Labour MPs, trade unionists, campaigners and socialists have joined forces to call for a “fightback across workplaces and communities to demand ordinary people won’t pay for the crisis”.
The People Before Profit group will launch its emergency programme for jobs, services and safety on Tuesday.
Left wing Labour MPs John McDonnell, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Nadia Whittome were set to be among the speakers calling for no return to business as usual.
Jane Loftus, president of the CWU post and telecoms union, is one of the trade unionists backing the group. “We know that workers will pay the price of Covid-19, not just with their lives but with their future,” she told Socialist Worker.
“Big business wants to make sure they don’t pay the cost, and come after our pay and conditions.
“It becomes bitterly important that we stand up to be counted—and we’ve got a programme of action we can unite around.”
Millions of people face mass unemployment as Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to axe the furlough scheme at the end of October. His new job support scheme, announced in the Winter Economic Plan, will not stop bosses laying off workers.
The emergency programme demands the furlough scheme “must be kept for at least the next 12 months” to stop mass redundancies.
Firms making profits “must be barred from making mass redundancies and shareholder dividend payments should be frozen”.
It also demands “an immediate programme of green investment” to “end dependency on fossil fuels and provide a million climate jobs”.
Ian Hodson is president of the Bfawu food workers’ union. He told Socialist Worker, “Relying on people spending in bars and restaurants shouldn’t be an economic model.
“There’s loads of stuff that needs fixing, such as housing to deal with the pandemic of homelessness.
“We need to have a long-term plan for real jobs and put forward the argument about what society could look like.”
Supporters of the programme “will support any group of workers that strikes or occupies their workplace to defend jobs”.
Jane said, “All this means we have to confront the government.
“The Labour leadership hasn’t gone far enough on anything and it isn’t a focal point for people angry at the shambles of the Tory government.
“We have to organise because we cannot allow them to get away with it”.
People Before Profit launch meeting - An Emergency Programme for Jobs, Services and Safety. Tuesday 29 September, 7.30pm - for details go to bit.ly/PbP29Sept
End privatisation and outsourcing scams
The Tories have used the coronavirus crisis to push through more privatisation.
Rather than fund a functioning test and trace system, they’ve handed over hundreds of millions of pounds to outsourcers such as Serco.
The emergency programme calls for an end to outsourcing “across the health service, civil service, local government and elsewhere”.
“Services like Royal Mail, rail, energy and water must be brought back into public ownership,” it says.
CWU union president Jane Loftus says, “Infrastructure is everything we need in society whether it’s rail or mail.
“During the Covid-19 crisis people really valued someone coming up to their doorstep with a parcel.
“We should be looking to bring it into public ownership, deliveries across the week and good terms and conditions. There will be an expansion in parcels and this should be for the benefit of the community not for profit-making.”
The programme also says we need to re-purpose “industries like aviation, car production and engineering to urgently address the climate crisis”.
Sign up for information about the People Before Profit programme, solidarity activites and other events at bit.ly/PbPInfo
A better benefits system...
People Before Profit’s programme calls for “a welfare system that provides real social security and dignity”.
Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts was a speaker at the launch on Tuesday.
She told Socialist Worker, “We know that it’s been disabled people and the poorest in society who have borne the brunt of austerity measures.
“Rishi Sunak has already hinted at benefit freezes and Boris Johnson has announced plans for cuts in every single Whitehall department.
“If he brings in the benefits freezes, you will see a higher number of evictions and a higher number of people requiring food banks.
“We will see an awful lot more people die.”
Alongside higher benefits, the programme calls for a living wage of “at least £15 per hour” that “covers those working in the ‘gig economy’”.
...and tax the rich now
The coronavirus crisis has shown there is plenty of money in society when it’s needed to bail out the bosses’ system.
In Britain, the richest 1,000 individuals and families have a combined wealth of almost £750 billion.
That could be used to make sure working class people have proper pay, jobs and services.
But that would require “a massive transfer of resources from the rich”.
The programme says, “The top rate of income tax was 83 percent until 1980—this should be reinstated.
“An immediate wealth tax should be imposed on all those with wealth of £1 million and over.”
This should be just the start of squeezing the rich.