The 28 April was International Workers’ Memorial Day where the trade union movement united to remember people killed at work.
This was a particularly poignant year for Glasgow Socialist Workers Party branch as we remember the passing of our comrade Drew McEwan.
Drew died last year of mesothelioma caused by his exposure to asbestos while working in the shipyards of Govan in the 1970s.
In the midst of a global pandemic it is easy to forget about other health hazards.
But asbestos is still the number one occupational killer in Britain with over 5,000 deaths per year. It is estimated that there is still up to six million tons of asbestos present in 1.5 million buildings in Britain.
Many workers are still being exposed to danger by their employers today, especially those in the construction trade.
Thousands of incidents happen each year where workers are being exposed to asbestos fibres by employers wilfully ignoring regulations. Bosses cutting corners costs workers’ lives.
I retired from a local authority day centre providing support to people with dementia last year.
I received a phone call from a former colleague who informed me that six of the service users had passed away with Covid-19.
The staff spent more time with the service users than their own families. Now we can’t even say goodbye.
The staff did their highly skilled work without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Now they have been moved to another unit working with vulnerable adults, without any tests.
Staff don’t want badges. They want proper testing and PPE, and an opposition that will lead this fight and put the lives of our loved ones before profit.
Teachers make PPE
My partner is a teacher at a Sheffield school where they have been making thousands of plastic visors.
This is to meet the demand from NHS and frontline workers who have received little or no PPE.
The initiative started when Design Technology teachers realised that they had the equipment to be able to start manufacturing visors themselves.
Each day teachers have been coming to the school to help make and deliver the visors.
They have been producing thousands every week.
The demand for the equipment has been overwhelming.
It really exposes the government’s lies that frontline workers are receiving protection.
Other schools in the area have joined in to help and local companies have donated the plastic needed to make the visors.
Teachers are organising to make this vital equipment because the government is unable or unwilling to do it.
Nationally schools have produced around 125,000 visors. Sheffield schools have produced around 12,000 of these.
It exposes the dire lack of protection that the government is providing but shows what can be achieved when workers take the initiative.
It also shows that, contrary to current government policy on education, practical subjects like Design Technology have a vital role to play in schools.
Government ignoring people with disabilities
I would like to raise a concern I have regarding both mine and my husband’s disabilities.
We are both registered blind and have osteoarthritis.
I also have degenerative disc disease plus fibromyalgia.
But we seem to not be eligible on the government website for supermarket deliveries.
My husband is nearly totally blind.
I am blind in one eye and have limited partial sight in the other. How can people who are visually impaired see to socially distance?
I keep trying to get online deliveries but we just can’t get a slot.
Instead we are forced to go into town and queue up, putting our lives at risk.
The government’s message is stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
How can we if we can’t get an online shopping delivery slot?
We need to care for planet, not profit
There is another aspect to Captain Cook’s “discovery” of Australia that has a very contemporary resonance (Socialist Worker, 8 April).
Many early colonists described the landscape they encountered as looking like a “gentleman’s estate”.
Over millennia, aboriginal people shaped their environment using small scale controlled fires. Reducing the amount of combustible undergrowth and creating open spaces that facilitated hunting and acted as firebreaks against the spread of fires.
They also held a set of beliefs that gave each group a duty of protection over the land they occupied, making its devastating loss to the colonists that much more traumatic. After they were robbed of their land, it was allowed to grow over.
And dangerous, large scale fires became more common, culminating in the devastation earlier this year. The aboriginals aimed to provide all their people with a reliable and sustainable living.
So they could more effectively protect their environment than the Australian government can now.
The oil crisis harms workers
Manufacturer of wind blades and turbines Vestas is to throw 400 workers on the scrapheap.
Vestas management are spooked by the collapse of oil prices.
In July 2009, Vestas workers in Britain occupied their premises against sackings and closure.
We need nationalised renewables such as wind power, under workers’ control—not kneejerk reactions to the temporary drop in electricity demand caused by the lockdown.
Unions have to go further
The minute's silence called for the by the unions is a step in the right direction.
One more step is support for the £29 per day bonus for front line workers which was suggested in the media last week.
This should be an absolute minimum.
We need more action at work
I hope we can do more workplace action to frighten the government into behaving like a government which cares about people.
Labour is now too right wing
I’ve fallen out with Labour. It’s too right wing now for my liking
I am heartbroken on behalf of my Labour Party friends at the disgusting revelations contained in the leaked report of the anti-left conspiracy within the party.
However I also think they should take a long hard look at the Labour Party.
It is not and has never been a party capable of delivering anything beyond the most modest reforms.