Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1106/31499
Wales 'firebreak' lockdown fails to protect workers
Ross Saunders, Socialist Party Wales
The Welsh government is imposing a national "firebreak" lockdown as the second wave of the coronavirus washes over the country.
From Friday 23 October to Monday 9 November, everyone will be asked to stay at home. Many workplaces in leisure, retail and hospitality will shut. Children in years nine and above will not return to school after the half-term break.
As Socialist Party Wales warned, the 17 local lockdowns and other restrictions in Wales failed to contain the pandemic. Labour first minister Mark Drakeford implies 'irresponsible' individuals flouting the rules are to blame. But the truth is that the Wales and UK governments have prioritised the short-term needs of profit over safety.
The Welsh government closed schools too late, and reopened them too early - to all children in Wales, months before England - as it baulked at the effect on profits. Big companies like EE were allowed to drag workers not involved in key work back to the workplace. Students were enticed to campus by hints and promises of face-to-face teaching and in-person freshers events.
Any new lockdown must be accompanied by a massive expansion of testing, with the private sector booted out. If the UK government won't act, the Welsh government should step in. Nationalise any capacity necessary to manufacture and process mass testing.
When questioned about the effect on wages, the first minister passed the buck to Westminster. But the Welsh government should act now and demand Westminster pays the bill.
It should extend the ban on evictions and announce a ban on cuts to pay and jobs in Wales, pledging to nationalise any big companies that refuse to comply. All workers should get 100% pay, with small businesses receiving enhanced support.
Workers will need to organise to win such protection. Cardiff Trades Union Council has appealed to other union organisations to help build this - see below.
Welsh trades union councils demand action for workers
The undersigned trades union councils note with concern the lack of support for workers' jobs and wages in the Welsh government's statement on lockdown, apart from reference to the insufficient UK government's Job Retention Scheme and Job Support Scheme...
We call on the Welsh government to ensure:
- Work or full pay - secure a new, extended Job Retention Scheme that furloughs workers on full pay. If necessary, funding should be demanded from the UK government, which is currently negotiating support packages for regions in England.
- Support to businesses to be conditional on companies retaining jobs for workers in the furlough, fully re-employing them after the firebreak is ended, and not using unethical anti-union employment practices
- That there is an immediate ban on evictions
- That union reps should decide when a workplace is safe to reopen
- We call on the Wales Trades Union Congress to organise a special conference to organise a mass campaign of action to demand government funding to protect jobs and livelihoods.
In The Socialist 21 October 2020: