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Young Historians Project:
Continuing the Struggles
The Contempt for the Lives of Health and Care Workers at Work
Hyde Park protest, London
The global protests that followed the public killing of African American George Floyd by police in Minnesota have continued throughout the world this past week and have constituted a major upsurge against all forms of racism and especially the racism of the state, as well as the increasing use of police powers as a method of government. In many countries protests have also demanded that the legacy of colonial rule must be brought to an end.
In Britain too, the protests have continued unabated in opposition to the impunity of the police and apparatus of the state, the government's attitude to the Covid-19 pandemic and healthcare more generally, the legacy of slavery and empire, as well as other manifestations of Eurocentrism, especially those that exist in the education system. The protests, in which young people have played a leading role, have called on everyone to re-examine and reject all that is anachronistic and reactionary, that which is so harmful and clearly out of step with the times and the needs of the people.
One focus of the widespread protests has been the demand for the removal of statues and other symbols that glorify slavery and empire and reflect the values of the white men of property, the powers-that-be, both in the past as well as today. The people of Bristol have demanded for over twenty years that an offensive statue of Edward Colston, a notorious human trafficker, mass murderer, and Member of Parliament in the late 17th century, be removed. Their attempts have all been thwarted by the powers-that-be to such an extent that even the current Mayor of Bristol, who speculated that his own ancestors might have been trafficked by Colston, was unable to remove the symbol of crimes against humanity. It is to their great credit that Bristolians finally decided to take a stand and to speak and act in their own name. They removed the offending statue and deposited it in the ocean where so many of Colston's victims were also deposited.
The removal of this offensive symbol prompted other local authorities to act on long-standing demands and announce that they would review decision-making processes regarding the appropriateness of the public representation of history. In the wake of the protests, many institutions and companies in Britain have also felt compelled to publicly state that they too are opposed to racism and the legacy of slavery and empire, including major universities, manufacturers such as Unilever and publishers such as Hatchette and Penguin. At the same time, there has been a concerted effort in the press to reduce the entire upsurge to one that is only concerned with the removal of statues, or questions of so called "law and order".
The government and the powers-that-be have been at sixes and sevens over the protests. There have even been public disagreements between some police forces and the Home Secretary. Nevertheless, government figures and some other politicians have generally been quick to condemn street protests as "lawless" or hijacked by "outsiders", or allegedly "unlawful" for not conforming to social distancing guidelines. Others have tried to claim that racism is not a major problem in Britain, or that Britain is the best place to live if you are a "black person". In short, the current upsurge has more thoroughly exposed those who defend state racism as well as the government's criminal negligence, whether in regard to the Windrush Scandal and the "hostile environment", deaths in Grenfell Tower, the third anniversary of which tragedy is on June 14, or as a result of Covid-19. The Prime Minister has told people not to attend protests and has tried to defend the indefensible, while the government has taken steps to criminalise protests and to respond to the upsurge through the use of police powers, or the tried and tested formula of promising commissions of enquiry, of which there have been many. The comments of the Prime Minister, who is personally notorious for making racist remarks and refusing to apologise for them, speaks volumes in the current circumstances.
Action in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada
The worldwide protests, as well as those in Britain, have shown that when people speak and act in their own name, they are a mighty force capable of making history and moving society forward. They also show that people are opposed to the old values and to decision-making mechanisms which exclude the vast majority. Today people demand new values as well as new decision-making powers.The current upsurge is a demonstration that people are prepared to speak and act in their own name to bring about the New together with their own empowerment.
In these circumstances it is vital that people maintain the initiative and stand together to defend the rights of all. It is vital to continue to oppose and condemn any attempts by the powers-that-be to criminalise protest, to encourage more police violence, or the intervention of sinister forces with state protection. People must persevere in transforming themselves into an organised force which can realise all of their aims for a new society, which guarantees the rights of all, in which the people are empowered and themselves at the heart of decision-making.
Statement of the Young Historians Project
The Young Historians Project stands in solidarity with those fighting throughout the globe to end police brutality, state terrorism and racism in all its forms. In our own work, we seek to highlight the long-standing presence of Black people in Britain, and the struggles that have taken place here to build a better world. History is the study of change and through studying the histories of Black communities in Britain and elsewhere, we can see how possible it is to create change. We young people stand on the shoulders of those generations of activists who came before, and we honour them by continuing their struggles.
In meetings of trade unions, health associations and the many health campaigns in every part of the country, outrage continues to be expressed against the government and all the state authorities concerning the health and safety of health workers in hospitals, care homes and in the community. The present government guidelines on personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing have always been far inferior to those guidelines advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are putting many lives at risk among those who are themselves fighting to save lives. In particular, they have been limiting the full protection of staff to a very narrow range of procedures, such as aerosol generation which does not include any other circumstances of nursing Covid-19 patients, when, for example, most argue that patients who are coughing generate aerosol in a ward, room, or vicinity of treatment. The recommendation of WHO for full protection for health and care workers looking after Covid-19 patients is ignored, or adapted to suit less protection. Even these weak guidelines have been changed by hospital directors, or care home companies, and downgraded when the incoherent supply of PPE and burden of the expense of the private suppliers is the real unstated reason.
In these circumstances, not only have staff had to try and make their own arrangements and guidelines for PPE but they have also had to fight tooth and nail to get the the PPE they need, often putting themselves at serious risk to protect their patients. The issue rightly comes up as to why those in authority making these decisions do not follow these national "guidelines". Concerned people and health workers themselves have good reason to describe this cavalier attitude as criminal. Under these circumstances the necessity is for all to take a stand, refusing to put staff and patients at risk, to provide for the needs of the health workers and the patients they serve, and make this a turning point in favour of the rights and interests of all.
The criminality of the ruling elite and the need for everyone to resist these attacks on health workers can be further illustrated by what is happening, with the more than 200 health and care workers who have died, and with even more who have been seriously ill from Covid-19. In April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared before the Health and Social Care Committee . When asked if these deaths of health workers were being referred to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), he replied, ignoring health and safety law, saying, "No, the investigations are being done by the NHS and by the employers because they are the ones to understand the circumstances." He said that he was "not sure that the HSE is the right body to do that because we have bodies inside the NHS who investigate safety issues and we are doing it through hospitals and in consultation with the employers, but we need to make sure that they are done properly". Once again, under the direction of government "guidelines", even legal requirements on health and safety on investigating the deaths of health workers are being set aside by advocating that health and care home employers investigate these deaths of their own employees without even referring them to the HSE.
This is no accident, but comes as part of a cover up during the whole course of the coronavirus pandemic, when government and Public Health England have issued "guidelines" that set aside the safety of health workers and patients alike. As a result of this "guidance" on the HSE from the Secretary of Sate for Health that only hospitals and employers should investigate the deaths of their own employees who have contracted Covid-19, let alone staff who have been exposed to it, reports show that, for example, all the hospitals in the northern region are refusing to refer these cases to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). This is also happening with many local authorities as well. The legal obligation on Covid-19 could not be more explicit: "a person at work (a worker) has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 attributed to an occupational exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a case of disease." . The answer and excuse staff and trade unions are getting is that "there is no guarantee if you have contracted Covid-19 that you have contracted it at the hospital". The Human Resource Departments, advised by the employers' own solicitors, have been primed to claim that the exposure is not attributable to the exposure at work unless the victim can prove it! This, when healthcare workers are five or six times more likely to be infected than the general public . The claim of the Secretary of State for Health that the investigations are being done by the NHS and Care home employers "because they are the ones to understand the circumstances...but we need to make sure that they are done properly", is not only a fraud but a farce. It exposes the criminal level of the investigation into Covid-19 deaths of staff by these employers who rule out all referrals to the HSE by claiming that all these people who have suffered, or died might have caught the disease elsewhere. These health and care workers have had an "occupational exposure" and the causes and remedies that could save lives in the future are being criminally disregarded.
All this shows the real contempt for the lives of health and care workers at work. They are not guaranteed the best protection and their illnesses and their circumstances are not recorded. This is also a huge worry for health and social care workers who have suffered Covid-19, because, unless these illnesses are properly recorded at the time of infection, then down the line in the future any related damage from Covid-19, not presently understood, will not be easily traced as an occupational disease. All staff affected by Covid-19 should have the illness recorded, and their circumstances, as a health and safety Datex regardless of the seriousness of their symptoms. This is not happening.
The ruling elite hope in vain that their nefarious deeds will not be exposed over their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fight over full protection for health and care workers shows that the working class and people are not letting this pass. This very fight of the doctors and all health workers over testing and PPE is inspiring the working class to take the initiative themselves in fighting the virus and for an outcome in their favour.
 Health and Social Care Committee, April 17,
 RIDDOR reporting of
RIDDOR puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the Responsible Person) to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses).
The reporting requirements relating to cases of, or deaths from, COVID-19 under RIDDOR apply only to occupational exposure, that is, as a result of a person's work.
What to report
You should only make a report under RIDDOR when one of the following circumstances applies:
 Coronavirus doctor's diary:
'People think it's over, but it's not'
Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary
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