The Government has released new guidelines and new procedures regarding lockdown in recent days. As I am sure you are all aware, many workers, especially those who are in manufacturing and construction are being encouraged to return to work. This comes alongside demands of “attempting to avoid public transport” and that business’ will be “COVID – Secure.” This new agenda, delivered on Sunday evening, came alongside a confusing staged system, and a message that the NHS had sufficient capacity if this “R” value remains below 1. As such, when looking at the whole picture, it appears to me that this rushed return to work is a gamble, a gamble with workers’ lives.
The guidance itself is detailed very briefly in the new 50-page document released by the Government in regards to new measures, in which “All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.” This begun last Wednesday. This is a blatantly quick return to work considering the lack of preparation. This news was dropped on this country on Sunday, with very little notice for employees or employers. As such, this promise by the Government for making workplaces “Covid-Secure” is clearly an empty promise. With PPE already at a premium, and many workplaces requiring fairly close proximity to one another when working, it simply will not be safe for many workers.
As well as this, the Government had the audacity to recommend “not using public transport if possible.” Firstly, this was dropped with so little notice that even if some could make alternative arrangements, it is unlikely they would have time to do so. Secondly, it comes from a very privileged view that workers travel to work by public transport by choice and not by economic requirement, considering the massive expense of owning and running a private vehicle. And thirdly, it also shows a blatant lack of preparation or protection for workers, this being one of the only pieces of “advice” given in addition to being told to return to work, and it is weak advice, and shows the sheer incompetence of the state to prepare. The cart has truly been put in front of the horse on this matter.
Furthermore, the emphasis on employers is very worrying. Boris announced, on Monday, that “spot checks” would occur on businesses to ensure that the workplaces were secure. Spot checks, in this regard, usually involve a handful of thousands of businesses and workplaces being checked, and then all of them being rubber-stamped for approval, leaving potentially thousands at risk. Considering that employers have been unable to earn money from their labourer’s for some time, and further taking into account the Government’s new proposal of asking employers to cover part of the cost of the furlough scheme almost guarantees that, in order for their precious profits to continue, workers will be forced into work, with little protection, and they can do little to complain (another reason for this hasty decision), since the vice of wage slavery ensures that they need that job, regardless of risk, to feed their families and themselves.
This has all occurred too fast, and with too little preparation. Everything, from how to make COVID-secure workplaces to how to ensure there is enough PPE, is coming after, and sometimes well after, the initial announcement of sending them back to work. With much of Europe coming out of lockdown and restarting their economies, Boris announcing that the NHS has capacity at this current time, clearly shows the intentions of this fast and flippant return to work announcement. He is risking the lives of workers, whom he so desperately now needs to restart his precious economy and to save the billionaires and those in power to see if it will work. This gamble is placed alongside a barely coping NHS, and as such, most likely many will become infected and even die, in an attempt to save himself and those around him.
Don’t allow him to gamble you away for those in power. Don’t let them put yourself or your fellow comrades in danger to save the billionaires. Fight back, and organise, join a union and ensure you are protected, look out for one another, and ensure you can keep your comrades and families are fed and safe. Workers are normally the first to be thrown under the bus when those at the top must be saved. Let this crisis show them that you aren’t their bargaining chips anymore.
Photo: Joe Reynolds