Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1080/30517
From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2020
Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland
ABP Meats Lurgan, Northern Ireland (Click to enlarge)
CWI member, Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland virtually every manufacturer continued to operate as normal following the coronavirus lockdown, which led to rising confusion and then mounting anger.
Employers in aerospace manufacture - those producing doors, windows, electronics, concrete pipes, wooden fence poles and luxury carpets - all made the case that they were essential. The entire construction sector claimed its sites were 'essential' as well.
While workers could be stopped and fined for coming within two metres of someone on the street, they were expected to work shoulder to shoulder with colleagues on the factory floor. While people were being told to avoid hand-shaking, to wash their hands, or use hand sanitiser to protect themselves, when it came to ensuring profits continued to roll in for the boss, workers were expected to freely handle the same equipment as hundreds of workplace colleagues.
At some workplaces, workers started to develop symptoms and were forced to self-isolate.
The revulsion of workers at the disparity of the words telling them of the importance of infection control precautions and the reality in the factory grew, as did a clear understanding of its root in the employers' drive for profits. After a day of mounting anger, the largest and most effectively unionised workplace in the private sector, Bombardier, was largely forced into a temporary shutdown, with furloughed workers receiving 80% of their pay.
Employees in unionised meatpacking companies organised walkouts - at first, 80 workers at ABP Meats in Lurgan, and then several hundred at Moy Park in Portadown.
The issue of infection control, and the denial of social distancing and PPE, dominated the media as workers across the entire manufacturing sector started to expose what they were experiencing.
In general, the demand in non-food manufacturing was for a temporary or partial shutdown, with workers furloughed on full or 80% pay. In essential workplaces like retail, the demand was for rigorous social distancing and PPE.
The wave of walkouts continued with about 60 workers at Linden Foods in Dungannon refusing to enter for several hours. Like the other walkouts, this one resulted in a commitment to improvements from bosses.
Growing numbers of non-essential businesses are being forced to shut down by workers 'voting with their feet'.
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In The Socialist 31 March 2020:
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
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
Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants
More than ever, we need accountable union leaders
Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism
Building the Socialist Party
Going viral - Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis
The Socialist 31 March 2020 |
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