Solidarity 549, 26 May 2020

Make the schools safe!

The government’s aspiration to partially open schools on 1 June is likely to be largely unrealised. While we all want children back in schools, as soon as safe enough, that is good. Success in resisting unsafe reopening is dependent on union strength on the ground. We must fight for rank-and-file school worker control over the strategy, locally and nationally.

Push Johnson backwards

The Conservatives’ Immigration Bill passed its second reading in parliament on 18 May. It will proceed to committee scrutiny, expected to run until 25 June. The Bill would end free movement with the EU and write a blank cheque for the Home Secretary, who will be able to create a new immigration regime with limited oversight. Plans published so far indicate an extension to EU migrants of the existing regime’s barriers and hostile treatment of “unskilled” (i.e. low-paid) workers. “Guest worker” schemes will facilitate hyper-exploitation and abuse by employers. Labour rightly whipped its MPs to...

Labour: restore accountability

Labour’s National Executive Committee has agreed to cancel the party’s annual conference, which was scheduled to take place in September. Labour NEC member Alice Perry says that “a policy conference can take place online instead”, but with no details of what this means. The mainstream media has quoted “Labour sources” saying that the leadership does not mind losing an opportunity to rally support because it also means avoiding clashes with and challenges from the left. No conference means more time and space for Starmer to continue moving Labour to the right with minimal opposition. There...

Fight coming council cuts

Without an urgent cash injection, sweeping cuts of 20% could be seen in local authorities right across England. So the Local Government Association has reported. In real terms, the net funding shortfall from the pandemic emergency is estimated at £10 billion. Labour-held Stevenage Borough Council has been one of the first to break cover, reporting a £4.5 million black hole, expanding to £8 million by the end of year: see here. The council’s whole annual budget is £9 million. Without a bail-out this deficit could force the council to declare bankruptcy and issue a Section 114 notice, allowing...

Cancel rent!

A new group, Labour Tenants United, is supporting calls for rent cancellation already made by groups like the London Renters’ Union and the New Economics Foundation. The government has legislated for a “holiday” on mortgage payments during the emergency, and looks likely to extend it. • For more on LTU, see LabourList

Call for action on social care

Late May has seen significant developments in the fight around social care. After months of refusing to even address the issue of sick pay and isolation pay for care workers, the Tories have announced a £600m “infection control fund”. Guidance for the fund states that part of its purpose is to “maintain the normal wages of staff who, in order to reduce the spread of infection need to reduce the number of establishments in which they work, reduce the number of hours they work, or self-isolate”. This is potentially an enormous victory. But the announcement has been very quiet, no doubt because...

Organise against university cuts

Coronavirus is intensifying the fault lines in UK higher education, and huge cuts are coming to our universities. Universities are announcing job cuts and hiring freezes to mitigate the huge predicted loss of income from international students’ fees. Staff on casual, fixed-term or hourly paid contracts will be the hardest hit, and their workloads will be pushed onto permanent staff. Lots is still unclear. On Sunday 24 May, Student Strike Solidarity held a meeting to discuss how students can organise with university workers to stop these cuts. We heard from activists involved in local campaigns...

Demanding bigger things

Abbie Clark is Secretary of Stevenage CLP and a candidate for the National Coordinating Group of the Labour left group Momentum (nominations open 28 May, election 16-30 June), on the Forward Momentum slate - elected onto the slate as part of Momentum Internationalists. She spoke to Sacha Ismail. With Josh Lovell, I founded our Stevenage Momentum group at the end of 2015. A lot of us had joined the Labour Party, but found there was little pre-existing organising on the Labour left, and that it was a bit of a hostile atmosphere for new left-wingers. There wasn’t much room for debate or...

No return to "full CO2 spewing"!

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerability as humans, as societies, in the face of “the forces of nature”; our biological, molecular, physical environment. We face threats of even greater crises in the future driven by climate change, as Covid-19 was in part. Environmental impacts of this crisis have already been dramatic. Nitrogen dioxide levels and air quality have improved the world over. People in areas of Punjab, northern India, have reportedly seen the Himalayas for the first time in decades. It is estimated that improved air quality in China from Covid-19 shutdowns will save...

Children, parents, school workers: stand together!

The education unions are right to say schools should not accept further mass return of pupils until the five tests are met. We should fully support any school workers who will take action on health and safety grounds from 1 June to keep their workplaces open only to vulnerable and key workers’ children. That does not mean we, or school workers, are oblivious to how difficult school closures have been on families. Solidarity has covered, and will continue to cover, the increased risk of domestic violence and neglect in a stressful period with less contact between the household and the outside...

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