The Socialist 17 February 2021 |
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Covid workplace safety
'If you want to stay healthy - you've got to fight back!'
Workers' can only rely on our own collective strength (Click to enlarge)
Workplace safety. Something this government knows little about nor cares about. That's why there have been over 3,500 reported Covid outbreaks in workplaces since the start of the pandemic, affecting tens of thousands of workers.
What's the use in having a lockdown if Covid infections are allowed to spread through workplaces unchecked? Workers are being forced either directly or indirectly to go into work or risk losing their livelihood.
At the same time, there's no pressure on bosses to ensure full PPE, social distancing, or any other Covid safety measures. Not a single employer has been prosecuted for Covid safety failings since the start of the pandemic. This is hardly surprising since the so-called workplace safety regulatory body, the HSE, has decided not to place Covid in its highest risk category - with government approval!
The Tories and bosses have long derided HSE inspectors as 'interfering busybodies' and decried workplace checks as 'health and safety gone mad'. And to ensure the HSE is a toothless watchdog, successive governments have slashed millions in funding from it. The Tories and bosses are interested only in ensuring profits for the few, at the expense of the many.
It's clear we can't depend on employers, the government or the HSE to secure our safety at work. We can only rely on our collective strength, through the trade unions, to defend our interests. Groups of workers have already demonstrated this point in action.
Cleaners demanding a living wage and sick pay, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
At the start of the year, after much campaigning by Socialist Party members and others, the National Education Union leadership bowed to rank-and-file pressure and told the government that an early return to mass schooling was a no-no. And much to the chagrin of the Daily Mail and the rest of the capitalist media, this pressure forced the Johnson government to back down.
If the Tories press for an unsafe early full reopening of schools, education workers will have to organise to take action again.
On 14 February, the National Shop Stewards Network of trade union activists convened a well-attended online meeting and heard reports from frontline workers about pressing Covid safety issues. Importantly, it discussed a clear strategy of fighting within the trade unions for action to defend the health, lives and livelihoods of workers.
The lesson about Covid safety at work is clear - if you want to stay healthy you've got to fight back!