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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 May 2020


No increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions for workers and passengers

A poster at a London tube station

A poster at a London tube station   (Click to enlarge)

RMT members in London

There are reports the government is considering abandoning advice to maintain two metres social distancing.

This comes as no surprise to the RMT. We had seen a presentation by London Underground to the International Union of Public Transport in which it argued that social distancing must be reduced to 0.5 metres in order to meet the expected demands for capacity under a "soft lockdown".

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the so-called science can be changed according to whatever the government wants to do at any given time.

For all the fancy talk about working in the national interest, and cooperation between industry and unions, we are seeing the same old disregard for workers as the bosses try to get the economy moving again.

Let's be clear. We all understand the need to be able to produce the stuff we need. Our public services and day-to-day needs cannot be met if the whole economy is shut down. But getting it moving cannot be left in the hands of the same government and bosses that have made such a mess of the crisis so far.

The fact that the UK did not have, and cannot manufacture, sufficient PPE or tests is not an unavoidable consequence of the emergence of coronavirus. The government modelled a pandemic just like this back in 2016. It concluded that the NHS would not have enough critical care beds or ventilators. It did nothing.

Workers on the tube and across public transport services must be able to maintain two metres social distancing unless, and until, it is clearly safe to move away from this. The only mitigation for working without social distancing is PPE, and that doesn't mean wrapping a scarf around your face. With proper PPE unavailable we have no mitigations in place on London Underground

There are 20,000 London bus drivers, and there are at least 22 known coronavirus deaths among them. That's a rate of more than one per 1,000. Far higher than the rate for NHS staff. Many bus drivers believe this tragedy was avoidable, and was made worse than it could have been by the refusal of Transport for London and the bus companies to seal the front doors and limit boarding to the middle doors. Eventually this has been done, but too late for many.

Tube workers want to provide an essential service, but not with a reckless disregard for our safety.

We have not looked to shut down the tube in this crisis. RMT members have demonstrated a commitment to provide a service to those who really need to travel around London. We will also get that service back up to a more intensive service when we can do so safely and without gambling with our lives. We will not have a near full service imposed on us by politicians and bosses who only care about themselves.

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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.
  • 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 5 May 2020:

What we think

Bosses push to lift lockdown - they only care about profits

Coronavirus news

Dispatches from the NHS front

Bail out the real wealth creators, not the rich

Homes needed to end overcrowding

Homeless left on streets during pandemic

Pay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!


Your donations can keep the Socialist going

Test and trace

Test and trace: workers need a real plan

Tories using pandemic to shift lab testing out of NHS

Workplace news

Nationalise British Airways to stop 12,000 redundancies

Postal workers force Royal Mail back

No increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions for workers and passengers

Unsafe Workplace? "It's up to you" PCS tells reps and members

Further protests in Ireland against Debenhams closures - UK fightback needed

Rolls Royce threatens 8,000 job losses

EDF Energy workers furloughed on 100% pay

International news

India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

US: Trump's public health cuts have condemned thousands worldwide

Trump puts profit before safety (again)

Lessons from history

The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2


Peter Hadden remembered

Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

TV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?


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