Socialist Worker

It’s the lowest paid workers who will pay with their lives if the lockdown is lifted

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2704

Some people are already being forced to work. A Shut the Sites protest at a construction site in east London

Some people are already being forced to work. A Shut the Sites protest at a construction site in east London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tory push to end the lockdown will hit those in low-paid, insecure work hardest.

Fewer than one in ten people in the lowest half of earners in Britain can work from home, according to the Resolution Foundation. 

The think tank found that the typical pay for workers in “shut down sectors” is less than half that of those able to work from home. That’s £348 a week compared to £707 a week. 

It will be the poorest in society who are forced to cram onto public transport and into dangerous workplaces.

Ending the furlough scheme will force millions back into work before it’s safe. 

The Tories are desperate to get profits flowing again. 

Yet, despite high personal approval ratings, Johnson knows there is overwhelming public support for the lockdown measures.

Just 12 percent of those surveyed by YouGov on Monday thought that economic growth should be prioritised over the health and wellbeing of people.

Restrictions

And a Deltapoll survey for The Sun found that 90 percent of people are against lifting the lockdown. The newspaper complained that “despite seven weeks of restrictions”, just 4 percent wanted to start a phased return to work from this week.

The Tories and their friends will try to make it impossible for workers to remain away from work. Unions should organise for walkouts and action.

This week union leaders showed some verbal opposition. On Sunday a joint letter from the leaders of the TUC union federation and the Unison, Unite, GMB and Usdaw unions said Britain cannot “return to business as usual”.

“If work cannot be done safely, it should not proceed,” it said.

Yet union leaders cling to the idea of social partnership with ministers and bosses. “The trade union movement wants to be able to recommend the government’s back to work plans,” they said.

“But for us to do that we need to ensure that ministers have listened and that we stay safe and save lives at work too.”

Warm words and promises of lobbying ministers are useless—union leaders must take on the government to save workers’ lives.


Scotland and Wales stay in lockdown

The Scottish and Welsh governments have rejected Boris Johnson’s attempts to begin ending the lockdown. 

Scottish National Party first minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “Sticking with the lockdown measures at this stage is so important”. 

“So for now, the message remains the same. You must stay at home, please stay at home.”

She blasted the “stay alert” message as “vague and imprecise” and said schools wouldn’t be following England’s lead and opening in June. 

Welsh Labour first minister Mark Drakeford announced minor changes to the rules. He said councils were planning how to open libraries and recycling centres, and that garden centres could re-open. 

Devolved governments are able to diverge from England because the Coronavirus Act gave them powers over public health and education.

Johnson’s naked push for big business interests allowed Sturgeon and Drakeford to position themselves as more serious about tackling the pandemic. 

Yet both Scotland and Wales face PPE protective kit shortages, high numbers of deaths in care homes and dangerous working conditions.


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