Here are the main items that Solidarity has campaigned for during the Covid emergency:
• Full isolation pay for all.
• Requisition Big Pharma for ultra-fast production and distribution of jabs worldwide.
• Boost hospitals and social care under comprehensive public ownership and democratic control.
• Grant NHS workers their 15% pay rise demand, fix the NHS staff shortage, and extend NHS-level pay and conditions to social care staff.
• Expand council house-building, and requisition the empty houses of the rich: end overcrowding.
• Workers’ control of workplace safety, notably ventilation.
None of that “Plan Z” is in the Tories’ Plan A, B, or even C. The Labour Party leaders currently go no further than timidly lining up behind NHS and public health managers to favour “Plan B”.
Plan A is to try to get through winter by booster and 12-15-year-old jabs alone. Plan B is to require vax proof (or, for workers, recent tests) at large public events; to reinstate mask mandates, and, possibly, new work-from-home guidance. The measures we’ve proposed are all longer-term ones. But they’re good short-term too; and Covid will be around long-term. We need to think months and years ahead. “Plan B” type short-term ploys, and certainly a reversal of back-to-the-workplace drives instigated months ago on the basis of lower Covid counts, are called for now by the gradual 50% rise in the Covid-case rate since mid-September.
Possibly the Covid count will now level off or even drop as immunity from infections and jabs spreads. But we can’t know. We do know that since September the Covid death count in the UK has been running much higher than elsewhere in Europe. It is now (proportionally) two-and-half times the rate in Germany, three times Italy or the Netherlands, four times Sweden, France, Spain, Portugal.
Most of those countries have kept mild Covid curbs (mask rules, etc.). Those have only a small effect on the Covid reproduction rate R; but R of 1.1 will have the infection count 80% up over two months. Of 0.9, 50% down. Most of those countries also have some species of “vax mandate”. In Britain, the only mandate is for care-home workers (from 11 November). In Italy, the “green pass” (proof of vax, test, or recent recovery from infection) is required from 15 October to enter workplaces and other public venues. It has led to big far-right protests, on one of which union offices were smashed up.
Numerous left-minded workers also oppose the “green pass”. In Italy, the big unions, CGIL, CISL, UIL, don’t, but the more militant COBAS does. Port workers at part of Trieste docks struck against the pass.
In France, also, the street protests against the “pass sanitaire” have been far-right, but many left-minded workers oppose it.
Childhood immunisations are legally compulsory in France, Italy, and all 50 states of the USA, though not in Britain. The laws are porous and some countries without compulsion (e.g. Portugal, Sweden) have higher immunisation rates than those with. Although Britain started Covid jabs earlier, its fully-jabbed rate is now behind all the countries named above, bar Germany. In France, the “pass” increased jabs markedly among young people, but the highest jab rate is in Portugal, without a mandate.
We can see no ground of principle to oppose well-designed vax mandates; but the positive practical case for them is dubious in Britain, where those who refuse jabs but get out and about probably have (partial) immunity already from infection or will soon get it. That would suggest, in workplaces where the majority oppose jabs, arguing the case for mutual protection and against anti-jab protests and strikes, but joining strikes with the majority in situations like Trieste.