Solidarity 546, 5 May 2020

No rushed lockdown-easing!

≫ Workers’ control! ≫ Isolation pay for all ≫ Requisition industry for PPE and tests ≫ Union control over workplace assessments Workers, and our unions, need to get out in front of any discussion or planning by the bosses to begin to reopen workplaces and bring workers back to work. We need to put in place clear assessments and our own criteria, overseen by union reps with the maximum degree of control for workers, for when it’s safe for work to resume or for workers to return to the workplace. If those criteria aren’t met, and bosses insist on resuming work anyway, we need to organise to...

"Exit strategy"? Not yet

On the evidence, Britain is not yet ready for experiments in easing the lockdown. As of 1 May, the seven-day moving average of daily deaths from the virus is only 20-odd per cent down from its peak around 13 April. By contrast, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Austria are all about 50% down from peaks in early April, Italy is 60% down from a peak in late March, and France is over 50% down from a peak in mid-April. Basing calculations on case numbers is tricky because they reflect the extent of testing as much as the extent of cases. But in Britain the number of daily new cases is declining only...

July deadline in Tower Hamlets

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public services union Unison, joined a May Day virtual rally called on 1 May by Tower Hamlets Unison, over “Tower Rewards”. That is a plan to reduce workers’ conditions to minimum “green book” standards, by way of sacking them all and re-employing them on new contracts. (More here.) The unions got big ballot majorities for strikes, but suspended them for the pandemic. The (Labour) council said it would still impose the change on 13 April, then at the last minute said it would postpone it to July. • More: facebook.com/TowerHamletsUnison

Momentum Internationalists launches

Momentum Internationalists is a platform launched by supporters of Labour for a Socialist Europe to promote left-wing, class-struggle, pro-democracy and internationalist ideas in the big Labour left grouping Momentum as part of the debates around the coming elections for Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG: nominations 28 May to 11 June, voting 16 to 30 June). MI’s first action after launch was to initiate an open letter to Keir Starmer protesting against his pro-Modi u-turn on Kashmir, demanding that Labour uphold conference policy to “stand with the Kashmiri people fighting against...

Australia closing borders

As part of its lockdown, Australia has banned entry to everyone other than citizens, and compelled returning citizens to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel before going home. Now Kristina Kenneally, immigration spokesperson of the opposition Labor Party, has picked up on that to call for the conservative government to put tighter permanent curbs on immigration. “Do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? Our answer should be no”. Some Labor MPs have complained that Kenneally was freelancing, or finessed the question by...

University jobs at risk

The pandemic, and the fall-off in international student fees which will come as a consequence, has tipped an already unsustainable model of university expansion into crisis. It will speed up marketisation, and bring on cuts harder and faster than they would have come before. The government has brought forward some payments due to universities to avoid a cash-flow crisis, but as yet has refused to provide extra funding to fill what could be a ÂŁ1.7bn gap. It is unlikely to want to see universities closed outright, especially in marginal constituencies. But some of the more vulnerable...

Block the Tories’ Brexit rush

The statement calling for Labour and the unions to fight to delay Brexit, promoted by Labour for a Socialist Europe, has now been signed by over 350 party and union activists. Probably for a mix of reasons, this is not (yet) an issue figuring prominently in most left-wingers’ consciousness. Nonetheless, it is incredibly important. Allowing the Tories to push through a hard Brexit in the midst of the economic and social fall out from Covid-19 will be disastrous for workers, and facilitate the hard right pursuing their nationalist, anti-migrant, disaster-capitalist agenda at our expense. And we...

Private-health lobbyist in key Labour job

Seamus Milne — Stalinist, Brexit-supporter, and anti-democratic political manipulator — has departed as Labour’s director of communications. His replacement in the £100,000 a year job is very different, but not an improvement. Keir Starmer’s new appointment Ben Nunn is a conservative “political professional” with an extensive history of organising full-time on the right-wing of the Labour Party. His career outside politics has been as a lobbyist for the private health industry. Nunn, who voted for Liz Kendall for leader in 2015, was deputy director of communications for Owen Smith’s Labour...

Taking awareness forward (interview with Ben Selby)

Ben Selby, a Fire Brigades Union activist in the East Midlands and a member of the FBU’s national Executive Council, spoke to Sacha Ismail. I think it’s fair to say no one in the labour movement was particularly prepared for the impact of Covid-19. It didn’t help we were licking our wounds after the general election and in the middle of a Labour leadership contest. The impact in the fire and rescue service closely resembles the impact across the public sector, particularly in the NHS and social care, because we’ve had austerity cuts pretty much across the board. “Resilience” is at a low ebb...

Forced labour

A giant Chinese company, BYD, known for employing Ugyhur forced labour has converted one of its factories into the world’s biggest respirator-mask factory, and has won big contracts in California. The BYD subsidiary which runs that factory is registered in the British Virgin Islands tax-haven. We want industry requisitioned to produce PPE — with union labour on union conditions! • More here

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