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We have to fight to stop return to work

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Issue 2703
Boris Johnson cant wait to tell us to get back to work
Boris Johnson can’t wait to tell us to get back to work (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)

The Tories have spent the past month telling us, “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.” They may as well adopt a new mantra now—“Get back to work, protect the economy, save the bosses.”

Boris Johnson is set to unveil a “road map” to ending the lockdown on Sunday. Tories and the bosses are desperate to get profits flowing again. They could scrap safety rules that, up until now, we were told are crucial to stopping the spread of coronavirus.

In parliament on Monday Tory Sir Graham Brady demanded an end to “arbitrary limitations on freedom as quickly as possible”. He whined that people had been “a little too willing to stay at home”.

Prior to this, right wing papers attacked ordinary people for “flouting” the lockdown by going to parks. Now the same papers publish the same photos to denounce us for being in parks but not being in work.

First we were responsible for spreading coronavirus. Now we are to blame for trashing the economy. Whatever the message, ordinary people get the blame.

Polls show that a majority of people support continuing the lockdown. Many fear being pushed back to work in unsafe conditions—and rightly so.

People still at work, such as health workers and bus drivers, are dying because they don’t have enough safety equipment. And under the Tories’ draft guidance, bosses get to decide what’s needed to keep us safe.

Our lives are more than a bargaining chip in talks with government officials

So they could “consider” limiting how many workers are in a vehicle. And they could help people with health conditions work from home “where possible”.

One radical suggestion is for workers to avoid sharing pens. And the two-metre social distancing recommendation could be scrapped. The guidance is so poor that it has pushed Labour and union leaders, including TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, to speak out.

O’Grady wrote in the Guardian newspaper that it amounted to little more than the government “crossing its fingers that employers will act responsibly”.

Even Labour leader Keir Starmer raised a few criticisms. But we can’t trust Labour or the union leaders to fight for our safety.

Starmer has spent weeks echoing the bosses in demanding an “exit strategy” to the lockdown. And unions have been in talks with the Tories about how to calm people’s safety fears enough to get them back to work.

The slightly harder rhetoric from some may be a temporary shift to strengthen their position in these talks.

Tens of thousands more people will die if the Tory plans go ahead. And disgracefully, lack of money will make many feel they have no choice but to return to work.

Our lives are more than a bargaining chip in talks with government officials.

It will take resistance from working class people to keep us safe.

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