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Letters : We made silence political 

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Issue 2703
Flowers at a workers memorial day protest last week
Flowers at a worker’s memorial day protest last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

In Oxfordshire we wanted to make sure that last week’s Workers’ Memorial Day action to remember health and care staff was more than a silent protest.

We needed it to take up the key issues of PPE shortages and testing. 

In the run-up, we held our first Oxford Trade Union Covid-19 Action Group meeting.

Activists from FBU, CWU, PCS, Unite, Unison, NASUWT and NEU unions joined in and agreed a plan. 

At the Warneford Hospital in Oxford over 60 health workers attended a joint-union event which included Unison, CSP, Unite, RCN and the BMA.

A nurse read out the names of health workers who have died from Covid-19 and that was followed by a minute’s silence.

Union reps spoke about cuts, staff shortages, lack of preparation for the pandemic, plus the high number of BME deaths—and the role migrants play in our services.At nearby Littlemore hospital, ten Unison members observed the minute’s silence and held “PPE not promises” placards.

Firefighters across six stations conducted minute’s silence parades, and postal workers also protested outside East Oxford delivery office, holding posters about testing and PPE.

DHL delivery workers, who are members of Banbury GMB No. 1 union branch, also held a minute’s silence, with posters demanding PPE and testing. They distributed 500 facemasks to a local hospice and care home.

By organising collectively, and making a plan, we turned the minute’s silence into a real protest.

Julie Simmons



Our trades council in Brent, west London, does not have a reputation for calling action—but the terrible death toll of London bus drivers from coronavirus spurred it into action.A successful one minute’s silence was held outside Willesden bus garage on Workers’ Memorial Day last week.

Around 25 local trade unionists gathered to commemorate those from that garage who have died and many bus workers came out to join us.

It was a tremendous show of solidarity.

Before the gathering, we persuaded the trades council to have an open Zoom meeting for trade union activists, and over 50 attended.

That’s where it was agreed to call for an assembly outside the garage.

I believe this successful protest has raised everyone’s expectations and given us all a confidence boost.

Ashok Pursani

West London

Fake tears for children

How dare Tory MPs and Ofsted school inspectors claim to champion the rights of disadvantaged children during the lockdown when they have caused the disadvantage in the first place (Socialist Worker, 29 April). 

We are teachers in east London and know well how those children have been affected by Tory policies.

The coronavirus crisis impacts directly on the children and families we work with—and makes our work even more challenging.

Overcrowding and poverty are reinforcing anxiety among our pupils.

Parents rightly worry about their children going out, but many don’t have a garden for them to escape to. So they’re stuck indoors, in some cases with up to ten people in a small flat.

The system to provide financial relief for parents on free school meals has been a mess and some families are struggling to feed themselves.

This crisis is going to impact the learning of the disadvantaged so much more since many don’t have ready access to computers at home. Some have to share one laptop among four or more siblings.

Parents of disadvantaged children are often less confident helping with lessons schools set for home.  

We must not allow the coronavirus crisis to put families under more pressure—we will not let our pupils fall behind. 

We know that there is more to education than exams. We need to look at how, what and why we teach, and fight like fury to end the system that has caused inequality. 

Daisy and Marion

East London

A senseless slaughter 

I read in last week’s Socialist Worker about how farmers are destroying milk because the “market” has dried up.

Meat firms in the US are now slaughtering 35,000 pigs a day because they say their “supply chain has broken”.

And they’ve shut down a lot of their processing plants too.

This highlights how cut-throat the meat industry is.

Millions of animals were killed needlessly before this crisis because of “market conditions”. Now, because so many restaurants have closed, mega-farms are killing, burning and dumping even more.

This not only shows us how wasteful capitalism, but how cruel it is too.

And it’s not just animals that suffer. Big meat businesses also attack unions for dissuading workers from returning to their jobs until they are safe. These firms are willing to risk their employees’ lives for profit.

Molly Docherty


Phillips has no place on BME inquiry

Just look at the shuddering montage of workers who became Covid-19 victims.

It’s a grim reflection of who is carrying the stack of this disease—pregnant nurse Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, aged 28, who would never cradle the baby delivered following her death, or Areema Nasreen, 36 and mother of three, who became a nurse after starting as a hospital housekeeper.

The first four surgeons to die in Britain were Muslims from African and Asian countries. Taxi drivers, shelf-stackers, porters and cleaners—it’s they who put a shift in to keep this country ticking. 

Public Health England’s announcement of an inquiry into the disproportionate number of Covid-19 deaths among BME people can’t happen soon enough.

But Trevor Phillips’ involvement isn’t welcome. He said Muslims are becoming a “nation within a nation”.

Black and brown departed faces looking at us have paid the ultimate price. They deserve a champion not an outrider for Islamophobia and class inequality denier. 

Harold Wilson

South London

Time to bury pay restraint

I am a council cemetery worker on a salary of £19,000 a year. The Labour and trade union leaders seem to think that now is not the time to criticise the government or raise demands.

I disagree. I think now is the perfect time to demand a 20 percent pay rise for nurses and every other public sector worker who earns even less.

Why not see what your neighbours think of this when you are out clapping on Thursday?

Timothy Robinson


System can turn vegan

If veganism is profitable, industrial capitalism will find a way to maximise profit and therefore render it ecologically unsafe and unsustainable.

No matter what the product, capitalism will find a way. Smash capitalism, not the planet!


By email

Clampdown gets nastier

The Ministry of Justice is acting unlawfully by attaching what are known as “additional licence conditions” to many released prisoners.

These aim to restrict where people can live and work, and who they can see and how they can communicate.

They have implemented a blanket policy instead of the case by case consideration that should be applied. 

This was happening before the coronavirus crisis, but you can imagine how much more restrictive it is now.

Lee Morgan


Football 1 Safety 0

It seems the authorities are trying to soften us up for ending the lockdown.

Talk of restarting the football season is one way of doing that. Of course, all us fans would like to watch games during lockdown, but let’s think of the cost. 

Football going back would be used as an excuse for the return to “business as usual”.

Leigh Camp

West London

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