I was struck this week by the mainstream media’s lack of interest in the latest report from the Fawcett Society.
The differential impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities has been widely reported but little attention has been given to the issue of women and the pandemic.
In March the Fawcett Society urged women aged 18 to 75 to fill in an online survey.
Now, as lockdown is wound down, the report is emphatic—Covid-19 is a feminist issue.
Although men are more likely to die, 61 percent of women report severe anxiety and feeling hopeless about the future compared to 47 percent of men.
This may be because a third of women have lost their jobs compared to a quarter of men.
Clearly, women suffer double discrimination—as both parents and carers of elderly relatives.
More women than men have voluntarily helped isolated neighbours. But despite this, they are more likely to adhere to the social distancing rules, adding to their sense of dislocation.
It is unsurprising then that women are more worried about the easing of lockdown, with 70 percent concerned about leaving the house, compared to 57 percent of men.
For socialist feminists the report is a refreshing reminder of the battles that second and third wave activists spearheaded.
For Marxist feminists the role female labour plays in wage depreciation is shown by how quickly the service industry has shed its female workforce and forced them back into unpaid domestic drudgery.
The challenge posed by the report is surely to translate its findings into effective campaigning against the extension of austerity.
Now more than ever we need to mobilise against suggestions that we are “all in it together” and build unity between male and female workers on the Covid frontline.
A S Vambe
How meat is making a killing
You are right to point to the coronavirus chaos in the German meat industry (Socialist Worker, 20 May).
Recently 330 people tested positive for Covid-19 at the Muller Fleisch site in Pforzheim.
The firm has a turnover of almost one billion euros.
The regional medical authority saw no reason to close Muller down.
Almost half of the workforce in the German meat industry are migrants from Romania and other eastern European countries.
They work for subcontractors for three to six months and live in extremely cramped conditions—three people share a room, paying 250 euros per bed per month.
The company says this is not their responsibility.
Muller told the press they didn’t want to interfere with the workers’ habits of “convivial living”.
The health and safety body for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia last year checked 30 meat plants employing 17,000 workers and found 8,752 violations.
These included shifts of 16 hours, locked safety exits, no electronic time registration and removal of safety equipment in order to speed up production.
Health offices scattered around the country have no standardised work procedures.
Yet the Frankfurt health office reassured everyone only a few days ago, saying they weren’t expecting a second wave of Covid-19 in the course of the year.
Fight for BAME workers
IT is clear that people from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are hit disproportionately by Covid-19.
Many theories have been offered as to why this is—from an increased incidence of underlying health conditions to being more likely to be in frontline roles or on zero hour contracts.
The common thread tying these factors together is racism.
Racism also impacts on health. BAME people tend to experience poor health at an earlier age.
At my hospital, the unions have been jointly arguing for BAME to be included as “an independent factor” in staff risk assessments to ensure they are protected.
We have also fought for all staff—including those outsourced by the NHS—to receive sick pay if they catch Covid-19. Additionally, the pandemic has highlighted the lack of representation of BAME people in our management.
It is our job to fight for a fairer world where ethnicity does not dictate the length of your life.
War on Basques grows in virus crisis
Readers of Socialist Worker will doubtless know that the Basque resistance organisation ETA disbanded in 2018.
However, even today, much suffering remains.
There are still over 240 Basque prisoners in Spanish and French jails.
They suffer a policy of dispersion, which sends them away from their homes to prisons far away.
It is an exceptional measure applied to Basque political prisoners and is designed to isolate them. Basque prisoners get no parole and even seriously ill prisoners get no early release or transfer to hospitals. Instead they are forced to serve their full sentences.
This week a hundred experts and elected officials have asked the Spanish and French governments to apply the measures proposed by the United Nations and the Council of Europe, and release prisoners who are especially vulnerable to Covid-19.
Patxi Ruiz, imprisoned since 2002, undertook a hunger and thirst strike on 11 May against the way he is being harassed and threatened by prison screws. Authorities refuse to meet his lawyers or allow for doctors of his own choice to visit him.
Lives saved if Corbyn won
A brutal truth about the pandemic is that, if Jeremy Corbyn had won the general election, thousands of people would still be alive.
They have died because of the ideologically-driven incompetence of the Tory government.
Another point worth making is that the anti‑Corbyn media giving Johnson such an easy ride would still be going after Corbyn with all the venom they can muster.
Rely on your own powerDave Lyyddon raises the question of union leaders—and their lack of leadership (Socialist Worker, 20 May).
He quoted SWP founder Tony Cliff to make his point.
A better quote from him is, “Union leaders are like rusty wheelbarrows—they only go as far as they are pushed.”
When I worked in engineering in the 1960s we found asbestos in exhaust systems and I told the shop steward how dangerous it was.
We met management and the factory doctor who told us it was safe.
Unconvinced, we called a meeting and work stopped until all the asbestos was removed.
There is nothing like a quick walkout to solve these problems—especially if the bosses are out to kill you.
More mental health action
Iain Ferguson and Sarah Bates make some important points in their article about how the Covid-19 pandemic is having an impact on people’s mental wellbeing (Socialist Worker, 13 May).
Long established social and economic inequalities are being brought out into the open, as is the stigma faced by people living with mental distress.
Workers have been fighting for better access to services and to challenge prejudice since before the pandemic. Their efforts though are needed more than ever.