Trade unionists organise to fight for workplace safety in big NSSN meeting
Isai Priya, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
Trade unionists called for workers' safety to be put before bosses' profit, and for trade union and workers' control over workplace safety, in a valuable and inspiring National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) meeting on 16 May.
The public Zoom call took place at a time when the Tories are spearheading plans to lift the lockdown - when the safety of workers is not guaranteed.
More than 200 took part - an even bigger participation than the excellent NSSN meeting organised three weeks before.
There were some new activists and trade unionists, as well as local shop stewards and reps, and trade union officials.
Rob Williams, NSSN national chair, introduced the session, saying: "To belong to a union, to be organised, to act collectively, is the key to the particular times that we are living in - when workers are facing a life-and-death situation."
Speakers expressed the concerns of workers, and explained how they have organised successfully on health and safety.
The unsafe reopening of schools was prominent in the discussion. Teacher Martin Powell-Davies and parent Lindsey Morgan are both involved in organising boycotts of 1 June school reopenings.
They spoke about this completely unsafe move by the government, and the need to put children's and teachers' safety first.
Transport workers are also in the firing line right now. We heard from Jared Wood, the London Transport member of transport union RMT's executive committee, in a personal capacity.
Moe, a bus driver, also spoke. They outlined the volatile situation on London's transport. There has been an increase in commuters, but with no proper risk assessment, and still no sufficient PPE for workers.
General union Unite's assistant general secretary Howard Beckett gave his solidarity and support to the NSSN, Royal Mail workers' union CWU, and teachers' union NEU.
He outlined Unite's position that workers come first, and workers are entitled to leave if their workplace is not safe.
Many more workers and union activists spoke - including a new care home worker; Iain Dalton, chair of retail union Usdaw's Broad Left; Kathy Smith, chair of Bromley Unite; and Suzanne Muna from the Unite housing workers' branch.
Rob Williams concluded by saying this government has failed to protect key workers. Over 100 healthcare workers and over 30 transport workers have sadly lost their lives.
We cannot trust the Tories with our health or safety. Workers should only return to work when the trade unions and workers themselves decide it is safe to do so. It is workers' control that will put safety before bosses' profit.
Contact the NSSN if you want more info on how to organise in your workplace, and to build coordinated, collective workers' action - visit shopstewards.net.
In The Socialist 20 May 2020:
What we think
Resist school reopening
Make transport safe
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis