Socialist Worker

Workers’ deaths show we are not ‘all in the same boat’

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2704

Deaths rates for construction and manufacturing workers are some of the highest

Deaths rates for construction and manufacturing workers are some of the highest (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers in low-paid and manual jobs are up to four times more likely to die of coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The research, published on Monday, underlines that class affects who lives and dies in the pandemic.

It found that male workers, aged between 20 and 64, in jobs dismissed as “low skilled” are up to four times more likely to die.

Cleaners, security guards, bus ­drivers, construction workers and factory workers are all at a far greater risk than accountants, lawyers or engineers.

The ONS data, collected between 9 March and 20 April, showed that male security guards were dying at a rate of 45.7 deaths per 100,000. Men in “professional” occupations died at a rate of 5.6 per 100,000.

After months of struggling to get hold of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), care and home care workers are dying at a rate of 32 deaths per 100,000.

Transport workers have also been hit hard. Bus workers are dying at a rate of 26.4 per 100,000 and taxi drivers at a rate of 36.4.

Helen Barnard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity said, “Today’s figures are another stark reminder that, although we are all weathering the same storm, we are not all in the same boat.”

The ONS data shows that ­industries that weren’t shut down—transport, care and security—leave workers paying the heaviest price of the pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s drive to end ­lockdown rests on these workers—and millions more—being sacrificed to get the profit-machine rolling again.

Proximity

Separate ONS analysis showed that women and ethnic minority workers were more likely to work in jobs where they came into close ­proximity to other people.

One in five workers in the closest proximity roles were from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups.

That’s despite them only making up 11 percent of the working population.

Damning evidence of scale of black and Asian virus deaths
Damning evidence of scale of black and Asian virus deaths
  Read More

BME workers account for more than a quarter of dentists, doctors and opticians and a large proportion of healthcare staff. The analysis comes after the death of railway ticket office worker Belly Mujinga.

A member of the public spat and coughed at her and a colleague on the concourse of Victoria station in London.

After both women contracted Covid-19, Belly died on 5 April.

Her husband, Lusamba Gode Katalay, said, “They weren’t given masks, or gloves, so they were exposed to everyone.

“It’s her employer, the company, and the state who have to look at that.”

Lusamba added that he and his daughter “saw Belly on the 2 April when she left for hospital”.

“Then we didn’t see her again,” he said. “She’s dead and we buried her without being able see her.”

We’re not all in this together.


Gig economy challenge

The IWGB union is demanding action over protection for workers who are wrongly described as “self-employed”.

The union says many are not being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) or testing for infection. Its members include cleaners, drivers, couriers and foster-care workers.

It has written to the Department for Work and Pensions threatening legal action if the official duty of care is not extended.

Courier drivers carrying samples for testing that may contain coronavirus are particularly at risk.

“These workers have not been provided with advice or PPE of even the most basic sort,” the union said.

Private-hire firms have not provided drivers with screens inside their vehicles.

The IWGB adds, “Many of the union’s members work in areas which, without testing for infection and the provision of PPE, entail risk including risk to life and health for themselves and for their families.”


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