Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 15, April 25, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Working People Speaking Out in their Own Name
in Face of Pressure for an "Exit Strategy"

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Working People Speaking Out in their Own Name in Face of Pressure for an "Exit Strategy"

Coronavirus Pandemic:
Nothing Is More Precious than the Right to Life

For Your Information:
Dominic Cummings, Andrew Sabisky and Eugenicism at the Heart of Government
Unprecedented Number of "Do Not Resuscitate" Orders for Learning Disabilities Patients

Letter to the Editor

News in Brief:
Inside NHS Nightingale: Staff speak out about reality of care at London coronavirus hospital

Workers' Memorial Day:
Defend Workers' Rights! Defend the Rights of All!

Workers' Forum:
Trades Council Webinar Supports Whipps Cross Workers
Continuing Concern over Pressure on Teachers to Agree to Early School Re-opening

Workers' Forum - For Your Information:
Open Schools When It Is Safe

For Your Information:
Tata Jaguar and Other Car Manufacturers to Restart Production

Working People Speaking Out in their Own Name
in Face of Pressure for an "Exit Strategy"

In the conditions of the pandemic, working people are speaking out in their own name as they strive to take up responsibility for society and the direction in which the economy should be headed. The concentration of decision-making power in the hands of the rich and powerful has created all the difficulties of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. There has to be an alternative!

The Queen's Speech asserted that "we are all in this together". But this was a guideline out of sync with the times, when the working people do not have decision-making power. The powers-that-be have pushed to make the working people powerless. In opposition, working people have stood up for their rights and the rights of all, and refused to be duped into thinking that this is once more a fight against fascism. Other voices too have been raised about a national government, while the reality is that society is divided along class lines, and the emphasis on "we are all in this together" tries to impose a "one-nation" conception so that the ruling elites can act with impunity and say that this is alright because everyone shares the same values.

Now that the government and the captains of industry are speaking about an "exit strategy" and restarting the economy, workers have the responsibility to step up their struggles and speak out even more forcefully to tell governments and the owners of private enterprises what wages and working conditions they require to do their work. They will not stand the prospect of redundancy either after being furloughed. The pressure for an "exit strategy" is to ensure that the private interests whose businesses are suffering can be rescued even further by the government. What the working people are demanding is that the economy must be run in their benefit, be human-centred, and that an "exit strategy" is not an excuse to dragoon working people back to work only to suffer a further surge in Covid-19 infections and increased loss of life, particularly among the elderly, the minority communities and other sections, among which must be mentioned those public sector workers who are already suffering the brunt of the crisis, as well as construction workers, for example.

The health and safety of the workers and of the population as a whole must be safeguarded. It cannot be "business as usual", where governments at every level have engaged in a vicious anti-social offensive. This anti-social offensive must be brought to an end, where working people fight for the alternative and raise their voices higher in speaking out about the injustices of society. To emerge from the pandemic cannot be on the basis of "business as usual". The wisdom of the working people in putting forward solutions must be implemented in practice. To put an end to this "business as usual" anti-social offensive, which is what is being pushed under the rubric of an "exit strategy", workers must continue to speak up in their own name.

Care is about the NHS having equipment and people being attended to properly, whether in hospital, in care homes or the community at large in people's homes. In contrast to Britain, Cuba, for example, treats people in their living spaces when necessary with the means it has, despite the blockade. People stay indoors but they are not "isolated".

The details of the government's "exit strategy" clearly do not consider what the people suggest. It concentrates on policing the situation. The welfare state in Britain, social security and other forms of responsibility towards the citizens and their security have already been unravelled and destroyed, so that all that remains of the state are its arbitrary and police powers.

The populist mantras of "getting things done" and "getting it sorted" have tried to disarm people and take any initiative out of their hands. Yet people have made demands upon the decision-making process.

By speaking in our own name, we can find out what we need and how we think we can get it. The only way forward is one which takes account of human relations, and to what they are revealing, which is that the people cannot afford to entrust their fate to the self-serving elite.

Decisions have become matters of life and death. Decision-making needs to shift from the ruling elite to the people, who need to be more organised and strive for their empowerment. Together let us defend the rights of all!

Article Index

Coronavirus Pandemic

Nothing Is More Precious than the Right to Life

NHS medical staff protesting at the disreguard for the lives of their patients in the
"winter crisis" day of action with a banner-drop across Westminster Bridge, February 15 2020

The response of the ruling elite and big business to the coronavirus pandemic has been characterised by the reduction of everything to an individual matter. This is true whether one speaks of the approach before or after the shift away from so-called "herd immunity" towards partial lock-down.

Going into this crisis, Boris Johnson warned that "many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time". Since then, the extent to which some lives are taken as dispensable has become increasingly evident.

One of the main features being revealed is the fact that the entire society is not organised to place the care of the most essential workers, the most vulnerable workers, and other working people in first place. The government stands condemned for the shocking situation regarding even the most basic protective clothing and equipment for many workers, especially in the health service. Health Secretary Matt Hancock epitomised this contempt for human life when he declared of the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage: "There's enough PPE to go around, but only if it's used in line with our guidance. We need everyone to treat PPE like the precious resource that it is." In other words, it is not the lives of these front-line workers that is the precious resource, it is the PPE, over the provision of which the government has been criminally negligent.

It has also since transpired that thousands of lives have not even figured, as the Health Secretary admitted that the deaths in care homes and the community from Covid-19 had been "substantially underestimated".

There has been much concern expressed about the fact that a disproportionate number of people from African, Asian, Caribbean and other minority backgrounds, many of them health workers, have lost their lives during the pandemic.

The taking of some lives to be lost in the line of duty, collateral damage, or unworthy of mention or even of being counted; the failure of society, including production and distribution, being organised and mobilised to protect all life; talk of the need to make tough decisions: these things reveal the profoundly anti-human and anti-conscious outlook of the ruling elite.

In that respect, it is not for nothing that, in the immediate period leading up to this crisis, the openly eugenic views being propagated by those in the inner circles of government were being exposed. The approach initially pursued, of "herd immunity" at the cost of potentially hundreds of thousands of lives, was itself effectively a Malthusian policy.

It is also significant how Boris Johnson's own personal fight against the virus has been portrayed, as one proving his fitness and worth. In other words, there are some people who are battlers against the virus and win through while there are others, of which those with special needs, the elderly, and those in care homes are examples, who fall by the wayside. Whether those promoting this outlook are conscious of it or not is not the issue. It is repugnant and must be totally rejected.

Now is the time to uphold that All Human Beings have the Right to Life!

Article Index

For Your Information


The ideas of eugenics were first systematised by Sir Francis Galton in the latter half of the 19th Century. In his 1883 Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, he described the word:

"We greatly want a brief word to express the science of improving stock, which is by no means confined to questions of judicious mating, but which, especially in the case of man, takes cognisance of all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had. The word eugenics would sufficiently express the idea; it is at least a neater word and a more generalised one than viriculture which I once ventured to use."

Though this definition is manifestly racist in form, the focus of early eugenics was that "genius" and "talent" were hereditary traits in humans which were particularly correlated with social class. It was part of that ideology regarding the existence of classes in society as "natural". The idea was to encourage breeding amongst those of "good stock". This went hand in hand with a desire for racial purity. In the words of Galton in introduction to his 1863 book Hereditary Genius: "it would be quite practicable to produce a highly-gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations."

Eugenics is closely connected to the same anti-people concept of weighing up human beings against economic worth. Part of eugenics is to eliminate the supposed economic burden due to the existence of "dysgenic" individuals, i.e. those of "inferior stock". This logic lead to the compulsory euthanasia program of the Nazis, with its associated propaganda and slogans such as: "This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow Germans, that is your money, too."

Article Index

For Your Information

Dominic Cummings, Andrew Sabisky and
Eugenicism at the Heart of Government

The recent Andrew Sabisky affair is telling of the outlook held by those at the heart of government. Andrew Sabisky was briefly an advisor to Boris Johnson, having being hired by his chief aide, Dominic Cummings. He resigned on February 17 after his racism and eugenicism were exposed.

Sabisky is an open advocate of eugenics. Interviewed for Schools Week in 2016 [1], he said: "Eugenics are about selecting 'for' good things. Intelligence is largely inherited and it correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness. There is no downside to having IQ except short-sightedness."

He also brazenly stated: "From a societal perspective, the benefits of giving everyone modafinil [a mental performance-enhancing drug which can be fatal] once a week are probably worth a dead kid once a year."

Also in 2016, he wrote a review of The Welfare Trait by the eugenicist Dr Adam Perkins. Sabisky praised this book, which asserted that "welfare dependency can be bred out", and declared that "habitual welfare claimants were less conscientious and agreeable than the average person". He also suggested "measures to boost the fertility of those with pro-social personalities" [2].

Connected to eugenics is so-called "scientific" racism. Earlier in 2014, Sabisky wrote in reply to an article on the Profit of Education website: "If the mean black American IQ is (best estimate based on a century's worth of data) around 85, as compared to a mean white American IQ of 100, then if IQ is normally distributed (which it is), you will see a far greater percentage of blacks than whites in the range of IQs 75 or below, at which point we are close to the typical boundary for mild mental retardation."

These views were certainly well-known to Dominic Cummings well before his hiring of Sabisky. In a 2014 post on Cummings' blog [3], he wrote: "one very good way to retain human control over technology - and to think up better ways to ameliorate its negative consequences - is global embryo selection. You've [Cummings] talked it through quite well; it can and will work. One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty. Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue."

This was in reply to a blog post by Cummings reporting on a conference he had recently attended. This conference, "Science Foo Camp 2014", was hosted by Digital Science, Nature, O'Reilly Media and Google at Google's head office in Silicon Valley; it covered, amongst other things, "finding the genes for IQ" as Cummings put it. He was referring to the session he attended by American physicist and businessman Stephen Hsu, who has been a leading figure in the Beijing Genomics Institute project investigating the genes responsible for cognitive ability.

Hsu says of his own work: "I'm doing my best to increase the number of future humans who will be 'fully awake'. My current estimate is that one or two hundred common mutations... are what separate an ordinary person from a [genius]." [4]

Reflecting on this in his post, Cummings wrote: "It is already the case that farmers use genomes to make predictions about cows' properties and behaviour ... It is already the case that rich people could use in vitro fertilisation to select the egg which they think will be most advantageous, because they can sequence genomes of multiple eggs and examine each one to look for problems then pick the one they prefer. Once we identify a substantial number of IQ genes, there is no obvious reason why rich people will not select the egg that has the highest prediction for IQ." Further, ... if this sort of thing does become possible, then a national health system should fund everybody to do this."

Hsu is clearly close to Cummings, with Hsu and Cummings being pictured together outside Number 10 Downing Street, proudly displayed in Hsu's glowing review of Cummings' role in the 2019 election [5].

At the time of the conference, Cummings was special advisor to the then Education Secretary Michael Gove; he writes that he was invited because of an essay on education he wrote while in that position, which became public in 2013 [6].

In this essay, he draws heavily from Hsu and another genetic determinist, Robert Plomin, to make statements such as: "Work by one of the pioneers of behavioural genetics, Robert Plomin, has shown that most of the variation in performance of children in English schools is accounted for by within-school factors (not between-school factors), of which the largest factor is genes. ... the overall effects of shared environment ... accounts for only about a third of the variance of GCSE scores. ... good teachers improve reading standards for all but this means that the variance that remains is more due to genetic differences."

He later declares: "We know ... that although cognitive tests are noisy, we can quite accurately identify the top ~2% in IQ on whom we rely for scientific breakthroughs and even crude tests at 13 predict differences within the top 1% in future scientific achievements (contra repeated assertions, tests of cognitive ability are much better indicators of future academic performance than social class...). We should give this ~2% a specialist education as per Eton or Kolmogorov, including deep problem-solving skills in maths and physics."

During the Sabisky affair, a spokesman for Number 10 refused over thirty times to answer the question of whether the Prime Minister agreed with Sabisky's views. However, a speech given by Boris Johnson in 2013 [7] is fairly clear:

"Like it or not, the free market economy is the only show in town. Britain is competing in an increasingly impatient and globalised economy, in which the competition is getting ever stiffer.

"No one can ignore the harshness of that competition, or the inequality that it inevitably accentuates; and I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.

"Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.

"And for one reason or another - boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and god-given talent of boardroom inhabitants - the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever. I stress: I don't believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity."


[1] Laura McInerney, "Andrew Sabisky, political forecaster", Schools Week, July 15, 2016

[2] John Johnston, "Tory adviser Andrew Sabisky suggested welfare claimants are 'less conscientious than the average person'", Politics Home, February 17, 2020

[3] Andrew Sabisky, reply to "'Standin' by the window, where the light is strong': de-extinction, machine intelligence, the search for extra-solar life, autonomous drone swarms bombing Parliament, genetics & IQ, science & politics, and much more @ SciFoo 2014" by Dominic Cummings, Dominic Cummings's Blog, August 19, 2014

[4] Steve Hsu, "Only he was fully awake", Hsu's own Information Processing blog, March 3, 2012

[5] Steve Hsu, "Now it can be told: Dominic Cummings and the Conservative victory 2019", Information Processing, December 13, 2019

[6] Dominic Cummings, "Some thoughts on education and political priorities", 2013

Cummings summarises this long essay in "My essay on an 'Odyssean' Education", Dominic Cummings's Blog, 2014

[7] "Boris Johnson's speech at the Margaret Thatcher lecture in full", The Telegraph, November 28, 2013

Article Index

For Your Information

Unprecedented Number of "Do Not Resuscitate"
Orders for Learning Disabilities Patients

An article by Rebecca Thomas in the Health Service Journal of April 24 points out that an unprecedented number of "do not resuscitate" forms have been received from doctors by a learning disability care provider. The provider, Turning Point, has said that it believes such numbers to be illegal. Workers' Weekly is reproducing the substance of the article below in connection with the affirmation of the right to life of all human beings, which is particularly pertinent in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The learning disability care provider, which provides supported living and residential care for people with learning disabilities, has raised concerns to HSJ that it has received 13 "do not attempt cardio-pulmonary resuscitation" or "do not resuscitate orders" from hospital specialists and GPs since the beginning of April, half of which came in the last week, which it believes to be illegal. The provider said that, of the orders it usually receives, around 12 each year would require a legal challenge.

Turning Point, which operates facilities across the country, plans on challenging the lawfulness of the orders received this month, which it said appear to have been carried out without consultation with patients or their families.

The orders have come despite NHS England (NHSE) telling all primary care, community trust and acute CEOs on April 3 that any decisions on a treatment for people with learning disability and or autism should be made on an individual basis.

NHS trusts, GP providers, and clinical commissioning groups were again told on April 7, in a letter from NHSE chief nurse Ruth May and medical director Stephen Powis, not to send out blanket DNR forms. Last week, Matt Hancock reiterated this guidance during a daily briefing.

The national action was prompted following reports of GP practices sending letters to care homes suggesting patients were unlikely to be admitted to hospital and requesting DNR forms to be signed.

In a statement to HSJ, Julie Bass, chief executive of Turning Point, said: "Over the past two weeks we have come across more unlawful DNRs put in place for people who lack mental capacity than we would normally see in a year. We will always challenge these decisions robustly.

"Making an advance decision not to administer CPR if a person's heart stops, solely because they have a learning disability, is not only illegal, it is an outrage.

"We are seeing DNR orders that have not been discussed with the person themselves, the staff who support and care for them, or their families. This is very concerning as it may potentially lead to people being denied life-saving treatment that other patients would be granted."

HSJ states that it has asked NHSE how it would monitor the issue and ensure DNRs are not wrongfully applied.

Source: Information shared with HSJ

Article Index

Coronavirus pandemic

Letter to the Editor

For decades, successive governments, both Labour and Conservative, have wrecked the NHS with privatisation, closing and selling off small hospitals to make way for mega hospitals, which are now overcrowded, no room to park the cars for patients/relatives/visitors except with costly parking tickets, long waiting lists unless it's an emergency, and long distances to travel, with hospitals merged to form Mega NHS Foundation Trusts often long distances away. Foundation Trusts are run as businesses competing against each other to treat the most patients. In their business terms, patients are referred to as customers - the more patients they treat, the more funding they receive from the government. The private sector is encouraged as a source of funding the NHS. Private patients come from Britain and abroad and are very much encouraged. In the Foundation Trust I work in, the whole of the top floor consists of private wards.

With the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS has become the most important public organisation that is leading the fight against the pandemic. More than 500 patients since the pandemic began to April 22 have been treated and successfully discharged at our hospital. The Foundation Trust has made huge changes towards dealing with this situation, which include: cancelling all non-urgent outpatient appointments, patients requiring urgent treatment have been segregated and treated away from coronavirus patients, and wards on whole floors have been converted for the treatment of the patients suffering from Covid-19.

It is a credit to the management staff, medical staff and patients, that so many lives are being saved. It is also a fact that some patients do not survive.

NHS worker

Article Index

News in Brief

Inside NHS Nightingale: Staff speak out about reality of care at London coronavirus hospital

Ministers declare the NHS Nightingale project a great success, but staff told the health correspondent of The Independent that they want to do more, and they fear prominent PR is not helping. Insiders who work at varying levels in the hospital, who have spoken to The Independent on condition of anonymity, also criticise the "political spin" and portrayal of the Nightingale which they say has given a false perception of what it is like, with social media posts doing more harm than good.

A delayed shipment of vital medical equipment from Turkey to protect frontline NHS staff against coronavirus reportedly contained just 32,000 gowns, just several hours worth of supplies. It comes as ministers face escalating pressure over the government's failure to ensure all staff treating Covid-19 patients and care home workers have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need.

(Daily coronavirus briefing, The Independent, April 24, 2020)

Article Index

Workers' Memorial Day

Defend Workers' Rights! Defend the Rights of All!

April 28, 2020, is the 36th annual International Memorial Day for workers killed, disabled, injured, or made ill through their work. It is a day when workers across the world, their trade unions and other fighting organisations participate in ceremonies and meetings and observe a moment of silence to mourn the dead and fight for the rights of all the living, their safety and well-being. This year the TUC and trade unions are calling for a minute's silence at 11am on Tuesday, April 28 [1].

Workers' Memorial Day comes this year at a very difficult time for the working class and people as they remember the dead and injured. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to this year's list of the deaths of front-line workers in hospitals, communities, care homes, transport, as well as all those workers who are ensuring that society does not come to a complete standstill.

At this difficult time for healthcare and other key workers, yet again we hear that there is massive concern that these workers continue to be put in harm's way. The lack of the right protective equipment, and the lack of mass testing and tracing as directed by the World Health Organisation, have exposed the disregard for those key workers as well as the patients and other people they are working to protect.

Meanwhile, the government, along with deliberately ignoring care home deaths, has continued to ignore the deaths of healthcare and other key workers. Already, those monitoring the deaths for Keep Our NHS Public point out that 128 health care workers have died including doctors, nurses, and care workers, both in the NHS and in private care organisations [2]. On April 9, the Mayor of London announced that nine bus drivers and five other transport workers had died, and there were later reports that there have been further deaths in Birmingham and Bristol. The number of deaths of transport workers is now tragically much higher. This shows that the government has little concern in recording the deaths of key workers, let alone investigating them.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared before the Health and Social Care Committee [3]. When asked by Rosie Cooper MP if these deaths of health workers were being referred to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), he replied, in astonishing ignorance of health and safety law, "No, the investigations are being done by the NHS and by the employers because they are the ones to understand the circumstances." He was then challenged by the MP that they should be sent to the HSE for an independent look into the causes of these deaths, such as whether the employer had provided the right PPE, to which 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". Again, the Health Secretary is setting aside even legal requirements by advocating that employers investigate these deaths of their employees without referring them to the HSE.

Notwithstanding the heroic efforts of healthcare and other workers to turn the situation around in the favour of the people, what has been further revealed is the outdated and unacceptable arrangements of society with no proper command over human resources, public provision and manufacturing infrastructure to supply the vital services and equipment that should always be on hand to protect society. The publicly-run NHS and social care homes and systems have all been cut back, fragmented and privatised, or are being lined up for further privatisation. What are then imposed in the crisis are measures aimed mainly at rescuing this same corporate direction and profit-making and where workers' interests and those of small business are only dealt with as far as they affect the interests of the ruling elite and their direction for the economy. In this way, these old arrangements continue to undermine the very lives and safety of healthcare workers and everyone working in the economy and living in our communities.

This year, workers must mark International Workers' Memorial Day and remember all those who have lost their lives, particularly those this year in the coronavirus pandemic, by speaking in their own name. The working class and people cannot hand over their trust to those who claim to speak, represent, or govern in their name. The working class and people must take up the fight for new arrangements that guarantee their interests and their right to decide on a safe human-centred system of health care. Fight for a future where the working class and people decide how the economy is organised, how things are done, and what they need to serve the interests of everyone in society! On Workers' Memorial Day, we take up the call of the working class to remember the dead and fight for the living, and that our security lies in our fight for the rights of all.

Defend Workers' Rights! Defend the Rights Of All!
One Death Is One Too Many!


[1] See further details on the TUC site dedicated to International Workers' Memorial Day:

[2] Dr Tony O'Sullivan, co-chair, Keep Our NHS Public, April 24, 2020

[3] Health and Social Care Committee, April 17, 2020

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Trades Council Webinar Supports Whipps Cross Workers

Action of Waltham Forest Save Our NHS health campaign group at the Department of Health

A webinar held by Waltham Forest Trades Council speakers on April 21 called for sufficient PPE for all workers who require it, the right training and safety measures. Speakers working in health, public transport, education, and the retail distribution sector, emphasised how important it is for workers to organise in their workplaces to ensure they can work safely, and gave some inspiring examples of this. Below are just some of the powerful points raised during the meeting.

The Branch secretary for Unite who works as a porter at Whipps Cross said that he had never in his 31 years of work in the health service had this experience - the fear, anxiety, and worry as people go about their duties. We have to look at the state of the health service when we entered this pandemic. We should have been in a far better position in terms of resources, staffing, and organisation but were not because of the running down and fragmentation of the health service by successive governments over decades.

He said that he really wanted to get over that the dichotomy that is presented between the health workers' right to have PPE and patients' needs to receive care is false. Only by ensuring health workers have the protection they need and the right training can we ensure the safety of our patients. Workers have the right to refuse to carry out duties in a way that will put them at serious risk, and this needs to happen. He himself is now self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms. At the time he was in work, staff on some wards were having to keep PPE to re-use on the next shift in case there was none.

The TUC is calling for a minute's silence on Workers' Memorial Day, April 28, at 11.00 am. The Unite rep called for everyone to spread the word. It will be a moment to pay tribute to the sacrifice made of so many workers during the pandemic, to remember those who've sadly lost their lives, and to thank all those who continue to do vital work at great risk.

A paramedic based with the ambulance service in London, who is a member of the GMB, told how initially ambulance teams were being sent to suspected Covid-19 cases without the PPE they needed. The unions took this up and campaigned hard; some crews were refusing to go without the equipment onboard. We have finally won the battle that no ambulance crew in London should be going out without PPE on their ambulance, and they now have what they need. This shows, she said, that we can succeed and how important it is that health workers organise themselves to take action for their own and their patients' defence.

On top of the years of running down the health service, the government's failure to provide PPE of the right standard at the time it is needed to health and other key workers is nothing short of a national scandal and the Government must be held to account, said the paramedic. They should go for it, they have blood on their hands. We have over 100 NHS and care staff now dead.

If the political will was there, they could requisition enough PPE - they built the Nightingale Hospital in nine days. I believe, said the speaker, that health workers are being treated as if we are expendable. We will be sent out and some will survive and some will not. Well, she said, we are organising collectively to make sure we are not treated in this way. This crisis has shone a light on the huge level of racial inequality in this country - a high proportion of the health and other key workers who have died are from BAME and migrant communities. They make a huge contribution to our health service, yet migrants are being surcharged for NHS care.

This speaker concluded by saying that, when this is over, we have to say we are never going back to the level of underfunding and undervaluing of our workforce.

At least 29 transport staff - including 23 bus drivers and workers have now died of Covid-19. A bus driver and Unite union rep spoke of the drivers' battles for their safety. Some brave drivers used their own initiative to close off the front doors to entry by the public, and cordon off the seats by their cab as the most effective way to ensure their two meter safety distance. Some found themselves threatened with action by their employers, but the union responded to calls from the reps and gave support. Activists also brought the drivers' dangerous working conditions to the attention of the media. Now bus companies have adopted this measure officially. This bus driver spoke of his and his colleagues' commitment and pride in their role, ensuring key workers can travel to their work, and how their battle is for passengers' safety, too.

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Continuing Concern over Pressure on Teachers
to Agree to Early School Re-opening

There is continuing concern amongst teachers, as well as among the public at large, about the pressure to force schools to re-open earlier than is safe given that the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging. The pressure is coming in the context of voices being raised from business magnates and their political representatives that there must be an "exit strategy" so as to get back to "business as usual". The context is also that of the exclusion of those at the coal-face of delivering education in Britain, whether directly or indirectly concerned, from decision-making, when in fact it is precisely those concerned and the working people as a whole who are a key and necessary component of the solution.

As things stand, education workers are often being characterised as part of the problem whilst being excluded from any meaningful participation, whereas teachers and education workers across the land are declaring that not only are they not part of the problem but they are demanding to be part of the solution and to speak in their own name. The consciousness of this state of affairs is certainly deepening as the working people, who are only too ready to volunteer to take up social responsibility, are not only blocked from decision-making as to the way forward, but have no mechanism to hold the government to account.

It appears that a tactic of the government has been to announce that schools might go back, arousing an outcry from teachers and their unions, in response to which the government appears to compromise and say that it will give it more thought. But the issue is that it is not a matter for the government to simply inform teaching staff and education workers when it is time to return to work, as a pragmatic matter. The issue is that this approach fails to recognise that it is the education workers themselves who should have the say over when schools go back, and that it is they who will ensure that the well-being of the workers and the children of school age are taken account of, and that the conditions necessary for the provision of any education to happen are put in the first place. What the government has been up to has created a profound lack of trust. While the government has of course been professing every concern that people should stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives, it has only vested private interests at heart. This situation has served to expose that decisions are being kept the preserve of the elites in government, whereas in fact it is the teachers who should have the decisive say on this question.

It is way too early to speak of the re-opening of schools as an imminent project. What must also be considered is that when schools do return, a priority must be that enough PPE is provided for the teachers.

In the present, there is also the concern of the pressure on teachers to master the technology required for distance learning, as well as the extra workload that such teaching brings with it. Again, the teachers are having measures imposed on them, when they need to be discussing the solutions, drawing the line at what is not acceptable regarding their working conditions, and hammering out solutions which are acceptable as regards the students' learning conditions. And, indeed, there is the whole question of what can be put in place so that families are also provided with what they require. Here again, the perspective which the teachers and parents can provide is that of education being a right, and that conditions, resources and support be provided to guarantee and realise this right. The government cannot expect the impossible, and the teachers must be involved to determine what is reasonable and possible. Teachers are resisting an ever-increasing workload, which they know helps neither them nor the students.

Concrete conditions themselves are now putting on the agenda the question of what kind of education is required now and in the future. What type of education is necessary in a modern world? What is not needed is the growing gap in resources between private education and the state sector, and the growing crisis in providing education that a modern society needs. The perspective must be that what is required is that education should be aimed at advancing the whole of society, where the younger generation get the education necessary for the development of society. Instead, the pressure is to return to medievalism; values of enlightenment are being trampled; values around market forces are what prevails.

The present situation, with the crisis in the values of education, the underfunding and lack of resources, the pressure on teachers and support staff, is revealing starkly what problems exist in the sphere of education and which are being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It will not be acceptable to teachers or for the education system as a whole to go back to "business as usual". The issue is being raised as to who are the decision-makers. Teachers are saying that what is going on is not in their name, and that they must have a say, not only in when schools should return, but over all issues that affect their lives and the quality of education provided to students, and what measures must be taken to guarantee the right to education at the highest level for all children and students.

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Workers' Forum - For Your Information

Open Schools When It Is Safe

Petition Sponsored by the National Education Union (NEU)
Current Number of Signatures: 190,964

To The Prime Minister:

We, the undersigned, oppose any re-opening of schools before it is safe to do so. As a matter of urgency and certainly well before any proposal to re-open schools is published, please can you share with teachers and parents:

Sign this petition here:

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For Your Information

Tata Jaguar and Other Car Manufacturers to Restart Production

Competion between car manufacturers has caused many companies to kick-start production as Covid-19 restrictions are eased in Europe.

Various governments across the world are scrambling to return to "normality" in order to compete in the market. Various multinational companies are creating a scare that if economies do not start operating effectively then the crisis will turn to recession and depression greater than the 1930s.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) said that it will gradually resume some production from May 18, starting with its plants in Brtain, Slovakia and Austria.

JLR's joint venture plant in Changshu has been in operation since the middle of February. Tata Jaguar said: "As countries are relaxing distancing guidelines and retailers are reopening around the world, the restart of production at our other plants will be confirmed in due course."

One reason it is enthusiastic about returning to production is that it wants to launch the first sales of the new Land Rover Defender. Therefore the company is planning an "orderly return" for its plants located at Castle Bromwich, Solihull, and Halewood in the West Midlands and northern regions of England.

Because of the wariness and mistrust the company have "agreed" to extend lockdown restrictions for a few more weeks but want to return to production "as soon as conditions permit," they said in a statement. They "promise" to include implementing robust screening protocols to "best practice" standards.

The extent of the crisis was shown pre-lockdown. JLR reported a 42 per cent fall in sales of Jaguar models between January and March, while sales of Range Rovers and Land Rovers declined 25 per cent. These are not small amounts and shift lay-offs were in the offing. Instead the pandemic "solved" the problem. It was reported that the company's total 2019-20 sales were down 12 per cent at just over 5 million vehicles.

Over 2,000 factory workers arrived at Magna Steyr's plant in Graz, Austria, for the first time in a month. They assemble the luxury Mercedes G-Class wagon for the contract manufacturer and were given two face masks on arrival. Magna Steyr, builds models for Jaguar, BMW and Toyota as well as Mercedes.

Volvo plans to restart its main Swedish factory at "full speed" and control output by limiting hours, something that requires workers on its assembly line operating close together.

Hyundai's plant in the Czech Republic reopened this week.

Fiat, which is waiting for the green light to open, will use slower lines once given the all-clear.

Toyota will reopen two French plants next week.

Volkswagen confirmed that reopening of assembly lines in Zwickau, Germany, and in Bratislava, Slovakia, for Monday 20 April. Daimler also said it will resume outputs at its plants in Hamburg, Berlin and Untertuerkheim next week. It said that plants in Sindelfingen and Bremen are preparing to ramp up production.

Car plants in Russia, Spain, Portugal and the United States will ramp up production from April 27 onwards, joined by factories in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico in May.

In China, where Volkswagen has already implemented health measures, 32 of the 33 plants have resumed production.

BMW said it had no information about the timetable for resuming production. The Munich-based manufacturer had suspended production until the end of April.

French bosses of Vauxhall have said that the Ellesmere Port factory - which produces the Astra - has remained "active" during the lockdown to implement a protocol of reinforced health measures.

People require decisive measures for dealing with Coronavirus such as extensive testing, masks and contact tracing as well as vaccine. They demand funding and investment for the NHS instead of the rundown that was prevalent.

It can be said that workers at Tata Jaguar and other car manufacturing companies do not want the market to determine their jobs and destiny as well as the threat of pandemic to their families and communities. They want to be empowered to be the decision-makers.

(Various news media sources)

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