Socialist Worker

Further workplace outbreaks are putting more lives at risk

Issue No. 2719

People shopping in Birmingham

People shopping in Birmingham (Pic: PA)


A sandwich-making factory where hundreds of workers tested positive for Covid-19 has—at last and far too late—been temporarily closed.

Workers at M&S supplier Greencore in Northampton will go into self-isolation. But it’s more than a week since it was confirmed that nearly 300 members of staff had tested positive for the virus.

After a campaign by the Bfawu food workers’ union, Greencore has been forced to say it will pay workers 80 percent of their basic pay if they have to self-isolate.

Meanwhile Covid-19 cases at the Bakkavor factory in Newark, Nottinghamshire have risen to over 75. The company makes desserts for Waitrose and Tesco.

Billions for bosses—job losses for us
Billions for bosses—job losses for us
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Richard Wiles, who works next to the site, told the BBC, “The workers have been upset for quite a while.

“They don’t think enough has been done to protect them.”

“It seems cakes have come before Covid safety.”

Jonathan Gribbin, director of public health at Nottinghamshire County Council, said closing the factory “would be quite a radical thing to do, not something we would want at this point.”

There is one factory Bakkavor is closing. It has announced that salad factory in Alresford, Hampshire, is to close with the loss of 100 jobs. It just doesn’t make enough money.

The number of positive Covid-19 cases linked to a food processing plant in Coupar Angus in Perth and Kinross has now reached 110.

A total of 96 employees at the 2 Sisters factory have tested positive, plus 14 of their contacts.

New figures released last week show that nearly 600 people in Scotland are thought to have caught coronavirus at work.

The data includes eight people who died from the virus since April. Care home workers account for nearly two thirds of the suspected occupational exposures, according to Health and Safety Executive data.

But hairdressers, funeral directors, beauty therapists and NHS workers are among those who are also thought to have been exposed to the virus at work.

Gary Smith, secretary of the GMB Scotland union, said there is likely to be significant ­under-reporting of cases.

He said, “The events of the last six months simply do not give any confidence in these figures.”

Statutory sick pay in Britain is a measly £94.25 a week. Workers should be given full pay when isolating to ensure their choice is not between poverty or coronavirus.


Tories to fine partygoers

The Tories and the police are cracking down on unlicensed music events and parties that they don’t like.

Fines of up to £10,000 for those organising raves in England will come into force ahead of the bank holiday on Friday 28 August.

Global spread of coronavirus is a warning of the threat from reckless Tory policies
Global spread of coronavirus is a warning of the threat from reckless Tory policies
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Equipment can also be seized.

The fine can also be levied on “any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more”—which could include protests.

Participants can continue to be issued with fines of £100.

Those with previous penalties will see the amount double on each offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

Home secretary Priti Patel said, “These gatherings are dangerous and those who organise them show a blatant disregard for the safety of others.

The Tories aren’t concerned about safety.

They just don’t like mass events that they don’t control.

And the police have been particularly ready to shut down events where numbers of black people are involved.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council has threatened that forces in England and Wales will continue to increase patrols heading into the bank holiday weekend.

Fines for not wearing face coverings where it is mandated are also set to double for repeat offenders from Friday.

They will start from £100 and double for each repeat offence to a maximum of £3,200.


Push to end lockdown caused latest Birmigham outbreak

Cops and government officials led a drive to blame ordinary people for a spike in coronavirus infections that means lockdown restrictions could be imposed in Birmingham.

Birmingham was placed on the government’s watch list on Friday of last week as cases rose.

The city’s rate of infection rose to 32 per 100,000 people—up from 12 per 100,000 at the beginning of August.

Tory government responsible for highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe
Tory government responsible for highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe
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Birmingham’s Labour council leader Ian Ward said outbreaks occurred in workplaces, home gatherings and restaurants filled by the Tories’ “eat out to help out” scheme.

It’s a clear sign that the Tories’ push to reopen businesses and workplaces and get profit flowing again is behind the rise in infections.

Yet after encouraging people to gather, politicians and cops blame them for not following “guidelines”.

Police in Birmingham shut down more than 70 social gatherings over the weekend.

It came after West Midlands Tory mayor Andy Street said people had “not been strict enough” in staying apart.

Meanwhile, many of the businesses and workplaces where people are at most risk are allowed to keep running.

People are forced to keep working for fear of losing their job or wages.

Birmingham construction worker Sam Beard told the Guardian newspaper, “At the moment

there is a disincentive to self-isolate if you fear you will lose income.”

He added, “At the end of the day, it’s always profit over people.

“My job has some of the highest levels of casualties but I can tell you some tinpot construction companies are doing the bare minimum in terms of safety to keep operating.

“Covid measures go out of the window when they’re at risk of being fined for not making the deadline.”


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