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From: The Socialist issue 1078, 18 March 2020: Coronavirus: workers must not pay the price!

Search site for keywords: Coronavirus - NHS - Amazon - Privatisation - Health - Virgin

Under the microscope: socialist coronavirus news in brief

Personal protective equipment is vital

Personal protective equipment is vital   (Click to enlarge)

Protective equipment shortages and privatisation preparation must end

Most patients contact their local health centre where GPs, nurses and receptionists are striving to give good care and advice. The government must immediately provide the protective equipment they need. What has been sent out so far is completely inadequate. If health centre staff get infected there will be even more strain in the system.

The huge amount of work imposed by governments as part of their drive towards privatisation - Care Quality Commission reporting, key performance indicators, and so on - must be immediately suspended.

Increased phone and online consultation during the crisis must not be used as justification to give further contracts to private companies like Babylon's 'GP at Hand', that take on NHS patients and undermine the publicly owned primary care system that gives equal access to everyone.

Pandemic response shows plan to break up NHS must be scrapped

The NHS has responded to Covid-19 at a national level - unlike the chaotic response in the United States (see p4-5). This is because NHS England has not yet completed Chief Executive Simon Stevens' 'NHS Long Term Plan' to break up England's single, national health service into 44 US-style health corporations (so-called 'integrated care providers').

Each of these would have its own contract to provide all health services within its area - and could be run by different private companies. There would be no coordination between them. These were to be in place by 2021. Any further moves towards them must now be scrapped immediately.

Covid-19 shows the vital need for a National Health Service that can be planned, and with no room for profiteers. It needs proper funding and democratic control by health workers, trade unions, patients' representatives - and a workers' government - if it is to respond adequately to future crises.

Branson demands bail-out - but asks staff to give up pay

Billionaire Richard Branson is demanding the government stump up 7.5 billion to stop his airline Virgin from crashing. At the same time, he has proposed to his 8,500 staff that they take eight weeks' unpaid leave, with deductions spread over six months.

Paying workers for those eight weeks would cost 34 million. Branson has a personal net worth of almost 100 times that, around 3.2 billion. As of last year, Virgin Trains had sucked over 300 million dividends from privatised rail franchises. As of the year before, Virgin Care had siphoned off NHS contracts worth about 2 billion.

He's had enough! Forget 7.5 billion to return him to profit. Nationalise those planes, trains and clinics with zero compensation to Branson. Full pay, no lay-offs, and emergency mobilisation of resources to counter the corona!

Amazon bosses impose overtime

Amazon warehouse workers are being told to work overtime to tackle the huge demand the coronavirus crisis has created. The GMB union says that workers at least four different sites were informed that they had to work "compulsory overtime" from 16 March. The union accused Amazon of putting "profit before safety".

One worker at Amazon's Dunfermline warehouse in Scotland says: "Staff in the 'inbound goods' department are having additional hours imposed. I think we have a compulsory overtime clause in our contract."

Amazon is forcing workers to work more at a time when the government is telling people to work from home. The GMB's national officer Mick Rix called the overtime reports "extremely concerning", and accused Amazon of "imposing its demands on workers without any regard for their safety".

It's one pandemic for them...

Private jet firms have reported a spike in enquiries from the super-rich seeking to escape the crisis. Chartering a car-sized plane from PrivateFly will set you back around 1,850 an hour. A minibus equivalent is 5,000 an hour.

And where are they going? Some to their private islands and country piles. But others to "disaster bunkers" in remote locations. The 55 "survival condo" units in one former US military compound sold for between $1.5 million and $4.5 million a pop.

Nationalise to save jobs

As we go to press, fashion and homewares chain Laura Ashley is going under with 2,700 jobs, citing the coronavirus. All 531 Carphone Warehouse outlets are to go under, with 2,900 jobs. Nationalise, nationalise, nationalise - to save the jobs, and our high streets!

Compiled by Jon Dale, James Ivens and Scott Jones

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Article dated 18 March 2020

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