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I’m in a non-union workplace

For the first time in my working life, I’m in a non-unionised workplace. The difference in health and safety, pay and conditions is stark.

In the three months I’ve been there, I know of at least four bad accidents. Like most companies, they are more interested in looking like they care about the safety and welfare of their employees than actually improving these things.

This company is probably about 75% agency labour, which makes you a second-class citizen at work. Training is watching someone for a week or so then getting stuck in. I’m talking about my job in a factory, but it could be almost anywhere in Britain today.

The race to the bottom for working people is now at a frightening pace. Almost no employment rights, and certainly no voice in the workplace.

Everyone I speak to would join a union if the opportunity was there, but agency labour makes this impossible. Unions must take this up politically. Agency labour and zero-hour contracts must be made illegal.

Tyne and Wear Socialist Party member

Amazon profits triple while its workers suffer

Amazon, photo Scott Lewis./CC

Amazon, photo Scott Lewis./CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

While millions of workers impacted by Covid are struggling to make ends meet, spiralling into debt and poverty, Amazon is still making eye-watering profits. The giant made £5.8 billion profit just in the first quarter of this year, triple what it made that time last year. That’s against revenue of £77 billion, up by nearly half, so it’s used a chunk of that money to expand even more.

But very little is going towards improving the lot of its workforce. Horrendous stories are coming from workers in the company.

Alongside workers urinating in bottles, GMB union say workers are frightened of not going to work while waiting for Covid test results, and that managers cut corners on social distancing to meet targets. When workers in Alabama tried to unionise, Amazon launched a vicious campaign against the effort.

Amazon is the biggest company in the world, headed by the richest person. It could easily solve these problems, and pay staff a decent wage, and give good work conditions.

But Amazon epitomises how capitalism operates; even with gigantic profits, even when it is unmatched in its industry, it won’t give up a bit more wealth than it needs to. Over and over Amazon shows us exactly why we need socialism, why the working class should run giants like Amazon.

Adam Harmsworth, Coventry

Johnson’s lavish flat refurb

Boris Johnson has been under the spotlight for his lavish expenditure on the refurbishment of 11 Downing Street, his luxurious four-bedroom apartment. As if it wasn’t already outrageous that prime ministers are entitled to £30,000 a year from taxpayer’s money for refurbishing their flat, Johnson has spent over £200,000 in refurbishment.

It’s alleged that the funding for this was provided by Tory party donors. Many assume that this is so that more public contracts can be handed over to their sketchy friends.

NHS staff have been denied a 15% pay rise due to “insufficient funds”, and there is high unemployment across Britain. Johnson has spent approximately £14,000 on wallpaper. That’s almost equivalent to what a full-time worker on minimum wage takes home to pay for rent, bills, food and travel in a whole year! The working class doesn’t get generous grants to cover their living expenses, they just have to stand in hour-long food bank queues.

We need a working-class representative in Downing Street, living off an average workers’ salary, to truly understand and fight with the working class for the NHS, education and housing — actual necessities of everyday people, not luxuries.

Akhalya, Birmingham

Barclays makes billions – what about the rest of us?

Jes Staley, chief executive of Barclays, has forecast the country is poised for a “spectacular” recovery, and predicts the biggest economic boom since 1948. Barclays revealed its profits for the first three months of this year had more than doubled from a year earlier to £2.4 billion. The disparity of who has profited out of the pandemic is clear.

Patients are suffering every day, due caused by lack of funding and low pay. We know the government can afford it.

It could decide to take the wealth off rich corporations that have benefited from this pandemic. The Tories have wasted billions on the privatised and failed test-and-trace system, and dodgy PPE contracts.

The richest in this country have profiteered from the pandemic, juxtaposed to frontline key workers who have kept the country going. They have seen cuts, below-inflation pay rises, privatisation, fire and rehire, and worsening safety and terms and conditions.

We need to see the profit made during the pandemic in the hands of the working class.

Holly Johnston, Sheffield nurse

The government has stolen miners’ pensions

A parliamentary inquiry into the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme has unanimously agreed to recommend an immediate financial uplift be given to miners. This follows the government taking more than £4.4 billion in ‘surpluses’ from the scheme since 1994. The committee concluded: “Government shouldn’t be in the business of profiting from miners’ pensions.”

Ex-miners have been fighting for decent pensions since the government closed the pits. Many miners paid into it over decades, but are now living in poverty.

One south Wales miner and campaigner said that before the pandemic he “visited every village and town in south Wales drumming up support, and has met those in situations far worse than his own”, including one widow of a former miner in Abertillery who only gets £7.50 a week.

Some former miners, who spent lives down the pit, risking their lives carrying out dangerous work in often gruelling conditions, are being forced to live on just £60 a week. Many have chronic health conditions. More than half the scheme’s members receive less than the average pension, which is already too low.

The report’s conclusions are welcome in recognising the government’s robbery of these workers. Mineworkers and their families should receive the money stolen from them, and an increase in their pensions to what they deserve.

Scott Jones, Loughton, Essex

Overcrowding and low pay: Covid rising in working-class areas

It’s reported that there is a drop in Covid cases, but the disparity between various areas is striking. Bradford, Manchester and Sheffield haven’t escaped high infection rates.

Many workers rely on public transport to zero-hour contracts and low-paid jobs, where they are unlikely to get sick pay, putting them at risk to work to keep a roof over their head. High rents don’t help the overcrowded housing situation.

Trade unions should recruit unorganised workers on zero-hour contracts, and ensure the rollout of the vaccine reaches them. Local councils should defy austerity measures imposed by the Tories, and invest in more affordable housing and transport.

Bharathi Suba, Liverpool