Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1078/30433
Coronavirus: workers must not pay the price!
System in crisis
- Full NHS funding now!
- Full pay from day one of isolation
- Fight for socialist planning to end capitalist chaos
"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!
In The Socialist 18 March 2020:
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
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