Fight step-by-step within the lockdown-easing

Submitted by martin on 22 June, 2020 - 8:36 Author: Martin Thomas
return to work

A response to "Ballot to enforce lockdowns". An abridged version appears in the print and pdf versions.

Yes, we have demanded publication of the scientific evidence throughout. The government has now published a lot of the SAGE documents. SAGE members like John Edmunds have been openly dissenting from the government. The "Independent SAGE" scientists are producing a stream of reports, and promise one soon to back up their statement (18 June) against reducing covid-distancing from 2m to 1m indoors before daily new cases are "well below" 1000 (7-day rolling average as of 22 June: 1205).

But dissident scientists like Independent SAGE have not opposed lockdown-easing. They have argued for much improved test-trace-isolate.

If the current epidemiologists' range of estimates is right, the percentage of people in European countries who've had the virus is still small, so there is little contribution to "herd immunity" from that.

Lockdown-easing has "worked" everywhere in Europe since 7 April. It looks like the "extras" now eased off made no big difference (they were, after all, introduced not on the basis of scientific evidence, but of "trying everything"). Otherwise infection would be spreading now as it did in February or early March from small numbers.

To judge by death statistics, the UK is now where Italy and France were in late May. Those countries eased lockdowns (in different sequences) from 4 May and 11 May respectively. That makes a case for experiments in easing in the UK now, unless we rate the social and health costs of continued lockdown very low. No scientist and no part of the labour movement campaigned against the reopening of shops on 15 June, and as far as I can tell few individual workers objected.

We campaign for workers' control to make bosses comply with expert advice on reducing risk in the workplace. Our best weapon there is refusal to work on grounds of health and safety.

That was used many times by workers in early lockdown, and mostly with success. That it has not been used recently suggests that for now many bosses are anxious not to end up like the e-commerce firm in South Korea or the meat-processing firm in Germany indicted for "clusters" in their workplaces.

A while back Stuart wanted the school workers' union NEU to ballot, presumably in time to have a result and strike to stop school wider-opening on 1 June. But what would ballots be for now? The demand that workplaces shouldn't have reopened at some date maybe two months earlier than the strike is unlikely to unite workers.

Or is that Stuart wants to go for balloting all unionised workers now furloughed on the proposition that if returned to work in late August they should then strike to go back to 23 March conditions? That seems unlikely to work. We're much more likely to get effective workers' action if workers prepare to refuse unsafe work. Ballots may then play a role, but on less speculative bases.

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