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From: The Socialist issue 1121, 17 February 2021: 'If you want to stay healthy - you've got to fight back!'

Search site for keywords: Covid - Evictions - Disabled - Benefit - Amazon - Minimum wage

News in brief

Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo NIH/CC

Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo NIH/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Never had it so good

Last year was dubbed 'the year from hell' as a result of two million deaths from Covid and the pandemic's huge hit on working-class living standards and livelihoods.

But for some, it wasn't all bad news. The world's top 15 hedge fund managers scooped 16.9 billion in total - the equivalent of the total economic output of Zambia with its population of 18million.

Less than minimum wage

One group of important workers during lockdown have been parcel couriers. But unlike hedge fund managers, they haven't fared as well. Some self-employed drivers contracted to Amazon claim that after deductions, including van hire charges and fuel costs, they can end up earning as little as 1.83 an hour - far less than the minimum wage of 8.91 an hour from 1 April.

Meanwhile, anti-union Amazon, whose global sales soared past $100 billion in the last three months, enjoyed a 35% increase in UK profits in 2020.

Stop evictions

According to homelessness charity Shelter, nearly 445,000 private renters in England have fallen into arrears or been served with some kind of eviction notice in the last month.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick is keen to highlight the government's 'compassion' by extending the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions to the end of March. However, this is just kicking the can down the road as it doesn't address the huge increase in Covid-related household debt. Moreover, 'no reason' landlord evictions are still being granted by the courts.

Cuts cost disabled lives

Shockingly, 60% of Covid-deaths last year were disabled people, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But this awful fact is not solely attributable to disabled people's physical vulnerabilities. Social class was also an underlying cause, eg poor housing, low income, and so forth.

Campaign groups point to the lack of infrastructure to allow those shielding to access food and medicine during the first lockdown, as well as cuts in social care support.

Benefit injustice

Many bereaved families continue to be denied access to Bereavement Support Payment despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently admitting in parliament that it is an injustice. The contributory benefit allows for a 3,500 lump sum payment and then up to 350 a month for the first 18 months following the death of a partner.

But the Department for Work and Pensions will only make payments to married couples or those in a civil partnership despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that this was discriminatory and therefore unlawful.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

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