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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2020

Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland

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

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In The Socialist 31 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:

Northern Ireland:

triangleCovid pandemic and Northern Ireland - workers must resist the bosses' offensive

triangleTwo-metre rule under 'review' - Another case of profit before safety

triangleMay Day 2020: join the protests - wear red, bring flags and banners

triangleNorthern Ireland's strike wave

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Northern Ireland - Workers' unity to cut across sectarian divisions

Ireland:

triangleBritain's fragile Covid equilibrium is coming to an end

triangleIreland: Debenham's occupier speaks out

triangleIreland: Debenham's workers occupy stores

triangleDebenhams: Fighting closures and redundancies

Workers:

trianglePPE contracts: It pays to have friends in high places

triangleStop the Tories putting profit before health

triangleHeathrow workers to strike against 'fire and rehire' plans

Manufacturing:

triangleOptare strikers escalate their action

trianglePlastic waste ignored

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