Socialist Worker

Virus outbreak after workers’ walkout warning was ignored

Issue No. 2710

Food manufacture plants have been badly hit by the virus

Workers at food manufacturing plants have been badly hit by the virus (Pic: dottorpeni/Wikimedia)


A major outbreak of coronavirus has been confirmed at a food processing plant where workers had walked out unofficially over safety fears.

On 3 April workers at Rowan Foods on the Wrexham Industrial Estate in north Wales stopped work. They were protesting about coronavirus working conditions.

The police were called during the protest.

Last week it was confirmed that 38 workers have tested positive for the virus at the plant, which makes food for supermarkets across Britain.

Also last week Public Health Wales said it had identified 51 confirmed cases of the virus associated with the 2 Sisters poultry processing plant in Anglesey.

Workers struck unofficially at another of the company’s plants in March.

Significantly

Paddy McNaught, regional organiser for the Unite union, said the number of virus cases at the Anglesey factory had risen “significantly” in the past few days.

But he spoke up for the bosses. “The company have tried to provide a safe working environment, where social distancing—as best as it can—takes place,” he said.

He added that adhering to the distancing rules had been “virtually impossible” and there had been the “usual” concerns from staff about “social distancing and face masks”.

Meanwhile an Asda meat factory in West Yorkshire has been closed after an outbreak that saw around 150 workers test positive for coronavirus.

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said, “The figure of 150 is less than the one that was leaked to me by a high-level source.”

The plant is run by Kober Ltd near Cleckheaton.

The cases had been shrouded in secrecy until health secretary Matt Hancock revealed last week that there had been cases in Kirklees, West Yorkshire.

Kirklees council said it had not told the public “because it compromises patient confidentiality and could discourage businesses from coming forward in future”.

On Tuesday Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething confirmed that a "small cluster" was being investigated at the Kepak meat processing plant in Merthyr Tydfil.

Gething said there have been eight cases since the start of June and six people are currently off sick with coronavirus.

Kepak had cases at three of its plants in Ireland last month.

Three workers died from coronavirus after an outbreak at the Cranswick meat processing plant in Barnsley, South Yorkshire last month.


Free movement for Tory dogs? 

A Tory MP has urged the government to let his dogs keep their freedom of movement rights after Britain leaves the EU.

Bob Stewart, the MP for Beckenham, said last week in parliament, “Our two French-speaking dogs cross the Channel several times a year on a pet passport.

“Can I ask if there will be similar arrangements after December 31?”

Stewart has previously campaigned against free movement—for people—arguing that it would “nullify” Brexit.

Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister, said he sympathised with Stewart’s situation.


Troops free to kill Afghans

No more British troops will face prosecution over war crimes in Afghanistan, the Tory veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer has said.

An inquiry by the Royal Military Police, codenamed Operation Northmoor, has been closed without bringing any charges. At its peak, the investigation was looking into 675 criminal allegations from 159 separate complainants. 

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of failing to investigate numerous crimes in Afghanistan, including the shooting of children.

Have-a-go hero Mercer bravely bombasted, “This is another significant moment we retake ground ceded over the years to those who seek to rewrite history and line their own pockets.”


Over 50s benefits rise 

The number of Universal Credit claims made by the over-50s more than doubled between March and May, a new study suggests. There were 660,000 claims last month, compared with 304,000 in March. Before the coronavirus crisis, research indicated that over-50s were already more likely than younger people to be unemployed long term.


Rich still managing to avoid their taxes

The rich are avoiding tax, another study has confirmed. Wealthy Britons pay much less tax on earnings than official headline rates, costing £20 billion in lost revenue. 

The study used anonymised data from 40 million self-assessment returns. It found a big mismatch between the statutory headline tax rates and the reality of what wealthier people paid. 

A substantial minority of Britain’s richest individuals were found to have paid tax at extremely low rates. 

People grabbing more than £2 million a year are supposed to pay a tax rate of 47 percent. But the study found they were paying tax at 40 percent on average, representing a saving of £140,000. 

A similar pattern emerged when the researchers included taxable gains in wealth as well as income.

Someone with both taxable income and gains worth £10 million annually paid an effective tax rate of just 21 percent, a lower rate than paid by a person on £30,000 a year.


Lockdown puts poor people deeper in debt 

Poorer households are more likely to have increased their use of consumer credit and be saving less than usual during the coronavirus crisis, a new study suggests.

The Resolution Foundation said its those most at risk have the weakest savings to fall back on. The report said the crisis was exposing Britain’s wealth gaps and the ability of low-wealth households to weather the economic storm.

A typical worker in a shut-down sector of the economy had average savings of just £1,900, far less than the average savings of £4,700 for someone who has been able to work from home during the crisis, said the think tanks. Poor households are far more likely to run down their savings and turn to high-interest credit.

Poorer households are saving less than usual and have increased their use of credit cards which carry high interest rates.


A Ministry of Defence video call aimed at tackling racism was filled with racist and "deeply offensive" comments from staff. 

The Zoom conference call with all Ministry of Defence staff and the armed forces was swamped with “discriminatory remarks”.

The comments on the call apparently left many colleagues feeling “extremely distressed.”


New details about a US plan to blow up a nuclear bomb on the moon as a Cold War “show of dominance” have been revealed. The secret mission was code-named Project A119.

The explosion would have been visible to the naked eye from Earth because the military planned to add sodium to the bomb, which would glow when it exploded.


The things they say

‘The problem is that most academics know nothing about imperial history’

Nigel Biggar, regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at Oxford University’s Christ Church college, complains that you can’t defend the British Empire without getting ‘mobbed’

‘When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down, please’

US president Donald Trump cuts the number of people who officially have Covid-19

‘I think what people need to do is focus less on the symbols of discrimination’  

Boris Johnson said he wanted to ‘focus on is the substance of the issue’ of racism

‘I’d like to know what the rest of the words are. How does it go on?’

Johnson then proceeded to discuss the lyrics he couldn’t remember to the song Swing Low


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