The Socialist 6 January 2021 |
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Protect lives and livelihoods, fight to defend the NHS
Kick out the Privatisers! photo: Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Mick Griffiths, Wakefield and Pontefract Socialist Party
A recent report 'Exposed, Silenced, Attacked', commissioned by Amnesty International, highlights the global failure of governments and employers to protect health and essential workers during the Covid pandemic. Using the limited available information, the report raises very important concerns for the trade union and workers movement.
Examples are given of systematic and systemic abuses of workers' rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights of workers to fight for just, favourable, and safe working conditions are under attack. Scandalously, the UK is reported as having the second highest number of known health care workers' deaths.
2020 has left health workers feeling shell-shocked. Lives and livelihoods are still very much at stake. The National Health Service is facing its greatest ever threat.
Under the cover of the Covid chaos, the government is proposing legal changes to enable the establishment of so-called 'integrated care systems' to replace the current system of district-based clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). These remote bodies could privatise entire health services with little or no accountability and transparency.
This reform could start the process of tearing up the founding principles of the NHS. The government aims to implement it by April 2022!
Wakefield CCG has carried out an 'engagement with interested parties' process over these proposals which is due to end on 8 January. It has welcomed the proposals, and so far no "interested parties" have raised any concerns.
As health service trade union leaders continue to hibernate themselves against the reality faced by members, the establishment is relishing the prospect of making workers pay for the crisis. Under Corbyn's leadership, Labour's policy was to reverse all NHS privatisation. Under Starmer it is likely that this will no longer be the case.
International cooperation for the benefit of the peoples' interests is not possible under the existing capitalist system. All the mainstream parties prop up the system at our expense.
The Tories were never in favour of the creation of the NHS, and they seek to further privatise it. The health service was not gifted to us by a benevolent state. It had to be fought for and won through mass struggle.
Our lives and livelihoods can only be defended by building trade unions with leaderships committed to fighting programs for real change. A mass struggle is once more required to save our NHS.
As part of this, the trade unions also need to campaign for the creation of a new mass workers' party, to give a political voice to the working class, and take action to defend its interests. A socialist alternative is necessary to combat the market madness of profiting from ill health.