Education workers are returning to schools across England and Wales with mixed emotions.
Some will look forward to a relaxation of the Covid regulations. They want “freedom” from masks, bubbles and other measures put in place to keep us safe during the pandemic.
Many others will be concerned about how the pandemic has affected the learning and social development of our students.
But a lot of us will be anxious about being in an environment where safety measures have been withdrawn.
Those with underlying health conditions and those who have seen loved ones suffer or even die from the virus will be working in an atmosphere of fear.
Recent data from Scotland suggest the return to school will see a spike in infections.
Many of us remember the shambles of government policy last school year and the return to lockdown in January.
How many lives were badly affected or even lost as a result of this?
The NEU union has played a brilliant role in trying to keep school communities safe during the pandemic.
Union activists always take health and safety issues seriously, from removing asbestos to installing ventilation.
The task facing reps and activists in the coming term is to push hard for the best protective measures we can get.
But we will at the same time have to recognise the different viewpoints and experiences of members.
That means finding ways to keep people united.
We will need to bring NEU members together as early as possible to build a sense of strength.
No doubt the Tories will want to use the cost of the pandemic to justify further cuts to school budgets. Only with well organised union groups on the ground will we be able to resist.
Fight to keep the £20 uplift
Socialist Worker is right to highlight Labour’s failures on the £20 a week cut to the Universal Credit benefit (Socialist Worker online, 25 August).
The increase was supposed to help people meet the additional costs of living under lockdown.
The Tories are set to scrap the payment in the next few weeks.
However, over 1.9 million people—including many disabled people—on older “legacy” benefits never got the uplift payments in the first place.
This has created a two-tier benefits system, with many of the poorest being reduced to poverty.
Nearly half of all claimants report being unable to pay bills due to the increased cost of living. For some, the choice is between paying rent or eating.
And, all this comes on top of ten years of austerity and cuts to welfare support—all of which hits disabled people hardest.
But disabled people have shown they can fight back and get their voices heard, including by using direct action.
Disabled People Against Cuts is campaigning to keep the £20 uplift and extend it to all other benefits.
Action is being prepared for the next few weeks.
I hope many Socialist Worker readers will join the campaign.
Unions must act on fossil fuel pension investments
Union activists in the finance sector are concerned at investment in climate change industries and are trying to do something about it.
Inspired by the 2019 school student climate change strikes, one of our branches submitted a climate change resolution to the Unite union conference.
It has become the basis for the Unite National Finance Sector Committee motion to the union’s next policy conference.
The motion says, “Opposing climate change is a trade union issue”.
It notes that many pension schemes continue to invest into fossil fuels without any plan to switch to renewables.
Finally, it says Unite has a responsibility to act.
The union must “raise this with employers and demand that as soon as possible they create and act on a time-scaled plan to disinvest from fossil fuel producers”.
We hope our motion gets passed and becomes Unite policy.
Richard Milner, on behalf of the RISC
Manufacturing workers have power
Rob Hoveman writes that “Thatcher presided over the destruction of much of manufacturing in the 1980s” (Socialist Worker, 18 August).
Though true, it’s important not to exaggerate this nor to ignore what’s happened since Thatcher.
For example, Toyota’s two factories, Nissan’s Derbyshire factory, JLR’s two engine factories and Coventry’s electric taxi factory were all built post-Thatcher.
Over the past 30 years, the value of manufacturing output has remained largely stable, but the number of people employed in the industry has fallen.
This actually increases the potential power of workers.
Britain remains the ninth largest manufacturing economy in the world.
Output in 2018 is 7 percent higher in real terms compared to 1990.
But service sector output rose by 106 percent.
The car industry here had record exports in 2012 and 2015. This story is mirrored in the British aerospace industry where productivity grew 50 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Encouraging the belief that manufacturing has all but disappeared comes close to encouraging the belief that manufacturing workers have all but disappeared.
Of course Rob is not trying to say that, but Socialist Worker must take care to avoid that trap.
Former Jaguar Cars senior shopsteward, Coventry
Skinner right! Dave is dodgy
Your report on David Cameron making £7 million at Greensill before its collapse (Socialist Worker, 18 August) reminded me of Labour MP Dennis Skinner.
He called Cameron “Dodgy Dave” while pointing at him in the House of Commons.
The House speaker told Skinner to leave the floor and banned him for the rest of the day.
Dennis, how we miss your fighting principles today.
C S Toll
Halesowen, West Midlands
War is bad... Vote for war
Liverpool council recently discussed the arms fair coming to the city. The Labour mayor put forward a motion to say that the fair is not “compatible” with Liverpool’s socialist values.
Shamefully, the Labour Party then whipped its councillors not to vote against the fair.
Only a handful of Labour councillors defied the whip.
The Labour witch hunt has had the desired effect of silencing opposition within its own ranks.
But outside of them, the spirit of rebellion lives. There will be big protests against the fair on 11 September.
Who runs the world?
It’s great to see the Unite union being run by a woman socialist.
Sharon Graham’s victory means that Unite, Unison and the TUC are now all run by women.
What a wake up call to all those who think that unions are dominated by cloth cap‑wearing stereotypes from the 1950s.
Now all we need is for some of these leaders to put up the fight we’ve all been waiting for.
- Sharon Graham’s win should remind the left that lots of rank and file members want something other than “business as usual”.