Virus: indict the Tories!

Of people who test positive for the virus and should self-isolate, only 20% or fewer are doing so fully. That’s an official estimate. No one knows what percentage of people who are identified as contacts of the infected — and may be infectious themselves, without having symptoms — are self-isolating. Most people asked to self-isolate get no or minimal isolation pay, so isolated properly is economically difficult or impossible. Of those who do self-isolate, many can do so only in overcrowded housing. However careful they are, they’re likely to infect others there. In New Zealand, the government...

The Black Jacobins: the Haitian revolution against slavery

This is a speech by Dan Davison, a labour activist and sociology PhD student at the University of Cambridge, for a talk on C.L.R. James and the Haitian Revolution held in July 2020. All page references are to C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (London: New edn., Penguin 2001). Video, text, and audio.

Nothing for nurses

On 20 July the Tory government said it would accept the recommendations of the Pay Review Boards and give teachers in England a 3.1% rise, dentists and doctors 2.8%, police and prison officers 2.5%. Nurses and junior doctors get nothing new because they are in multi-year pay deals. In France, health workers’ protests have won special pay rises for all health workers and a promise to expand government health spending. • Join health workers' demonstration on 29 July: from 5pm at St Thomas' Hospital, to march to Downing Street at 6pm. Facebook event.

French workers on streets

French workers have come out on the streets again as the virus emergency eases there. On Tuesday 16 June, 18,000 health workers demonstrated in Paris and many thousands in other cities. They were demanding a pay rise of €300 a month for low-waged health workers, increased staffing, and a moratorium on bed closures. They are calling for action from president Emmanuel Macron on his promise, made during the emergency, of a great renovation of French health care. Macron has also promised a referendum to amend France’s constitution by inserting a reference to ecological values, but is fending off...

France's step beyond

Three of France’s trade-union confederations — CGT, FSU, and Solidaires — have (26 May) got together with Greenpeace, ATTAC (the Tobin Tax campaign), and others to produce an “exit plan from the crisis”: see here. It includes: • “requisitioning of factories and businesses to produce masks and medical supplies” • “re-establishing individual and collective liberties to move around, to meet, and to protest” • restoration of trade-union rep access to workers, sometimes suspended on grounds of virus emergency • “reducing drastically” the numbers in prison • “a standard work week of 32 hours...

Fallback pay for all

30 million workers in the USA have applied for unemployment benefit since March. 35 million workers are on government-funded furlough schemes in Europe (10 million in Germany, 11.3 million in France). 1.8 million have applied for Universal Credit in Britain, and 700,000 have got advance payments. Signals are also increasing of a new wave of job cuts as the lockdowns ease and creditors start chasing debts.

French workers occupy to demand oxygen production

Until 2019, the British firm Luxfer Holdings PLC owned and ran an oxygen cylinder factory in Gerzat in northern France. In May 2019, production ceased. In January 2020, construction teams arrived at the site, only to find it occupied by former workers demanding its nationalisation. That occupation lasted until 19 March. This plant can produce 950 oxygen cylinders a day, which would be very useful to many sorely-afflicted sufferers of Covid-19. The owners of the plant refuse to reopen it for production. French President Emmanuel Macron might have declared in a speech that “this pandemic reveals...

Requisition and workers' control to get tests and PPE

In the Thursday 8pm “clapping for the NHS” on 2 April 2020, many people chanted “Test! Test! Test! PPE!” Health workers are pressing the government on its failure to meet its promises to expand testing hugely, to make PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] available to all, and to agree adequate PPE guidelines for health workers. So, even, are NHS bosses. NHS Providers, a confederation of NHS hospital, mental health, community, and ambulance trusts, said on 3 April: “There are still trusts that are unable to begin testing, and lack of swabs, reagents and test kits is a continuing concern”. They...

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