Socialist Worker

Workplace action must be central to fight 

Issue No. 2702

Workers gather outside Whittington Hospital

Workers gather outside Whittington Hospital (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Worker's Memorial Day on Tuesday showed there is bitterness and anger among the working class about how people have been treated during this crisis.

Now we need more action. There is much talk of never going back to the toxic set-up before the coronavirus crisis hit.

That’s right, but we can’t wait until “afterwards”—whenever that is— to start the fightback.

What happens in the future will be shaped by protests, walkouts and organisation that are forged now.

That’s why every anti-Tory action has mattered and must be a launchpad for more.

We have to pressure union leaders to stop cooperating with the Tories and start fighting them.    

The TUC union federation is currently looking at how to shape post-lockdown Britain.

It wants to sit down with business heads, union leaders and the government for a “national council for reconstruction and recovery”.

But a plan made between business and unions isn’t the mechanism for a safe response to coronavirus. Sitting round the table would be a group of people criminally negligent for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Tory government has failed to secure the bare minimum of protective equipment and virus testing to keep ordinary people safe.

And bosses are keen to force workers back into their jobs. They claim this is “keeping the economy going”.

But it’s simply self-interest that’s pushing them to demand this—they want to keep their businesses functioning and the profits rolling in. Workers are being forced to work in conditions that are unsafe—and in some cases, deadly.

The Labour Party and TUC have failed to mount any effective resistance to the Tories.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said, “When this is over we can’t return to business as usual.”

But these talks are exactly designed to return to business as usual, and only grassroots pressure from ordinary people can cut through that plan.

There will be huge battles to be waged about what return to work will look like—when it will happen, how social distancing will be implemented and access to PPE.

The critical difference between a safe end to lockdown and a dangerous one is the amount of pressure from the bottom of society. 

Mass action by organised workers won’t mean the difference between a bosses’ return to work and a slightly more palatable one. It will mean the difference between an end to lockdown that threatens workers’ lives or one that protects safety.

Only working class organisation and anger can punch through the bosses’ plans to continue with a system of profits before people. 

After Tuesday we need more resistance at every level.


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