:19

Janet Burstall

Australian unions first focussed on work health and safety in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In some workplaces unions won improved health and safety conditions, and teachers and parents have protested online against schools being kept open.

Union attention quickly moved onto incomes and jobs, when Qantas stood down 20,000 workers on 18 March. The unemployment benefit was doubled on the spot, from $550 (£270) a fortnight to $1100 a fortnight, and the onerous work test was stopped.

By 22 March thousands of workers who had lost their jobs were queuing for hours outside Centrelink

Workers’ control of PPE!

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 10:13

An ambulance worker

There is alarm amongst many about the lack of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] being provided to workers at risk of exposure to Covid-19. Rightly so.

The information regarding protection has been confusing, with different recommendations initially coming from the World Health organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE). Workers in the frontline are being told what to do rather than being involved in the decisions that affect them. We don’t trust our bosses to protect us. Many workers are superseding recommended protection with support of trade unions. For example in my workplace, an

Shut the construction sites!

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 09:56

Mohan Sen

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash

The socialist film-makers Reel News report that they have been “inundated with messages from construction workers, demanding their sites are shut down during the coronavirus crisis.

“Anyone who’s worked on a building site knows that social distancing is impossible due to the nature of the work – and this is being exacerbated by further unsafe and dangerous practices. Now sites are being forced to shut down through action inside and outside sites.”

They say to check out their Twitter @reelnewslondon and @shutthesites, as well as the hashtag #shut

Jobcentres in the pandemic

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 09:47

A jobcentre worker

The coronavirus crisis has radically changed the job roles and working environment in Jobcentres.

Department for Work and Pensions policy on self-isolation for permanent staff is relatively good, sending anyone with a relevant underlying health condition home for 12 weeks on full pay, although there are arguments with management about staff who live with vulnerable people still being asked to come in.

G4S staff are on full pay, despite significantly reduced hours because almost no security is needed now jobcentres have been closed to the public, and would be paid if they needed to self

Tube unions on the case

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 09:12

Whether by local management showing common sense, or by frontline staff initiative for social distancing in Tube stations, we’ve seen:

• The use of tensa barriers and tape to mark distancing zones around gatelines and POMs (ticket machines)
• Staff rotation and redeployment around the station
• Repurposing of rooms around the station so staff don’t have to crowd into small mess rooms

In contrast is a station where the Area Manager has said, in writing, that they believe “business as usual” should prevail as much as possible. Union reps are on the case.

An employee bulletin has recommended

Requisition and workers' control to get tests and PPE

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 09:07

Martin Thomas

In the Thursday 8pm “clapping for the NHS” on 2 April 2020, many people chanted “Test! Test! Test! PPE!”

Health workers are pressing the government on its failure to meet its promises to expand testing hugely, to make PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] available to all, and to agree adequate PPE guidelines for health workers.

So, even, are NHS bosses. NHS Providers, a confederation of NHS hospital, mental health, community, and ambulance trusts, said on 3 April: “There are still trusts that are unable to begin testing, and lack of swabs, reagents and test kits is a continuing concern”.


Strikes in Italy win shutdowns

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 08:55

Cinzia Arruzza, co-author of Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, spoke on 26 March about Covid-19 and workers’ struggles in Italy.

It was an online meeting organised by the “Workforce Coronavirus Support Group”, Manchester Trades Council, and Reel News.

For Arruzza's full speech, on YouTube, see here. Extracts below.

To keep things short, the Italian government didn’t take measures to suppress the virus in the way that China and South Korea did.

When they were finally forced to call for a lockdown, first of Lombardy and two days later the whole of Italy, it stopped shops, schools and

Why still deliver junk mail?

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 08:03

A postal worker

Postal workers on strike - maintaining social distancing on the picket line - in Alloa, Scotland, over workplace safety and having to deliver junk mail (March 2020)

The atmosphere in the workplace is strange. You can feel how on edge people are. There are markedly fewer workers in. I think between 50-60 people are off work. Non-driving staff were told not to come in, and people with underlying health conditions were told not to come in. However, some managers were coming in on Sundays, and were trying to get workers to come in on Sundays too to deliver backlogs of mail that had built up

Diary of an engineer: Manual handling

Published on: Tue, 07/04/2020 - 07:54

Emma Rickman

This week I’ve felt like a thief going into work early on deserted streets. Workers are eager to chat (at a safe distance), getting in as much face-to-face human interaction as possible before we go home.

One morning me and three operators spend an hour cracking jokes about the mysterious free pizza that came with the night shift’s takeaway curry.

There have also been varying levels of anxiety, claustrophobia and fatigue. We’re on skeleton shifts – our teams reduced to one mechanic, one electrician and one apprentice, on 12-hour shifts, followed by three weeks off or on-call.


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