PM JOHNSON’S drive to return workers to work, despite the coronavirus epidemic, announced in Parliament on Monday at 3.00pm has met with a split response in the trade union movement.
The RMT’s General Secretary Mick Cash warned: ‘The government’s “return to work” policy from Wednesday morning risks unleashing total chaos on a transport network which has not been told to prepare for a rise in numbers until next Monday.
‘This is a ridiculous and dangerous way to treat both staff and passengers alike, and will have potentially lethal consequences … RMT has made it clear that our members have a right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions and the union will be closely monitoring the situation Wednesday morning. We will have no hesitation in protecting our members’ health, safety and livelihoods by whatever means required. The government will be held to account for their actions.’
The GMB said: ‘Ministers must pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe.’
The TUC leader Frances O’Grady however called the Johnson plan ‘a step in the right direction’! O’Grady and the majority of the TUC leadership are corporatists. They long to work alongside the Johnson government as its special advisers, and constantly stress how useful their experience in dealing with workers would be.
They were over the moon when Chancellor Sunak unveiled his scheme to bring in state support for furloughing millions of jobs. Now they are waiting with bated breath for him to announce that he is extending the jobs furlough to the end of October.
This will be enough to win the open support of the TUC for the Johnson plan to follow in Trump’s footsteps and reopen industry, saying that a failure to do so would make the ‘cure worse than the disease’.
Currently, more than six million people are having up to 80% of their wages paid by the government while they are ‘on leave’ from their jobs.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has said the furlough scheme needs to continue and should not be reduced, insisting it had been a ‘lifeline’ for workers and employees during the coronavirus crisis.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that reducing the scheme too soon would ‘cost us in the long run’.
Nearly a quarter of the UK’s workforce has been furloughed, with 80% of employees’ wages – up to £2,500 a month – being paid by the government. Johnson said the initiative was ‘one of the most remarkable features of the government’s response’ and stressed ‘it is absolutely right that we should do it’.
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank and an early advocate of the scheme, warned against it being removed too quickly and called for a ‘careful and gradual change’ to the measure.
‘Moving too quickly could spark a huge second surge in job losses at a time when unemployment already looks set to be at the highest level for a quarter of a century,’ he said. In fact, it could cause a revolution.
Johnson and Chancellor Sunak have the Labour reformists in tow. Commenting on the Chancellor’s announcement last Thursday of a new income support scheme for self-employed workers, TUC General Secretary O’Grady said: ‘This is a welcome step forward for self-employed and freelance workers across the economy, from construction to the creative industries.’
Sunak extending the jobs furlough to the end of October will clinch the TUC and Labour Party leaders’ support for the government and lead to a National Government. What is being spelt out by this Labourite cowardice is that the working class needs a new and revolutionary leadership.
Johnson, following Trump, is desperate to get the working class back to work so that they can be super-exploited to pay off the vast debts of Britain’s bosses and bankers.
Yesterday the CITY UK group said that British capitalism is sitting on a £105 billion debt timebomb. The ratings agency Fitch forecast that the big five banks face credit losses of £25bn for 2020. Super-exploiting the working class to cover the debt is what Johnson’s ‘return to work’ is all about.
Workers must force the TUC to sack its current leaders.
There must be a new leadership that will mobilise millions of workers to bring down the Johnson government, and bring in a workers’ government that will nationalise the banks and the major industries to rid the UK of the bosses, the bankers and the coronavirus plague to bring in socialism.