Rage against the Tories at Eastbourne leadership hustings

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Tory hustings protest in Eastbourne with protestors holding placards which read never truss a tory, and defy tory rule

Eastbourne protests at the hustings united different groups and individuals (Picture: John Hesse)

Over 200 protesters confronted the Rishi Sunak-Liz Truss hustings roadshow on Friday in the Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne.

Speaking to camera outside the venue a bemused-sounding BBC journalist struggled to be heard above chants of “Tories out” and “Refugees welcome here”.  “It seems that every protester in East Sussex is here,” he said.

Meanwhile inside the event half a dozen young people from Green New Deal Rising and Just Stop Oil had blagged their way into the Centre to successfully disrupt the event to call for climate action.  Typically rather than address the climate emergency Liz Truss vowed to crack down on protests and strikes.

Local protesters had gathered at Eastbourne station to welcome groups arriving from Hastings, Lewes, Brighton, Newhaven and Seaford. Then they marched to the hustings venue behind the East Sussex RMT Coastway union banner.

Eastbourne Trades Council and Eastbourne Stand up to Racism (SUTR) initiated the protest. Organiser Louise Walton from SUTR said, “Once we called the protest we immediately reached out to environmental groups and refugee support groups across East Sussex including Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups and the local Bespoke campaign which fights for improved cycle facilities in the town.

“We didn’t wait until the venue was known before putting the call out.”

Rachael from the local XR group said “Some good connections were made with different groups. Working together is how we win!”

Chelsea heard about the protest from a friend. She said “I went straight to the Welcome Centre, the hustings venue. There was just me and small groups of right-wing people. I felt very alone but then I heard the protest coming round the corner. What a wonderful sight. I wasn’t on my own anymore.”

When the march arrived at the centre protesters took over the concourse which was the entry point to the hustings. They drowned out and sidelined small numbers of conspiracy theorists and UKIP supporters.

Tories attending the event had no choice but to make their way past the protest while the crowd chanted “Welcome every refugee, throw the Tories in the sea”, “Sunak, Truss hear us say—tax the rich and make them pay” and “What do we want? Climate justice.”

At one point a visibly shaken Caroline Ansell, the local Tory MP, emerged to remonstrate with police saying “this is unacceptable”.

After an hour or so of chanting, protesters held a short rally. Keith Mitchell from the RMT received a rousing reception and warned of Tory plans to outlaw effective strike action. Other speakers condemned the government’s Rwanda deportation policy and the support of both candidates for fracking.

  • Future Tory hustings are: Tue 9 August Darlington, Thu 11 August Cheltenham, Tue 16 August Perth, Fri 19 August Manchester, Tue 23 August Birmingham, Thu 25 August Norwich, Wed 31 August London

‘Pay was the tip of the iceberg’—Amazon striker writes

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Amazon striker in an organge high visibility vest with a placard demanding pay rise

Amazon workers fight back in a series of wildcat strikes (Picture: twitter/@walkout20201)

I am one of the workers that walked out on Thursday at BHX4 in Coventry. The pay is only the tip of the iceberg of the issues we face at our fulfilment centre, and discontent has been brewing for a while. 

We worked through the entire Covid pandemic, including the lockdowns, with little to no thanks for doing a dangerous job.

All we wanted was the £2 more than they paid us in the first lockdown. We get told that we are breaking records with how fast we work, but we don’t get any thanks.

The day they announced the pay rise, we were told to buy tickets for a summer party for which Amazon had hired an event centre. Of course, they didn’t ask us if that was what we actually wanted. 

Managers are constantly watching us for drops in productivity or idle time. If anyone is caught using a phone, even if it’s an emergency or for a medical reason, we are automatically put into investigation meetings. 

This is especially frustrating as we see management using their phones and laptops while walking around machinery with no punishment whatsoever.

When we walked out on Thursday, we did so peacefully and with a valid reason. The site manager came into the canteen area with a megaphone and told us we had 30 minutes to come up with the reasoning and send someone to him. We refused to do this as we were standing united. 

He returned later, and we told him that the pay was our main issue. We were then told he would “take it away and try to get an answer” and “other sites have the same issue but can’t tell us when we are getting any answer back”. 

After that we heard that if we refused to go back to work, we would be clocked out and would not be paid for the time we didn’t work. 

On Friday morning about 100 associates walked out and protested outside. All of these associates have been told they will be sacked for this action.

Amazon made over £20 billion in profit in the last year while our bills continue to increase. In the four years I have been at BHX4, my pay has only gone up by £1 in total.

All we want is fair pay for our work, and the sooner Amazon management realises it, the better. Amazon uses the principle of “have backbone, disagree and commit.” Well, Amazon has tried to break our backbone, we disagree with the pay rise and commit to being heard. 

  • On Friday the GMB union said Amazon workers’ protests where workers slow down their work to one package an hour were taking place at Tilbury, Dartford, Belvedere, Hemel Hempstead and Chesterfield. This is in addition to walkouts and stoppages at sites including Tilbury, Coventry, Bristol and Rugeley.
  • Dave is a pseudonym

Is it true that the 1970s are back?

Posted on: August 6th, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
Women on the picket line outside the Yardley cosmetics factory during struggle in the 1970s

Women on strike for equal pay at Yardley cosmetics factory in 1977 in Basildon

Do soaring inflation and the growing number of strikes mean we’re going back half a century to an era of flared trousers and flare-ups in society? Inflation is taking off as it did from the late 1960s onwards, peaking at over 24 percent a year in 1975. But this time the acceleration of price rises is far quicker even if it hasn’t hit such heights—yet.

And again, as last week’s interest rate rise signals, ­spiralling prices could be combined with a recession where growth dies and people lose their jobs. That’s what happened between 1973 and 1975. But it’s the return of strikes that most want to analyse. 

The Sun’s front page ­headline recently read, “We regret to announce that this country is returning to the 1970s.” And it went on—in its usual lying mode—“Teachers and binmen threaten to join railway workers’ strike—causing chaos not seen since the 1970s.” The message is that the 1970s was a squalid decade of mayhem imposed by ­bullying trade unions who wrecked everyone’s lives in pursuit of their selfish demands. Everyone should try to prevent any return to this abyss.

In fact, there is a lot to celebrate about the 1970s. The greatest wave of strikes since the 1920s massively boosted workers’ confidence and terrified the ruling class. National miners’ strikes defeated the Tory government. An openly political strike freed the imprisoned Pentonville Five union activists and smashed anti-union laws.

There was the biggest ­building strike ever with 300,000 people out over 12 weeks. At the Saltley Gate coke works in Birmingham during the 1972 miners’ battle, strikers won a victory that became a symbol of workers’ power. Tens of thousands of striking miners and other workers who had walked out to join them defeated the police and shut down the depot.

Tory MP Douglas Hurd was then parliamentary private secretary to prime minister Edward Heath. He recorded in his diary that the government was “vainly wandering over the battlefield looking for someone to surrender to, and being massacred all the time”. By the end of 1973 Tory industry minister John Davies told his family, “We must enjoy this Christmas for it may be our last one.”

The number of strike days rose from fewer than five million in 1968 to 13.5 million in 1971 and 23.9 million in 1972. For comparison, the 2018 figure was 273,000. Millions of workers won pay rises that matched or beat inflation and stopped job cuts. 

The fantastic high points of struggle encouraged fights by groups of women workers, the very low paid and those who had never been in unions before. They included cleaners, care workers, ambulance drivers, school meals workers, nurses, food workers and more. A powerful example came in January 1970 as the wage revolt spread to clothing ­workers in Leeds. 

The mainly women workers at one firm, John Collier, struck and then pulled out other firms until 25,000 were on strike. Vince Hall, writing in Socialist Worker, reported, “I went along with 300 marching people down to the Woodhouse area of Leeds. They were singing ‘We shall overcome’. The demonstrators, mostly women, surrounded the small factory of H Spender Ltd and swarmed round it shouting ‘Out, out, out’. 

 

“They banged on the windows and pushed open the doors.” Women “rushed in screaming ‘Support us’, ‘Don’t be blacklegs’, ‘Stop scabbing’. The place was shut down inside ten minutes. The demonstrators moved on, blocking traffic and taking over the whole street while nervous policemen looked on.”

Next the “incensed” women tackled the Hall Schiller Ltd factory. Here workers were unsure about joining in for fear of the sack. But “the continuous uproar and singing and shouting ­outside proved too much. Several ashen-faced men walked out nervously into the crowd. Later the rest of the women ran out.”

Such glorious moments weren’t because of left wing union ­leaders. The John Collier strikers’ demand for an extra shilling (5p) an hour for all workers was denounced by the national union officials. They were asking for far less, and for bigger increases for men than women. But that didn’t hold back the strikers who described a sense of fighting for each other and for young people.

It wasn’t just that there were lots more strikes. Strikers developed the tactic of “flying pickets”. These moved from workplace to workplace shutting down those still working and stopping the movement of goods linked to the strike. Militant methods became normal—between March and May 1972 there were 57 separate sit-ins going on. 

Unions of teachers, civil service workers and hospital workers were blooded in struggle and became real class organisations. Who—apart from bosses, Tories, union bureaucrats and Labour politicians—wouldn’t want this to return? But there are big differences. Today one in four workers are in a union. In 1979 it was twice as many. So far we have seen only glimpses of the confidence of the early 70s.

It’s great to see more strikes, but there will be sharp battles to win more big unions to join the fight and to hold hard-hitting action. Union leaders hold back from defying the anti-union laws, and most activists go along with them.

We have to build on the signs of hope. Looking at the videos of the Amazon workers’ unofficial walkout last week in Tilbury, what shines through is the ­confidence of those involved. They don’t care what ­management says. They’re angry over pay and want action. Ralph Darlington has ­written extensively on workers’ struggles of the 1970s. 

He told Socialist Worker last week, “One of the big differences from then to now is the absence of an organised network of rank and file workers who had at least some independence from the national union officials. “In the 1970s the Communist Party (CP)—for all its faults—and its Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions (LCDTU) were very important.  

“Although they sought official support, they were ­prepared to initiate unofficial action against the anti-union laws put forward under both Labour and Tory governments. There was a powerful ­network of shop stewards created during 25 years of economic boom after the Second World War, and the Communist Party provided a political glue for those people.”

That goes to the issue of politics. The CP did call independent actions, and the LCDTU could itself organise strikes which half a million workers joined. But the CP also hobbled the strike movement. It glued together a network of militants but also stuck them to people who would liquidate the strikes.

It had no vision separate from left wing union leaders such as Hugh Scanlon of the engineers and Jack Jones of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. So, when these leaders decided to turn against unofficial strikes, the CP went along with them. From as early as 1973 Jones and Scanlon were urging Chrysler car workers to abandon solidarity and work alongside contractors ­scabbing on a strike by Chrysler electricians.

The election of a Labour government in 1974 also saw these union leaders agree to pay cuts for workers to help out “their” government. Labour, as committed as the Tories to “modernising” British capitalism, forced through a wage-slashing social contract. And the union leaders went along with it, encouraging strike-breaking as they went. 

The Labour government cut real wages, succeeding where the Tories failed. And the recession sapped the confidence of some of the militants who had earlier led strikes. A revival of action in 1977 and then the Winter of Discontent in 1978-9 weren’t based on the sense of class unity. 

Nor did they have the exuberant hope that had marked the earlier period. That means there was a general drift rightwards. What was missing was to link the workplace struggles to other political issues of the time—British oppression in Northern Ireland, anti-racism, the reason why Labour fails. 

Today, rediscovering the verve and assurance of the best of the 1970s can resonate with anti-racists, climate campaigners and fighters against oppression who won’t bow down to Labour. That doesn’t mean going back to the 1970s. It means going forward to something better.

Activists oppose far right attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour

Posted on: August 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
image of protestors outside portsmouth library

Counter-protest to push back the far right bigots outside Portsmouth library (Picture: Stand Up To Racism)

Activists are organising counter-protests to far right attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour events at libraries.

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) are mobilising in several towns and cities, including Leeds on Saturday.

Drag Queen Story Hour events with drag queen Aida H Dee are story-telling sessions for parents and children. But the far right wants to shut them down. This includes the fascist party Patriotic Alternative—led by Mark Collett, the former leader of the Nazi British National Party’s youth wing,

SUTR said, “We condemn the attempts by some on the far right to foster the pernicious myth that drag is a kind of ‘child grooming’ or in some way sexual, leading to accusations of paedophilia.”

Aida H Dee said her performances aimed at 3–11-year-olds have no sexual language. It comes as a survey by Just Like Us showed that 55 percent of LGBT+ 11 to 18-year-olds are anxious about their mental health on a daily basis. In comparison, 26 percent of non-LGBT+ people feel the same.

Three confrontations took place in Brighton on Thursday. Steve Guy, a local socialist activist, reports that some 150 to 180 supporters of the drag queen faced off around 35 opponents at the central library.

They were armed with video cameras and broadcasting equipment, with around eight outright fascists among them. The rest were a mix of conspiracy theorists, religious activists and anti-vaxxers, including Piers Corbyn “whipping them up to provoke violence”.

“There were clashes, but because of the numbers they were containable,” Steve said. “When the parents finally emerged from the reading session, we cheered and applauded them.”

Some SUTR and trades council banners joined the counter-protests. “But the majority of the pro-drag queen forces were young people,” Steve says. “The second confrontation at Hove library was a slightly less well-attended affair, on their side as well as ours.

He added, “There was a noticeable absence of hardcore Nazis.

“But the narrow pavement which we shared with them meant that intermingling was inevitable. When the clashes came there were two arrests.” This involved one from each side.

A library in Woodingdean outside of Brighton cancelled the event as the bigots intercepted the drag queen, harassing her.

Steve says overall the counter-mobilisations were a success “as without it the right wing would have succeeded in intimidating the parents attending these events”.

Weyman Bennett, SUTR national co-convenor, said fascists, the far right and bigots are attempting “to stir up hatred against LGBT+ communities”.  

“It’s clear that the bigotry expressed in the Tory leadership contest is giving confidence to the far right to go on the attack,” he said.

“Stand Up To Racism stands with LGBT+ communities and will be helping to build support events in coming weeks to oppose attempts to intimidate children, parents and LGBT+ people.”  

Join anti-racist and anti-fascist groups on solidarity protests, in Leeds on Saturday, Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales next Tuesday, Cardiff on 12 August, Rochdale on 16 August, Bolton on 17 August and Oxford on 23 August.  

Amazon striker speaks out

Posted on: August 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Picket line with a crowd of workers in orange high visibility vests outside an amazon fulfillment centre

Wildcat strike at Coventry Amazon fulfilment centre (Picture: twitter/@Walkout20201)

An Amazon striker says “everyone stayed out” after bosses tried to intimidate them back to work.

Ben, who works at the BHX4 fulfilment centre in Coventry, is one of the hundreds of Amazon workers who’ve joined wildcat strikes at sites across Britain since Wednesday. “Yesterday was the main event,” he told Socialist Worker. “We had people on the day and night shift walk out.

“We had over 300 people that stopped working. We only planned to strike two hours before it actually happened. When we did, the managers said we wouldn’t get paid unless we returned to work. But everyone stayed and didn’t go back.

“Today we had around 30 to 40 people who went on strike and walked out and marched into town.”

Ben added that he and other workers were inspired by the action in Tilbury. On Wednesday workers in the fulfilment centre in Tilbury, Essex, stopped working after being offered a tiny pay increase of 35p an hour.  

Videos on social media showed workers sitting in the canteen after downing tools. When a manager tried to persuade workers to get back to work, they responded with anger and made it clear they would not be going back. 

A manager is heard on social media saying that it “wasn’t safe to be gathered in the canteen”. To this, workers shouted back, “We are fine.” Amazon bosses also withdrew catering services and threatened to sack workers if they left the premises.

Ben explained why Amazon workers in Coventry decided to strike. “We were told on Wednesday that we would only get a 50p pay rise,” he said. “Of course people have been complaining about bills going up, then they offer us just 50p. 

“We worked through the pandemic and have made the company so much money. But in three years we’ve only received a 75p pay rise—including the 50p the bosses have just offered.”

Meanwhile, workers in the Rugeley Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire walked out on Wednesday after also being offered a pay increase of just 50p an hour. A worker at the warehouse told Staffordshire Lives, “Amazon Rugeley announced a 50p wage increase citing the local Rugeley pay rate average. 

“The news didn’t sit well with the associates, and more than 100 people walked out in the canteen as a protest, which affected a lot of customer shipments. It’s an embarrassment of an announcement that comes as a mockery towards current employees.”

The bosses were worried about action spreading to a warehouse in Bristol. They posted a sign outside that read that there would be no more “distribution of literature.” 

Poor pay and terrible conditions are pushing, often non-unionised workers, to organise themselves and take part in wildcat strikes and sit-ins. Around 100 workers at Cranswick Continental Foods in Pilsworth, Greater Manchester, launched a wildcat strike last Thursday.  

All of these strikes show a new mood of anger—and resistance—in the working class as the cost of living crisis deepens. Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners should go down to their nearest fulfilment centre to send solidarity to Amazon workers. 

  • Ben is a pseudonym

Thousands occupy Iraqi parliament as political crisis intensifies

Posted on: August 5th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
Muqtada al-Sadr siting with his hands folded in front of him

Supporters of political movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr shut down Iraqi Parliament (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

For a full week thousands of people occupied the Iraqi parliament in a standoff between rival political factions that could explode into gun battles in Baghdad.

Behind it is the crisis of a corrupt and sectarian system imposed by the US, meddling by regional powers, and the fate of an uprising by ordinary people.

Thousands of supporters of the Shia Muslim cleric and political movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the capital city’s militarised Green Zone—the site of government offices—last week.

It was part of a precariously managed confrontation between Sadr and other Shia political groups. All sides have armed wings or militias and—though they’ve been careful to avoid direct clashes—have mobilised their supporters on the streets. It comes after months of wrangling to end a stalemate that has left Iraq without a government for ten months.

A coalition led by Sadr came out of Iraq’s elections last October as the largest bloc in parliament. It ended the dominance of other Shia parties that have controlled most Iraqi governments in the past decade.

Sadr said he wanted to overturn the corrupt and sectarian system that had facilitated their rule. But—though he won the support of Sunni Muslim and Kurdish parties—he didn’t have enough support to form a government.

After months of arguing, manoeuvres and threats, in June Sadr suddenly ordered his supporters in parliament to resign. He accused the Shia groups of putting pressure on the other political blocs supporting him.

This left the Shia factions open to try and form a government themselves. But when they tried to nominate a prime minister late last month, Sadr called his supporters out onto the streets, where they stormed and occupied parliament. This is just one outcome of a deep crisis of the system the US installed after invading in 2003.

Under a sectarian political setup—which Iraq had never had before—power and government office was to be divided between different religious and ethnic groups. It drove division down into Iraqi society, but also fuelled corruption at the top of government.

Shia parties benefited most, as the system favoured them and allocated them the office of prime minister. But every party—Shia or Sunni—benefitted from the system that awarded them positions of power and wealth.

The US’s invasion also laid waste to Iraq’s economy and society, the corruption kept ordinary Iraqis impoverished—sparking repeated explosions of protests on the streets.

In 2018 tens of thousands of people mostly in the south of Iraq protested demanding funding for basic services such as energy and clean water. Electricity shortages had made life unbearable. The protesters explicitly linked the government’s failures to its corruption, including the involvement of Iran in Iraqi politics through the ruling Shia parties.

The country produces a vast amount of oil revenue. They asked why it was that oil companies and other states benefited while they suffered low wages and failing services.

And in 2019 an even bigger movement took over the centre of Baghdad. It called for an end to poverty and corruption—and the fall of the political system that fuelled them. After weeks of protests—which withstood bloody assaults by state forces and sectarian militias—the movement forced prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign.

Sadr played a complicated and contradictory role in all of this. He made a name for himself as the leader of an armed resistance movement that challenged the US occupation and humiliated the British army in Basra.

He’s rebranded himself as a type of Arab or Iraqi nationalist, and positioned himself as a champion of the poor against the corrupt, sectarian system. Yet he’s also tried to game and manipulate that system, making and breaking alliances with governments and opposition parties alike.

He has tens of thousands—if not millions—of supporters, many of them ready to take up arms.

At times he’s aligned himself with protest movements from below. And at other times—when he can’t control them—he’s turned on them. After originally joining the 2019 movement, Sadr ordered his armed supporters to side with the forces trying to drown the protests in blood in 2020.

That was one of the biggest blows to the movement and helped to drive it off the streets. Now, in its wake, Iraq’s political crisis could enter a new and bloody chapter.

Police watchdog suffers same ‘sickness’ as Met, says Daniel Morgan’s family

Posted on: August 4th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
an image of cressida dick in police uniform who  next to a portrait image of daniel morgan

The IOPC police watchdog excused Cressida Dick’s possible breach of “professional standards” in the Daniel Morgan case (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

Top cops breached their own “professional standards” over the murder of Daniel Morgan according to the police’s own tame watchdog—and nothing will be done about it.

Daniel Morgan was found in the car park of the Golden Lion pub, south London, with an axe in his head in 1987.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report comes after an independent panel last year found the Met was institutionally corrupt over the case.

Despite five police inquiries and an inquest spanning two decades no one has been convicted over Daniel’s death. The Metropolitan Police admitted corruption wrecked the original murder investigation, but has spent the following decades covering it up.

In June last year, an independent panel found the Met had been “institutionally corrupt” over the case.

The IOPC took 14 months to decide that nothing needed to be done about one of the worst scandals—in a crowded field—in the Met’s history. It said it had determined there was an “indication” Cressida Dick “may” have breached the standards of professional behaviour.

The findings relate to a period between 2013-2015 when she was an assistant commissioner and the senior officer responsible for the inquiry. But it concluded that no disciplinary action was necessary, saying there was “no evidence to indicate Commissioner Dick intended to protect corrupt officers”.

Daniel’s family reacted with anger and said they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the IOPC’s review. “What we find here is a rather shabby exercise by the IOPC to avoid the implications of the police corruption and criminality which the panel’s report compelled them to acknowledge,” they said.

“In the same vein, we see the IOPC forced to find that ex-commissioner Cressida Dick ‘may have breached police standards of professional behaviour’ in the obstructive stance she chose to adopt towards the work of the panel. But they then go to look for reasons not to use their powers to act on that finding.

“In doing so, the IOPC shows that it suffers the very sickness within its own ranks that it purports to diagnose within the Met.”

The panel inquiry last year said, “The panel has never received any reasonable explanation for the refusal over seven years by assistant commissioner Dick and her successors to provide access to the Holmes accounts to the Daniel Morgan independent panel.”

The IOPC in contrast said Dick had appeared to have “acted in the genuine belief she had a legitimate policing purpose”, due to concerns about protecting information. But she “may have got it wrong”.

The IOPC concluded, “There are no new avenues for investigation which could now result in either criminal or disciplinary proceedings”. Quite.

NHS in ‘apocalyptic’ crisis as wait times increase by 144 percent since 2019

Posted on: August 4th, 2022 by Jeandre Coetser No Comments
graffiti blue heart with the letters NHS in the middle

Years of cuts, staff shortages and privatisation has led to a major crisis in the NHS (Picture: Gordon Joly)

NHS accident and emergency (A&E) waits are now “apocalyptic”—and they could be driving 1,000 patient deaths a month.

But the government is systematically hiding the truth to cover-up the fatal consequence of years of cuts, staffing shortages and privatisation.

Almost 700,000 people have waited more than 12 hours in A&E in the first seven months of 2022, according to leaked NHS data. The “hidden” monthly trolley waits, not published in national data, have more than doubled compared to 2019.

The average number of people attending A&Es is similar to 2019 at 1.7 million, suggesting the waits are not driven by an increase in people using the service.

A cancer patient, who says she faced a wait of 31 hours in A&E, said it was like “a cattle market”. Tracy Summerson, who had nausea and a fever, was eventually admitted to Lincoln County Hospital last week. She said there were more than 30 other patients who waited a similar amount of time.

Summerson, who has stage four malignant melanoma, said, “There were people coming with sick bowls being sick next to you. When you are immune-suppressed you’re supposed to go in a side room out of germs’ way, but they needed all the rooms for consultations.”

The NHS has been collecting data on 12-hour waits, measured from the moment a patient arrives in A&E. This data is far higher than the official figures published by the NHS each month. They only measure the time waited after a decision to admit a patient is made.

Data obtained by The Independent newspaper shows a 144 percent increase in the monthly 12-hour waits from arrival in 2022 compared to 2019. It shot up from almost around 37,000 a month to almost 100,000.

Dr Katherine Henderson is president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine. “We have long known that the actual number of patients staying in emergency departments for over 12 hours have been hidden,” she said. “But these figures are worse than anyone could have imagined.

“These figures represent real people, real lives—lives being put at risk. While the pandemic will have had an impact, this is the consequence of years of unheeded warnings about the lack of beds, staff and social care available. A decade of underfunding is behind this, and the NHS is struggling to catch up.”

Meanwhile the Health Service Journal collated new data from 20 of the largest trusts and compared it with the publicly reported “trolley wait” figures.

For some trusts thousands of cases are captured under the new measure, compared to just tens of cases under the official trolley wait figures. They include Liverpool University Hospitals (LUH) Foundation Trust, Manchester University, Mid and South Essex, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust, and The Royal Wolverhampton Trust.

From the 20 trusts examined, there were around 33,000 cases in total under the new measure, around six times the 5,300 under the published figures.

Statistician Dr Steve Black around 1,000 additional patients a month may be dying in emergency departments because of long waits. He published a report on mortality rates in A&E earlier this year.

“The number of monthly waits also show clearly why Covid cannot be blamed for the current problems,” he said. “The current state of waits in major A&Es is apocalyptic and we are seeing neither honesty about the numbers nor any good ideas about how to improve them.”

Yet another cut in pay for NHS workers will make the situation even worse. That’s why, as well as battles to defend the NHS itself, there has to be a fight for above-inflation pay rises for health workers.

The regional health committee of the Unison union in the north west of England has agreed to make Friday 26 August a day of action, with each branch encouraged to do some pay activity on the day. It’s the day regulator Ofgem announces the next rise in fuel prices.

Such union events can build workplace strength, organise more activists, and to push for strikes against the government’s proposed pay cuts. They can also increase the pressure on union leaders not to back off.

The NHS is in crisis and resistance is crucial.