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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 March 2020

Coronavirus: workers must not pay the price!

System in crisis


Coronavirus   (Click to enlarge)

"Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time," warns Boris Johnson, as coronavirus spreads.

In fact because of austerity, too many families have already 'lost loved ones before their time.'

He never warned that a decade of Tory austerity would lead to an estimated 150,000 premature deaths in England alone... or that women in the poorest 10% of the country would die an average 7.5 years younger than women in the wealthiest 10%. The poverty life expectancy gap for men is 9.3 years.

Now coronavirus Covid-19 shines a spotlight on public services the Tories have cut to the bone. Even the service now central to planning the response to this epidemic - Public Health - has suffered a 700 million cut since 2015. Skilled health workers' jobs have disappeared.

Years of pay freeze or below-inflation pay rises, dangerously high workloads and bullying management policies drove many out of the NHS. There are 100,000 NHS staff vacancies, including 40,000 nursing posts. In the largely privatised social care sector there are 122,000 unfilled posts.

Tory abolition of health students' bursaries and charging high tuition fees slashed recruitment. Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget announced a mere 5,000 bursary - less than the 8,000 before abolition - while the 9,000 a year fee stays.

Boris Johnson, when mayor of London in 2015 and confronted with a shortage of 10,000 nurses, arrogantly said, "You can afford to be a nurse and live in London." What would he know about trying to survive, let alone raise a family, on a nurse's wage?

When junior doctors were striking in 2016 to defend their working conditions and the service they provide, Johnson said they would "surely endanger the lives of patients." Those same doctors are now working under great pressure to keep on top of this growing crisis.

The coronovirus threat to patients' lives has been magnified by the Tory drive to undermine all public services so that big business and the super-rich pay less tax and turn our services into privatised profit-generators.

It isn't bankers, stockbrokers or property speculators who are needed in this crisis, but ambulance staff, porters, radiographers, cleaners, secretaries, laboratory workers and every other health worker. They are working incredibly hard, reorganising wards and hospitals while treating patients and trying to keep themselves and other patients infection-free.

Private hospitals should be taken over for NHS use. Suitable hotels should also be taken over, at least for convalescence, as the shortage of trained staff limits their use as hospitals.

Health workers' mental health as well as that of the general public and those in isolation is under strain. Children are anxious, picking up on news often distorted through social media. Again, years of cuts to school budgets and mental health services mean services and support staff aren't there when needed.

Evidence from China shows children are least likely to be affected by serious coronavirus illness. However, teachers and other school staff may become ill and need time off work. If there aren't enough staff, schools should close, not combine classes. Education unions should make these decisions on a school-by-school basis.

Over-70-year-olds have been told to isolate themselves, potentially for months. This will increase depression, physical ill-health and other problems.

Community care is another vital service turned into a privatised industry, exploiting its low-paid workers and neglecting the real needs of its service users. How can anyone, allowed just 15 minutes a visit, take all the hygiene measures needed to prevent spread of infection?

As well as anxiety about a new virus for which there is no vaccine or treatment, many workers and small businesses are desperately anxious about their jobs and pay. The government should announce a mortgage and rent holiday for anyone unable to work because of this crisis. Small landlords should be compensated, but big property companies and banks should bear the cost.

Workers must not pay the price of the coronavirus crisis. No worker should lose their job, be forced to take holidays or be laid off with loss of pay. All workers who have to self-isolate or are unable to work because of the crisis should receive full pay from day one.

We cannot trust the Tories, or the system they represent, to keep us safe or defend our interests. We need democratic working-class and community oversight of the measures that are taken to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Local communities are already self-organising to help the vulnerable. Workers' action will be necessary to enforce health and safety as in Italy.

This crisis has exposed the rottenness of the capitalist market system organised around competition and the pursuit of profit. It has shown the desperate need for a coordinated plan to organise the production and distribution of goods and services.

But the level of cooperation and planning needed to protect us when disasters hit, to guarantee us the basics in life and to safeguard the environment, will only be possible in a differently organised society - a socialist system based on public ownership of the major companies and financial institutions, under democratic working-class control and management.

This is what the Socialist Party is fighting for. Join us now!

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

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In The Socialist 18 March 2020:

Workplace news and analysis

Stop Press: postal workers deliver massive strike vote and offer to become additional 'emergency service'

East London bin workers strike to get back unpaid holiday pay

Determined St Mungo's homelessness workers strike for three days

International socialist news and analysis

French local elections: CWI candidate elected

New pamphlet: constituent assemblies and the revolutionary programme

Socialist history

South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre


Coronavirus: workers must not pay the price!

Capitalist crisis and corona: Johnson's budget for the bosses

Coronavirus - a workers charter 2020

Coronavirus: socialist planning, not capitalist chaos!

Coronavirus housing emergency - suspend rent and mortgage payments, seize empty homes

PCS union demands better deal for benefits claimants

Councils must break austerity rules

Action needed to protect shop workers and access to essential goods

Coronavirus hospital worker: amazing response from staff - but worst still to come

'Health not profit' strike wave sweeps Italy

United States: private healthcare exposed as Trump throws money at markets

Workers at Lewisham coronavirus hospital walk out after not being paid

Coronavirus - waste processing employers putting us at risk

Bexley bin workers strike over lack of hand sanitiser

Going viral: socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis

Under the microscope: socialist coronavirus news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Help us fund the Socialist

Stop gentrification of Lea Bridge

Tory student plot defeated at Cardiff uni

Nottingham uni occupation ends

Socialist Students speaking tour

Selling the Socialist

Readers' opinion

TV: Noughts and Crosses


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