I work in a shipyard and we’ve been open throughout the Covid-19 lockdown.
One of things which has been a bugbear of most people is that we’ve been classed as key workers.
The company used the fact we’re working on a defence contract and the claim we’re defending the country to say we’re key workers.
This is nonsense—the programme has got a lifespan of around ten years.
Almost every worker is in work, but there’s no work for electricians because the ships aren’t ready for us.
So we’ve got people cleaning up, painting floors in workshops or counting pipes.
The company wants to bring agency workers in—that’s bringing people into an already dangerous situation.
I’ve got a battle on with the Unite and GMB unions too. They’ve bought into the decision that we’re key workers and that’s the end of it.
The safety isn’t as good as the company said it would be.
For example, in a compartment on a ship maybe two or three people should be in it.
But they’ve got maybe eight or ten people in it. And the attitude of the management is, “I’ve got no other work for you so you’ll have to go in there.” Recently they’ve started to ask people to become “Covid marshalls”—where you wear a blue vest and challenge workers not wearing a mask or social distancing.
But it’s not trade unionists who should be doing this—it’s the managements’ job.
To keep people safe, no one should be working in the yard.
In spite of all the guidance, all the illness and the deaths, it feels relentless.
There are still not enough people taking it seriously, management aren’t taking it seriously.
A year of failures
As we hit over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths in Britain, let’s remember Boris Johnson’s deadly decisions that led to this crisis.
Last March the government abandoned finding, testing and tracing all cases. He embraced the deadly idea of “herd immunity”, to justify a do-nothing approach.
Health secretary Matt Hancock lied that a “protective ring” had been placed around care homes, but in fact most had already been infected with the virus.
When the Tories turned back towards testing and tracing, they ignored existing public health expertise and paid profiteers Serco and Deloitte to set up a new system.
Crucially, they virtually ignored the isolate and support element of such a system.
Let’s note that countries as diverse as Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Senegal and Vietnam have deployed well-established methods to drive down circulation of the killer virus.
The new vaccines will hopefully pull us out of the emergency, but the current virus is unlikely to be the last to jump from animals to humans.
This is thanks to unsustainable agricultural methods pursued both by capitalist food companies and by the right wing governments that promote their interests.
We need to fight for a new society where food production and public health move forward together in our interests, not in the interests of private profit.
Trade union bosses should step up fight
Like many trade unionists, I was disappointed that Labour right winger and continuity candidate Christina McAnea won the recent Unison union general secretary election.
But it was even worse to hear her on the BBC’s Women’s Hour radio programme, boasting about her record compared with other trade union leaders.
She said that other “blustery” trade union leaders called strikes but failed to carry them off.
And promised that under her leadership, Unison would only call walkouts if it intended to see them through.
But she is in charge of a union that has singularly failed to issue serious action in industries absolutely battered by the Covid-19 crisis.
Unison boasts it has over 1.3 million members—it’s time it called its workers out to fight the attacks that are still to come.
Islamophobe reviews racist programme
It is ridiculous that William Shawcross has been appointed the head of a much-delayed review into the government’s racist Prevent programme.
Shawcross has a history of Islamophobic views. So why would the government get him to head an inquiry into a scheme that mainly targets Muslim students?
He’s written about his support for Guantanamo Bay and the use of torture, so why wouldn’t he support that for people referred under Prevent?
But it’s not surprising that the ruling class is appointing people with Islamophobic views to top positions.
At the same time at Shawcross’ appointment, there’s no one investigating the Islamophobia in the Tory party.
The government is hoping that allegations of Islamophobia will fade away if there’s nobody looking.
We need to get rid of Prevent. It’s racist, and by the government’s own measures, it doesn’t work.
Something like just 10 percent of people referred to the programme are investigated.
We need to scrap Prevent and hold a proper investigation into how it was allowed to exist in the first place.
Justice for Kevin Clarke
On reading your article about Kevin Clarke’s death (Socialist Worker, 25 January) I was shocked that the ambulance workers were said to have stood and watched.
Where’s the duty of care, and what part of “I can’t breathe” is difficult to understand?
It’s heartbreaking, and those involved in such poor decision making should be held accountable.
- I was just about to ask the question, “Was he black?” I then saw the photo. Does anyone ever learn?
Lou Lou Wright
More vaccine data needed
NHS England really should have been collecting ethnicity data on who was receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, (Socialist Worker online, 27 January).
It’s very remiss not to, considering the impact the pandemic had on black and Asian communities.
It should also be collecting data on sexuality.
I believe the pandemic is having a bigger effect on gay and transgender communities too.
New tunnel will hit poor
It is almost always poorer and disadvantaged areas and populations who experience the harms of pollution most.
The proposed Silvertown Tunnel development is no exception (Socialist Worker, 25 January).
Work should be made safe
The 500 coronavirus cases at DVLA Swansea are shocking (Socialist Worker, 25 January).
DVLA staff really should have been sent home and the building made safe.
Are they trying to get people killed?