Optare strikers in Yorkshire October 2020, photo Iain Dalton

Optare strikers in Yorkshire October 2020, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

On the very first day of the new national lockdown, police issued dispersal orders to a picket line of striking workers, on the grounds of breaching the new rules.

Unite members at Optare in Sherburn-in-Elmet have been social distancing and wearing masks, in contrast to contractors the company employs, who have been travelling into work in cars together without masks. Management has been harassing strikers and attempting to ‘catch them out’, despite strikers reporting numerous lapses around Covid measures by management.

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s deliberate decision to end the exemption from Covid rules for protests is an aid to the bosses in attacking their workers.

How much additional risk is there standing together on a picket line from workers who would be working together indoors? Optare workers are striking two days a week and working the other three.

The Tories’ measures to tackle Covid are not politically neutral. They have acted in the interests of their class, the capitalists, to hand out lucrative contracts for PPE, testing, and ‘track and trace’ to Serco, G4S and others.

Ordinary working-class people’s lives will be put first if measures to tackle the virus are taken out of the hands of big business and their political representatives, and put into the hands of democratically elected and accountable representatives of workers and their organisations – as the Socialist Party has advocated throughout.

The Labour Party under Starmer showed again how reliable a prop it aims to be for the capitalist class by voting with the government on this. Workers need a party that will fight to put their needs first – not the profiteers – including defending their democratic rights to strike, picket and protest.

The Socialist Party condemns the use of the police and Covid regulations against the Optare strikers. We continue to encourage trade unionists and union branches to send messages of support to [email protected] and donate to the strike fund via bank transfer:

  • Bank: Unity trust bank. Account name: NE/200/1 Optare Branch. Account number: 20327132. Sort code: 60-83-01