BORIS JOHNSON’S address to the nation on Sunday night about ‘relaxing’ the lockdown rules has been widely criticised by the leaders of the Labour Party and trade unions as being too vague and confusing.
In fact, far from being vague, the clear message sent out by Johnson is that the Tories have surrendered the ‘war to defeat coronavirus’ and are now hell-bent on forcing workers to return to work with no protection from the deadly disease.
Johnson announced that anyone unable to work from home should have returned to work yesterday morning, the only exception being for those with underlying health issues.
Everyone else will be ‘encouraged’ to return with the proviso that they should avoid public transport – a move that TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady merely criticised as being ‘a recipe for chaos’.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey issued a statement calling for ‘clarity and caution’ saying: ‘Decisions taken now will shape our country’s future – we need clarity to build public confidence.’
McCluskey’s real gripe though is that Johnson has spurned all the overtures made by the TUC to become partners with the Tories in rescuing British capitalism from its crisis.
McCluskey then went on to offer a ‘standing army’ of Unite members to join with the bosses and Tory government in the cause of ‘building a future of which this country can be proud.’
He said: ‘Unions like Unite have a wealth of health and safety expertise, and we are already working with responsible employers to ensure that working people can be confident that they can be safe both at work and on the way to work.’
McCluskey added: ‘There is a standing army of tens of thousands of trade union safety representatives that could be deployed in a national effort to unlock the economy in a safe, responsible way. To fail to enlist this pool of people expert in keeping people safe at work is simply bewildering.’
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA transport union, hit the nail on the head when he said that sending people back to work is dangerous and risks turning railworkers into ‘cannon fodder’ for the sake of Tory donors in the construction sector.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows how low paid workers are already the ‘cannon fodder’ for capitalism. According to the ONS, the lowest paid workers have the highest Covid-19 death rate in the country.
Security guards, care workers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers are all at a greater risk of dying from Covid-19, while care workers and home care workers have the highest death rate in the population.
These represent the lowest paid workers in the most insecure jobs, zero-hours contracts, part-time working or self-employed who have been forced to work throughout the pandemic and have paid for it with the highest death rates in the country.
Now Johnson is determined to drive all workers back to the factories and industry to face the same appalling risks to their lives by using the whip of poverty and starvation.
When he talks of ‘encouraging’ a return to work it will be under the threat of being sacked or placed on unpaid leave, while those who do return will face reduced hours and pay cuts as British capitalism faces what the Bank of England has called its ‘deepest recession since 1706’.
Bankrupt British capitalism holds no future for the working class whatever McCluskey thinks.
The only way forward for the working class is to remove all those leaders who will sell their members to the ruling class, and to build a new revolutionary leadership in the unions that will oppose all attempts to stampede a return to work, and demand that the lockdown is continued until such time as the health of workers is guaranteed.
The unions must demand that every worker receives full pay during any lockdown and that any attempt to sack them or cut their pay is met with a general strike to bring down the Tories and advance to a workers’ government and socialism.
Only the WRP is building the leadership required – join today.