Jaguar Land Rover, photo Graham Hogg/CC

Jaguar Land Rover, photo Graham Hogg/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Despite Covid infections and hospitalisations rising, many workers in non-essential jobs are being forced to travel into work, putting themselves and their families at risk.

Wolves Socialist Party member Nick Hart spoke to a worker and Unite union member at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull. Production has continued despite a large proportion of the workforce testing positive.

It’s not lockdown is it? People aren’t happy. This factory must be the biggest spreader of coronavirus in the West Midlands.

We’re under constant pressure from managers to keep cars rolling off the line. To achieve this, the morning and afternoon shifts have been put on 45-hour weeks – instead of the usual 37 – through compulsory overtime. We’re worried this change to shift patterns will become permanent.

The use of overtime, and workers from other sites filling gaps left by people off sick with Covid, means that you have people who are normally on different teams, and living all over the Midlands, mixing together.

On my section, the social distancing and hygiene is fairly good, though in other parts of the factory people have to work close together due to the nature of the job. In spite of these measures, people are still catching Covid – even the office-based managers.

They’re so desperate to keep us coming in that we’ve been given letters to say that we’re keyworkers, in case the police stop us while we’re travelling to work. We’ve been given tests, but then told to go back to work before we know if the result is positive or not!

When people do have to isolate, they still receive their ‘basic pay’. But this doesn’t take account of the shift allowances they’d normally receive on top.

It’s capitalism that’s making the bosses want to keep the factory running. But honestly, no amount of money is worth me or my 80-year-old mum catching Covid.

Right now a lot of us are scared. Lockdown should mean lockdown.

The Socialist Party calls for workers to have democratic control over Covid-related and all other health and safety measures in their workplace. This must include the right to suspend non-essential work, without loss of pay, if it is not possible to work safely while Covid remains at large.