Getting safe and equal

Submitted by AWL on 21 April, 2020 - 9:14 Author: Michael Elms
Safe & Equal

The Safe and Equal campaign (safeandequal.org), is continuing to gather steam. A journalist from Left Foot Forward, briefed by our campaigners, confronted Business Minister Alok Sharma on the key issue of our campaign: the fact that many workers only have access to paltry Statutory Sick Pay when self-isolating, a fact which renders many workplaces, and especially NHS sites, unsafe.

Sharma responded by blustering about how much he respects carers, but refused to answer the question. As ever in this crisis, the Tories’ Blitz-spirit waffle about their love for NHS staff can’t mask their cold class contempt for workers.

The video clip of the exchange received over thirty thousand views on our Facebook page. If you're not on Facebook, you can watch it on Twitter.

The online reach of our campaign, from a standing start, has grown nicely – and we are starting to make contact with individuals and groups of workers who want to take action over self-isolation pay and equality of conditions for agency and subcontracted staff. We have also received a series of requests for our workplace posters, and offers of assistance from left-wing MPs – on which we will have more to report next week!

Our home care workers’ blog has also been launched, along with plans for a sticker and poster campaign, aimed at finding new ways of getting into contact with care workers under conditions of lockdown and social distancing.

The situation in Tesco has also increased in urgency. The chain has hired 50,000 new staff to replace workers who have left work due to the virus (because they are self-isolating, ill or for other reasons).

But we have heard reports of managers telling these new staff not to get comfortable; that they will be out the door again before too long. And the new hires are on worse terms and conditions than the workers they are replacing!

Although the leadership of USDAW, the main union in Tesco, has effectively shut down all real-world union activity above workplace level, this is an urgent moment for a drive by supermarket workers to ensure safety at work – and the cornerstone of safety is equal and adequate workplace rights

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