As a support worker I have seen recently the outpouring of affection and respect lavished upon us “key workers”.
From clapping in the streets to discounts on fast food—we even get our own special ID card soon.
I have had people thank me for my “service”. Politicians from all political perspectives are saying key workers are heroes and essential to the country’s survival.
However, for a decade now our government has slashed the budget for social care and neglected to support funding for the NHS and its workers.
MPs have blocked pay raises for NHS workers. In social care the situation is even more dire—the neglect is deeper and the praise is more tentative.
The government is willing to lavish praise and funding on businesses. However when we asked for help, we were told the money isn’t there.
Key workers are working overtime, many for minimum wage and under extremely stressful conditions.
My colleagues have come to me crying sometimes with the stress and overwork they are enduring.
The praise we are given now as “key workers” and “essential workers” and “NHS heroes” is wonderful.
But after recognising this value of so many workers we cannot return to “business as usual’.
Pay should be raised and cuts to services reversed.
If we value these people, we have to give them the means to live dignified lives.
We need to support their pay, funding and the brilliant, essential work they do, have done and will do in the future.
We can choose to value all of our workers who keep food on our plate and the other things we require every day and take for granted.
The future must not be the betrayal of those we say we value so highly.
Joining a union to fight back
I have run a community centre for 17 years. The core group of staff are women working part time and in most cases are bringing in the only household income.
Over half would be considered vulnerable under current government guidelines.
One woman has stage four cancer and was working until the lockdown because the government said she was well enough to do so.
These woman are bringing up families on their own, living in overcrowded housing, and trying to hold it all together as other family members lose jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.
Today these brave workers took steps to be ready to fight back—they joined a trade union.
The monthly subscription of £6.70 is not an insignificant sum for them, it is after all a chunk of their weekly travel costs.
But they know that when this is all over the bosses will think their jobs and their health will be disposable.
They have seen how this government’s approach to the pandemic has led to thousands of deaths. And they have no faith that the Tories will have their best interests in mind.
For the first time in my life I am now working in a 100 percent unionised workplace.
I’m so proud of these women, friends and comrades.
Labour inquiry hypocrisy
I was shocked to learn that Keir Starmer is reported to have “reprimanded“ two black Labour MPs last week.
Diane Abbott and Bell Ribeiro-Addy’s supposed crime is to have spoken at a large online meeting at which two expelled former Labour Party members were in the audience.
A recently leaked report into Labour’s senior management team showed that they had directed sexist and racist abuse towards black women MPs.
It shows how senior Labour officials claim to have sent Abbott’s location to hostile journalists after she was found crying in a restaurant toilet.
Yet these officials haven’t faced any disciplinary measures.
Instead, the Blairite Baron Whitty will carry out an investigation into who leaked the damning report.
Sir Keir Starmer and Whitty should investigate their own attitudes towards fighting anti-black racism in the right wing of the Labour Party.
Let workers not bosses run companies
Now more than ever it’s clear workers need to take control of their workplaces. Bosses don’t care about what is best for workers or customers—only what’s best for their profits.
An Amazon worker has died from Covid-19. But the company sent people back to work, while firing workers who highlight safety issues and try to organise action.
Without its workers, Amazon would be nothing. Without bosses, Amazon could be run and democratically controlled by workers. And the fact that many vulnerable people have not received food deliveries during the pandemic is a sign that society needs to change.
The current system does not work for those most in need. This is because it is based on the profit motive and is not designed by those who understand it.
The top-down approach the government has pushed on supermarkets and the bureaucratic running of councils means people are not receiving the help they need.
Yet Boris Johnson can get his champagne delivered no problem.
If ordinary people ran food distribution, they could meet people’s needs.
Rent cuts for everyone
Big companies like McDonald’s have said they will reduce their own rent payments. And they get away with it.
But the rest of us are told to just keep paying.
My own landlord was shocked that I would even ask whether they would be passing on any mortgage holiday to me.
Yet McDonald’s said it was in talks with landlords about how they could “offer support” on rent.” Why do businesses get a break but ordinary people don’t?
An ineffective opposition
Keir Starmer has claimed that patriotism and the labour movement are two sides of the same coin.
By doing so he has effectively hung a notice on his door that reads, “We apologise for the recent disruption. Normal service has been resumed.”
Action on climate now
I read a recent report that said for every degree of temperature increase, a billion people would either be displaced or forced to endure insufferable heat.
It said that a third of the world’s population will live in conditions as hot as the Sahara within 50 years.
But instead of taking action governments rush subsidies to fossil fuel companies and their mates.
System causes homelessness
I read your article about the plight of homeless people during the coronavirus crisis (Socialist Worker, 6 May).
It makes me incensed at the system by which we are governed.
- The things homeless people need—washing facilities, toilets—exist.
They should have access to them now.