photo Basher Eyre/CC

photo Basher Eyre/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Nick Chaffey, Southampton Socialist Party

Boris Johnson’s recent U-turn, to extend furlough, will give a glimmer of hope to some workers, but will come too late for many already dumped by their employers.

Since March, 782,000 fewer people have a job. The majority are young workers aged 16 to 24.

Poverty levels have rocketed for those left in work on 80% wages – reflected in soaring demands on food banks, home evictions and calls for free school meals to be extended. Three million people slip through the government’s inadequate support.

The idea of a new national lockdown with workers receiving even less – just 67% of wages and employers forced to contribute more – was untenable. Why? Because the furlough and support measures of the first lockdown were far from the “everything necessary” Johnson boasted.

As a result his initial popularity had plummeted. 53 Tory MPs voting against or abstaining on a second national lockdown show the discontent Johnson faces in his own ranks.

Far from exploiting government division to fight in the interests of the working class, Labour leader Keir Starmer has maintained general support for Johnson’s measures. And Trade Union Congress (TUC) leader Frances O’Grady shamefully stood alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak as he announced savage wage cuts.

91,000 workers joined trade unions under the impact of Covid. The potential exists to gain much more for workers, if a serious fight is mobilised.

Work or 100% pay. That fightback would see many more thousands joining the unions, especially the youth.

It is vital to fight for socialist policies in the interests of the working class in the trade unions, and prepare to stand anti-cuts candidates in the May 2021 elections – the Tories first test at the ballot box since Covid.

Only socialist measures can both address health needs, and maintain jobs, pay and economic development.

The Socialist Party calls for:

  • Full pay for workers who are furloughed or asked to self-isolate
  • All jobs must be protected – the trade unions must demand nationalisation of companies carrying out redundancies
  • The financial books of big business must be open to scrutiny by the workers, to see where profits have gone
  • Full employment and an end to poverty
  • A programme of public works to build affordable council housing for all
  • Apprentice schemes at trade union rates of pay
  • A 35-hour week, with no loss of pay
  • A minimum wage of £15 an hour
  • This should be financed by an immediate 50% wealth tax on the 1% and the £650 billion cash pile lying idle in the bank vaults of big business
  • Nationalise the banks and the biggest 150 companies that dominate the economy