Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1078/30443
Action needed to protect shop workers and access to essential goods
Scott Jones, Usdaw shop workers' union member (personal capacity)
As the coronavirus crisis deepens, shop workers are becoming another 'emergency service' to ensure people can still access food and other items.
Due to demand and shortages of some goods, supermarkets are under immense pressure, with workers on the frontline and shoppers worried about buying essentials.
Where necessary, more workers must be recruited to ensure goods reach stores and homes, and to support overworked staff.
Socialist Party members in Usdaw, the shop workers' trade union, are calling for companies to agree rationing policies with the union nationally, but also allow leeway for union reps to agree local rationing policies with management where there are potential shortages in specific stores and areas.
There must be protection for workers in stores and delivery jobs:
- Workplace health and safety: discussions should be had around what measures are being taken to protect staff from the spread of coronavirus such as workplace overcrowding, enhanced cleaning procedures and the right to a safe working environment, free of abuse and assault.
- Sick pay: urgent negotiations should take place to ensure there is no economic incentive for staff to come into work ill. And there should be full pay for sickness leave from day one for workers who have to self-isolate. Workers who self-isolate should be exempt from attendance management procedures.
- Staffing levels: ensure there are no redundancies, lay-offs with loss of pay or imposed changes in working conditions due to supply issues or temporary workplace closures.
Shop workers must not pay the price for the coronavirus-related crisis in retail and can play a key role in the effective delivery and sale of essential goods.
Usdaw and other retail workers' unions should immediately convene democratic meetings of union reps from stores and distribution centres, alongside representatives of local shop customers.
The unions should demand a say in how the sale and distribution of goods is controlled, and consider direct action if the situation worsens.
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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.
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In The Socialist 18 March 2020:
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns