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From: The Socialist issue 1116, 13 January 2021: Our health and livelihoods before their profits

Search site for keywords: Lockdown - Health - Pay - Workers - Government

Our health and livelihoods before their profits

100% pay now!

Kick out the Privatisers! photo: Paul Mattsson

Kick out the Privatisers! photo: Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party

The health crisis is now worse than at any time since the start of the pandemic. More people are in hospital and more are dying daily.

At the start of the crisis many gave some leeway to the government to tackle it. But now the vast majority of people know the Tories have badly mishandled things from the start. No longer is there any feeling of "we are all in it together". Polls show more people want Boris Johnson to resign than don't.

How can we all be in it together when, by the end of the third working day of the year, the average top company boss earned as much as the average worker earns in a whole year? Ocado boss Tim Steiner did it in a day: he was paid £58.7 million last year!

Inequality has risen during the pandemic. Even last October, the Financial Conduct Authority said 12 million adults were "struggling to pay their bills". A third of households had their income cut, by an average of a quarter. It is worse now.

The delays in taking action, the long-term underfunding of the NHS, the U-turns and incompetence have increased the number of deaths and economic misery for millions.

But behind it all has been the Tories' motive of keeping people working to make the bosses' profit.

Many workers feel they can't afford to be off work even when they are sick or when they are meant to self-isolate. It's a potential choice between destitution or death! The poorer you are the sharper the choice. There needs to be proper financial support for those self-isolating and there needs to be adequate sick pay.

Statutory sick pay is currently a measly £95.85 a week, 25% of average pay. In the OECD top economies, it averages 70%. Yet two million people who earn less than £120 a week, and the self-employed, are not even entitled to it!

No one should be forced into unsafe conditions. Workers on furlough, as well as isolating or at home because of caring responsibilities, should be given their full pay.

A huge diversionary campaign has been waged to blame individuals, like those travelling to walk in the countryside, for the rise in the virus. Yet it's predominantly been spread indoors in workplaces and schools where millions of people have been crammed together for hours on end, often in unsafe conditions.

Far more children are in school now than during the first lockdown, despite the government's U-turn on schools forced by union action. The government has extended the definition of 'critical workers' and allowed many companies to tell their workers they have to be in because they are in that category.

It's profit-based capitalism that has led to the mishandling of the pandemic and is devastating the living standards of millions. That's why the fight for our health, safety and livelihoods must be linked to the fight for a socialist alternative to the rotten capitalist system.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

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Article dated 13 January 2021

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