Tory second wave shambles

Locked down, hard up – Fight back!

photo - public domain

photo – public domain   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

  • Work or full pay
  • Health before profit
Elaine Brunskill, Socialist Party Northern region

As areas across the country face further lockdown measures there is growing frustration, anger and anxiety.

Under Chancellor Sunak’s recently announced ‘Job Support Scheme’, workers furloughed due to coronavirus restrictions will only receive two-thirds of their pay.

But workers will still have to pay 100% of the rent. And when we buy groceries we won’t be able to offer just two-thirds of the bill!

Adding insult to injury, evidence points to new restrictions being too little, too late to stop a killer second wave. The government’s expert Sage committee warned last month that an immediate two-week lockdown was imperative.

“Not acting now to reduce cases will result in a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences in terms of direct Covid-related deaths and the ability of the health service to meet needs.” The Tories ignored Sage, implementing only one of its five urgent recommendations. In or out of lockdown, big business profits come first!

Night after night, local news here in the North details the growing Covid-19 numbers. Within the space of three weeks, the daily total more than trebled.

In Newcastle, more than one in 200 people has tested positive – and rising. The number of Covid-positive students at Newcastle and Northumbria universities, within a stone’s throw of each other, has drastically increased – to over 1,600.

People are worried our area will end up in the strictest category of England’s three-tier lockdown system. There is a lot of apprehension about the impact of Tory plans.

This includes local authorities, who are complaining bitterly about the lack of communication from Johnson’s government. Meanwhile, Westminster has told councils they must share responsibility for controlling the spread, but without giving them adequate resources.

This is the same trick the Tories played with austerity, having local councils dutifully wield the axe for their cuts. Councils should have refused that and fought instead for more resources. It’s even more essential that councils and unions fight for full financial support for workers and public services now.

There is a lot of uncertainty about the future. I spoke to a factory worker who has worked at the same factory for decades, since leaving school. Now the company is making him redundant as it has scaled back production due to the impact of the last lockdown from March.

Already in the North East, unemployment is the highest in the UK, and there are warnings of much worse to come. What chance does anyone being made redundant now have of getting another job – never mind one on anything like decent wages and conditions?

Another worker I spoke to, employed in hospitality, had tested positive for Covid. For this young worker and many others, there are fears that any further restrictions will be the final nail in the coffin for droves of pubs, clubs and cafes.

Across the North East, 56,000 people work in hospitality, according to Gateshead council leader Martin Gannon. Very many of these workers are already on minimum-wage, zero-hour contracts.

There are also growing fears that Rishi Sunak’s pitiful Job Support Scheme may not even kick in till the middle of November or start of December. How will people survive till then with no income?

Just three weeks into the first lockdown, 1.5 million people across Britain had to go a full day without food because they had no money. Around three million reported someone in their household had gone hungry, according to the Food Foundation.

This government is stumbling from one crisis to another. There is growing anger and frustration that Johnson makes policy announcements, then goes Awol.

Sunak’s supposed ‘safety net’ has so many holes, even more workers will undoubtedly crash through. Already, for those living on minimum wage, there is too much month at the end of the money.

The constant refrain of Johnson, Sunak and Co is that they ‘can’t help everyone’. This isn’t good enough.

If their profit-hungry system can’t provide for us, we need to fight for an alternative. Growing numbers of workers and young people are concluding that socialism is the only alternative that can offer a decent future. They’re right.

  • Maintain and extend the furlough scheme: work or full pay!
  • Councils must fight back! Organise with unions and communities to demand full funding for jobs, incomes and services
  • For democratic workers’ and community control of health and safety measures
  • For socialist planning, not capitalist market chaos