London bus driver speaks on Covid-19 and the Coronavirus crisis at Policy Conference

Joanne Harris
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Covid-19 has spotlighted the stark inequalities that exist within capitalist society. At the same time, the crisis has provided the opportunity for a fundamental review of how we define value and reward.

In stark contrast to the woeful performance of the Conservative Government, it was those who have cared for the sick, kept our streets clean, transported our key workers and ensured food and other essential products remained available, who have led the struggle to overcome the effects of this deadly virus.

Conference notes:

  • the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on those from Black and Asian ethnic minority communities, those living in poverty, disabled people and those low paid, but essential workers, many of whom have worked on the front-line throughout the pandemic
  • the shamefully slow and wholly inadequate response by Government and many employers to the evident threat posed to front-line workers and the tragic death toll of such workers in transport, social care, the NHS, Security, retail and elsewhere
  • the excellent response by Unite at all levels to the failures of those who should be responsible for Health and Safety at work, in ensuring measures were introduced to protect our members
  • the central role of Unite in forcing Government to introduce Job and Income protection schemes during the crisis
  • the damage done to our industries and to job security – and the disproportionate impact on young workers and black and ethnic minority young workers in particular

Our Union must now defend our members’ interests and lead demands for a fundamental re-distribution of wealth and power by:

  • developing ‘re-balancing’ pay campaigns across all Sectors, building an even bigger Strike Fund to support members in struggle
  • prioritising and focusing on the issues affecting young workers to build the next generation of trade union activists and leaders
  • building on the work of the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement and ridding our workplaces and institutions of all forms of systemic discrimination
  • addressing the multiple Health and Safety, isolation and mental health issues arising from the likely continuation in many sectors, of home working; this must include the impact on women in terms of the increased prevalence of domestic violence and the disproportionate caring responsibilities that they shoulder, and on young workers struggling in new jobs without the support and proximity of fellow workers
  • providing political education for our workplace representatives
  • intervening within the Labour Party to ensure the demands of working people are taken up politically and ensuring safeguards (Test and Trace and financial support for those self-isolating) are in place for this and any future health crisis.

All of the above demands will be dependent upon the development of a strong industrial base, quality apprenticeship accessible to all and a just transition to a Green Economy with millions of well-paid and secure jobs.

Delivering this ambitious programme will require full resourcing and coordination between the various departments, Sectors and Regions within Unite, headed up by a Covid Recovery Task Force.

London and Eastern/Regional Committee