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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 March 2020

Scandalous conditions in food distribution centre: hygiene now!

Warehouse, photo Trougnouf/CC

Warehouse, photo Trougnouf/CC   (Click to enlarge)

A distribution centre worker

"Too little, too late" is ringing in many workers' ears. In my workplace, a food distribution centre, it definitely echoes. A worker on the morning shift, who had been with the company decades, was recently confirmed to have the virus.

It took until last week for management to make some minimal, last-minute provisions. Hand gel stations were put in just days ago. Not all equipment is sterilised. Smoking areas are cramped, and bike sheds are not allowed to be used for smoking.

The company has liquidated certain product chains to focus on high-demand goods. Bosses are dragging their heels with health and safety - but sprinting towards recruitment drives.

We have an intake of hundreds of new starters over the next few weeks. Agency workers are to be trained in clusters of ten. Social distancing is not enforced during training.

All this is weeks after the World Health Organisation and later the government named the virus a threat, and days after the national lockdown. A collective worry is that coronavirus carriers could already have infected co-workers, or even people receiving the food.

Messages are regularly sent to staff via Tannoy and wrist trackers to thank us for our hard work during the crisis. But like the recent hand-clap for NHS staff, it raises the question of how workers in essential sectors are really treated at this time.

Although performance measurement has been quietly suspended for directly employed workers, the agency workers are not told this. And once 'normal' is restored, will it be the 'normal' we had before, the normal that laid the foundations of this crisis?

The bosses have offered us a 10% pay rise. We should bite into this - with lockjaw! But let's remember that a couple of months ago they offered us a below-inflation 1.8% insult in wage negotiations. This was promptly rejected by over 90% of balloted workers.

Managers have left the shopfloor and stay holed up in the office. Notices displayed outside tell workers to only enter when called. Even then we are separated from management by a glass window with speakers attached.

Tensions seem to be sharpening recently. If the bosses won't guarantee hygiene, their firms should be nationalised to keep us safe. The lost time is blood on the hands of the capitalists and their system.

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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.

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  • 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 30 March 2020:


Coronavirus news

NHS workers speak out: austerity has left us unprepared

Schools: union oversight needed to end chaos in provision under coronavirus

Councils must use resources now for emergency response

NHS supply chain worker: privatisation has cut equipment quantity and quality

Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!

Fully fund hospices to care for vulnerable children

Scandalous conditions in food distribution centre

Coronavirus news in brief


World War Two

All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth


What we think

PPE, tests, full pay - for all now

Labour must resist 'Covid coalition': Workers need their own voice and party

Emergency legislation: Trade unions must be on guard against attacks on workers' interests


Food supply and the coronavirus crisis

Capitalism means empty shelves, food insecurity, and soaring profits - the case for a socialist alternative


Workplace news

Key workers should make bold demands

Essential workers deserve more

Working in Mike Ashley's empire: After lockdown we won't forget how we've been treated

Hull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland

Bus drivers halt sackings - now restore our pay

Postal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail

Working from home during the pandemic

Leicester: Nylacast worker exposes truth

Refuse collection workers strike


Benefits

Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants

More than ever, we need accountable union leaders


Campaigns

Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism

Building the Socialist Party


Readers' opinion

Going viral - Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis


 

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Related links:

Coronavirus:

triangleWe need union action, not platitudes!

triangleTories' school meals outrage

triangleLockdown: suspicion and anger

triangle'Firebreak' lockdown fails to protect workers

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triangleFood and a capitalist Brexit: No trust in Tory Deals!

triangleUnder the microscope

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triangleSolidarity not charity

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trianglePPE contracts: It pays to have friends in high places

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triangleHeathrow workers to strike against 'fire and rehire' plans

US:

triangleCripTales: A painful reflection of a system that pits us against each other

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Trump defeated - what next for US workers?

Agency workers:

triangleContinue the fight to protect safety

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