The “Safe and Equal” campaign (safeandequal.org), publicly launched on 13 April is for equal rights to full self-isolation pay for all workers regardless of their employment status.
In too many workplaces, agency staff are getting short shrift and being obliged to choose between going down to £94/week statutory sick pay, or coming into work sick or potentially contagious.
Safe and Equal grew out of the work of activists at the East London Foundation Trust (ELFT) hospital, where a campaign of posters and letter-writing has already won big steps forward for self-isolation pay for agency and “bank” workers. The ELFT staff who ran that campaign have reached out to trade unionists and socialists in other industries to launch a broader campaign on the same issue: levelling up the rights of workers who face the harshest exploitation.
NHS England, after years of union pressure, in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis has admitted that workers’ rights are vital to infection control. That is very significant. But now workers have to take that admission and make it real – in every workplace, in every industry that is still open, we have to press the point: no-one is safe until everyone is safe.
Safe and Equal will collect and distribute advice, ideas and news by and for workers who want to fight for their rights to workplace safety. The campaign will tell people’s stories, rally support for disputes, and push MPs to act.
A special dedicated blog by and for care workers will seek to link up carers and push a common set of demands across the whole industry.
The campaign will also push for adequate PPE everywhere it’s needed, collect “PPE horror stories”, and make the point that workers need to be trained in appropriate use of PPE – not just given this or that bit of kit to shut us up!
This is the campaign’s founding statement:
While management have retreated to the safety of their private homes, many of us are still at work, putting our lives and the lives of our loved ones at risk to provide essential services to our communities. Hundreds of thousands of us, including in the NHS, are precariously employed with no ordinary rights to paid leave.
If these workers, who are often the lowest paid, get Coronavirus symptoms - or a member of their family gets Coronavirus symptoms - then many will not be able to afford to follow public health advice to self-isolate. This is a problem not just for these workers but for the entire workforce and the people we serve. To slow the spread of Covid-19 all essential workers need the right to follow public health advice without suffering financial hardship.
NHS Employers have recognised that workers’ rights to full paid leave to follow public health advice are “essential” for “infection control purposes”. If it is essential in the NHS then it is essential for all of us going about our duties at this time: food production and distribution, transport, logistics, delivery, social care, utilities, manufacturing and the large numbers of security and cleaning staff who work alongside us in all sectors.
The degrading of workers’ rights over may decades has allowed capitalists to maximise profits at our expense. Privatisation and outsourcing have not only turned public services into opportunities for private profiteering, but also have fractured and broken trade union organisation, atomising workers and making it more difficult to fight back.
We have lived through a long period of gradual defeats for our class, and it has left us ill-prepared to deal with this crisis.
But in the last few weeks, through workers’ solidarity and collective action, many workers have won full sick and self isolation pay for all. In the NHS, London Underground and elsewhere, we are winning safer workplaces and improved workers’ rights for all. We are campaigning to build on these successes and ensure that when this pandemic is over, we retain the rights we have won and have stronger trade union organisation to win further gains for all.
Join a union. Fight the bosses. Stay safe and look after one another. No going back.