Socialist Worker

Turn minute’s silence into day of action, say workplace activists

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2702

Health workers in Wigan protest earlier this month

Health workers in Wigan protest earlier this month


Trade unionists are organising workplace actions on Tuesday—Workers’ Memorial Day—to demand the Tories and bosses put health before profit.

The TUC union federation has called for a minute’s silence at 11am to “pay tribute to the sacrifice made of so many workers during the pandemic”.

Union leaders are proud that the initiative is “supported by the government”. They say reps “may wish to request employers mark it by asking the workforce to cease work for one minute”.

But in some workplaces activists are organising to stay out after one minute and turn their fire onto the Tories—who have blood on their hands.

At Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in south London workers will rally outside on the day.

They will then protest—while observing social distancing—about the lack of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health, care and other workers.

St Thomas’s nurse Dave Carr told an online health workers’ rally, “What we want from the trade union movement is some action. We want to see workers that are in non-essential industries, if they’re walking out, stay out.

“If they’re on a minute’s silence outside their workplace, don’t go back.”

“There’s got to be a reckoning that says we aren’t going back to an NHS that is underfunded, short of doctors, short of nurses, short of materials and privatised.

“We want the Tories out but, more importantly, we want people out of their workplaces on 28 April. A minute’s silence to remember our dead—but then we want you fighting and howling with outrage.”

Dave was speaking at an online meeting of the People Before Profit: Health Worker Covid Activists Group on Wednesday.

Variety

Supporters of the group are organising a variety of workplace actions—and want other trade unionists to join in.

In a video promoting the day, one health worker in east London said, “What we’re asking you to do next Tuesday is to take part in a minute’s silence, but also to do something more.

“Something that tells Matt Hancock and the government that health and other key workers and their families matter.”

Another social care worker, added, “Please, alongside this minute’s silence join in socially distanced actions.”

Unison union reps at Warneford Hospital in Oxfordshire, have organised an outdoors union meeting. They will mark the minute's silence, read the names of the dead and raise demands for proper PPE now.

Meanwhile, at the Whittington Hospital in Islington, north London, the trades council and local covid action committee has organised a socially distanced protest from 10.45am.

It is supported by members of Unison and GMB unions at the hospital and the RMT transport workers’ union. They will bring banners, lay flowers and read out the names of the health workers who have died.

It’s still possible to organise protests under social distancing. In Birmingham, supporters of the local Covid action group went down to the hospital during the Clap for the NHS on Thursday of this week.

They held banners and raised slogans for PPE and mass testing while health workers came outside.

Activists have to push to make Workers Memorial Day this year a show of anger against the Tories and bosses who are gambling with people’s lives.

If you’re organising a workplace action next Tuesday, get in touch at [email protected]

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