Health & safety

Letters: US election; Exams and algorithms; Ballot school workers?

Help defeat Trump Socialists in the US should be trying to build a working-class campaign to throw Trump out of power. In the last six months the Trump Administration has moved decisively in the direction of open fascism. Violent racist, transphobic and anti-left rhetoric was always part of his repertory. Since the start of the pandemic and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests that has stepped up decisively. Trump has effectively celebrated far right shootings of anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter protesters. He encourages followers to take up arms against BLM and Antifa. He is...

Statutory ballot in DWP? (John Moloney's column)

The consultative ballot of our members in Job Centres returned an overwhelming majority in favour of industrial action over safety concerns. The union's Group Executive Committee for the Department for Work and Pensions meets on Tuesday 22 September and will discuss whether to proceed to a formal, statutory ballot, which they're very likely to do. Anyone who was wavering on whether action is necessary is likely to have been galvanised by events in recent days. Management is increasing the number of claimants required to attend physical meetings at Job Centres, which is a huge risk given...

Schools: build health and safety committees

At the end of our first week back from school summer holidays a colleague of mine rang the parents of a Year 8 boy in her tutor group. The boy had done very well in school, and was clearly delighted to be back with his friends. So my colleague talked to the boy’s dad and told him how well the boy had been doing in class. The boy’s dad burst into tears. Presumably a mix of relief, intense long-term worry, and happiness, all coming to the surface at once. The kids really need to be back in class. That the Tories are saying it does not make it any less true. And the parents need to see their...

Diary of a Tube worker: "If no one else bothers"

Mask enforcement has faded on the Tube since July. Now the company want to do something about it. TSEO (Transport Support and Enforcement Officers), who mostly work as revenue inspectors on the buses, are now being deployed across stations. They stand around, looking a bit meaner than the rest of us. They remind people to wear masks. Some listen, others just breeze past them. Unless people kick them out of the station they’ll still come through no matter what. We get reminded everyday to use the apps on our Ipads that allow us to record people travelling without a mask. It is probably easier...

Virus: indict the Tories!

Of people who test positive for the virus and should self-isolate, only 20% or fewer are doing so fully. That’s an official estimate. No one knows what percentage of people who are identified as contacts of the infected — and may be infectious themselves, without having symptoms — are self-isolating. Most people asked to self-isolate get no or minimal isolation pay, so isolated properly is economically difficult or impossible. Of those who do self-isolate, many can do so only in overcrowded housing. However careful they are, they’re likely to infect others there. In New Zealand, the government...

Union battle over New York school re-opening

The USA currently has a much higher rate of infection than the UK, with a Covid-19 death rate about 120 times bigger (proportional to population) than the UK, and a proportion of tests showing positive about 10 times bigger. In most big cities in the USA, schools are restarting online-only. New York was the hardest-hit area early on, but now has a lower rate of infection than many areas in the USA: about three times as many confirmed infections and deaths per day as the UK, relative to population. New York City’s schools are due to reopen to students on 21 September, with workers going into...

The 80% gesture (John Moloney's column)

The government has announced a target of 80% of civil service workers to back in the office from the end of September. They want to use the civil service as a beacon for their wider “back-to-work” drive. It’s a crude political gesture, effectively a form of virtue signalling. Currently, 74% of civil service workers are still working from home, so to go from that to 80% being back in the workplace would be a huge leap. In reality the target is not serious; the government plans to count people who come into the office for just one day a week as part of the 80%. The safety measures the employer...

School reopenings: ballot on safety

The National Education Union (NEU) favours the reopening of English and Welsh schools in September, without qualification. That is positive. But the union is not advocating action to stop unsafe or careless practice by school managements. It is not even publicising to members Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act, which allows workers to quit work areas where they see a “serious or imminent danger”. The NEU leaders proceed as if they are writing a comment piece in the Guardian, or a blog, rather than running a campaigning union. There are plenty of issues we need action to fix...

Action on jobs and re-opening (John Moloney's column)

Strikes to resist job cuts by our members at Tate galleries are continuing. I attended picket lines on 28 and 29 August. Tate bosses have now identified the workers whose jobs they intend to cut, cruelly doing so by sending out emails late at night on Friday 28th. Meanwhile, Tate is advertising for new jobs and is still recruiting staff! We’re therefore demanding that the workers facing redundancy be reallocated to the positions for which Tate is now recruiting. We’ll begin a ballot of our members at London’s Southbank Centre, also over job cuts, on 1 September. Bosses there have extended the...

Back to school: workers' control to make it safe

The government has a campaign to persuade parents that it will be safe to send children back to schools in England in September, following the return in Scotland on 11 August. Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government, says, reasonably, that it is important that all children are in school and that “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly small.” Whitty added that there are no risk-free options but that children would suffer much more from long-term health and mental health problems by remaining out of school than from dangers associated from Covid-19. That is...

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.