International Workers’ Day – bank holiday concert in Rome, 2019
Some points from Jeremy Corbyn’s May Day message:
“May Day is international workers’ day, but also a day of peace. Let us heed the words of UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in calling for a global ceasefire in conflicts. Pouring weapons into Saudi Arabia makes the humanitarian disaster of Yemen even worse.”
The years of austerity have left our NHS working at 94% capacity, our care homes, mostly privately run, virtually full and over one million people waiting for social care of some sort. Our local authorities, whose budgets have been slashed by the austerity doctrine, were expected to cope as the crucial local element in dealing with an emergency.
From testing, to supplies of personal protective equipment to support for companies to survive or workers to survive be they self-employed or employed by others – the government has been found wanting. Failure to procure test equipment and ventilators at the time of the WHO warning has cost time, and lives.
Inequality in Britain, poor air quality in working-class communities, the work of black and minority ethnic communities in our care and health services and the disproportionate death rate are all exposed by this crisis. Being told to work at home if you have reasonable house and garden is one thing. Being told to try and work at home in a tiny flat with a large family is very different. Being told to stay at home when you are rough-sleeping homeless is obviously a nonsense.
NHS and care workers, delivery and postal workers and those that keep our communities clean and safe. Let us never hear another Home Secretary describe migrant care workers and cleaners as unskilled: they are the ones who keep us alive, not hedge-fund managers.
Our demands are for no return to austerity, for proper investment and support for jobs and a green revolution so that the clean air and city birdsong of the lockdown don’t just become a memory, but our normal life in future.
Some points from Len McCluskey’s May Day message:
With millions facing unemployment and an economy on the brink of ruin, Conservative government ministers have ‘engaged seriously’ with trade union representatives for the first time since Margaret Thatcher ‘effectively banned contact’.
They recognised they were in serious trouble and intense daily meetings between unions, ministers and civil servants in BEIS, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and No 10, have taken place from which the job retention scheme and other pay protection agreements emerged. Our work with government led to securing the furlough scheme and persuading a reluctant Treasury to extend it.
We used our relationships with leading manufacturers and industry bodies:
- helping to establish the Ventilator Challenge
- working with firms the length and breadth of the country to co-ordinate the mass manufacturing drive needed to provide the safety kit our front-line staff must have to stay safe
- demanding the appointment of a minister for PPE to address the chronic shortages of the vital safety materials urgently needed by NHS and social care workers
- working with industry bodies and companies to find safe and secure ways back to work in certain industries, including automotive and construction and
- ‘calling out’ employers putting their workers and the public at risk, or who are using coronavirus as an excuse to lay people off.
May Day is a celebration of workers and also strong trade unions, which have demonstrated during this crisis, perhaps as never before, why they are so needed. A start for paying back our workers with more than admiration and gratitude would be to ensure decent pay and secure, safe work – and make May Day in Britain a public holiday, as it is elsewhere.
Trade unions and working people in Britain have endured over 40 years of relentless attacks. We cannot allow this government to return to business as usual — that’s what got us here. It should not take a pandemic for government to value working people or to recognise the need for investment in our NHS and other public services. “The “new normal” must mean the labour movement keeps our seat at the table with a real plan for changing our economy for the good and for a long-term New Deal for Workers — the campaign we launched with the CWU, GMB and other sister unions”.
The pandemic surely demonstrates, too, the importance of a new normal in international economic co-operation and health planning. A virus anywhere is a virus everywhere. Countries like Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy or Sweden demonstrate that it is possible to negotiate solutions that are acceptable for workers and employers. Comprehensive economic recovery plans will clearly be needed to reboot the economy and allow industrial activities to re-emerge.
Jeremy Corbyn’s recommendation: “Those workers who are now being treated as expendable need union support, the self-employed need to be unionised and our movement must recognise the nature of the economy that austerity and neoliberal economics has brought us”.
The Times offered a fragment of truth: “Len McCluskey said that Mr Corbyn and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, were “not egomaniacs” and would not try to “cling on” at the head of the party” – admirable – woven into a web of insinuations, carefully selected quotes and wishful thinking.
Unite’s McCluskey offered a full rebuttal and reaffirmed support for Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter:
“As well as my full support Jeremy Corbyn has support of our elected executive who actually make decisions for Unite. As we said this morning ignore the media spin and read beyond headlines!”
His reward: the ‘failed plotters’ are hoping to unseat him and replace him by a more amenable general secretary.