What is in store for workers in 2021 - and beyond?
Sunak’s platitude that “the economy will get worse before it gets better”, tells nobody anything. But then he probably does not have much of a clue himself. Will the economy get better? And for whom?
Last year we were told Britain was experiencing the worst depression since the 1930s. In fact economists said it was even more catastrophic, due to its rapid onset. But, by the end of 2020, financial markets had reached new heights, boosted by the discovery of Covid-19 vaccines, which pundits expected would lead to "a rapid recovery".
In Britain, that may not be working out so well, thanks to the government’s gross mishandling of the 2nd Covid wave. Yes, its impact so far, blamed on a “variant” virus, rather than Johnson’s and Sunak’s “profits before human life” policies, has been the worst in the world.
But the fact that so many companies have been making a fortune out of the crisis - money which is shared among the capitalists through their economic "common pot", as it were - should be evidence enough, that if workers choose to confront them and fight, they can improve their situation.
Helping the “struggling”?
Predictably, Sunak rushed in with another £4.6 billion “fresh financial support package for struggling UK companies” as soon as the new lockdown was announced. But of course, there was no "fresh package for struggling workers".
In fact what did appear, was a "package" which was meant to provide meals for families whose kids would otherwise go hungry while schools were closed. And this said it all. Companies like Chartwells, a subsidiary of Compass (CEO a Tory donor) which were given the job of supplying these food hampers, parasitised even this miserly “benefit”! Wrote one mum on Twitter: “Public funds were charged £30. I’d have bought this for £5.22. The private company who has the free school meals contract made a good profit here.” A picture showed two cans of baked beans, two bananas, half a pepper, several loose slices of bread, one potato, one carrot, two eggs, one onion and two ziplock bags of cheese and pasta!!
Workers know the outlook is grim, because more are losing their livelihoods day by day. Sunak himself said he expects almost a million more to join the ranks of the unemployed in 2021. Some of those who lost their jobs last year are already, sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures because they cannot afford rent or because they are waiting (if indeed eligible) for benefits!
Not only are no measures put in place to ameliorate this, but Sunak is already discussing with some of the bosses and backbench MPs the possibility of "deregulating" workers' employment rights. He has to take into account, however, the implications for the so-called "level playing field", since according to the Brexit deal, Britain is not meant to make things worse for workers here than they are in the EU, as it would be "unfair"...
Which is laughable, since British workers already have worse conditions in so many respects, given all the loopholes British bosses - with the help of successive governments - punched into them.
Then there is the abysmal level of statutory sick pay. The average in OECD countries is 70% of an employee’s wage; in Britain, it’s 25%! But many don’t even get it. So they are told to apply for the Covid self-isolation payment, supposed to help those without sick pay to stay at home. But it has so many conditions attached (claiming benefit, for instance) that 4 out of 5 applicants are turned down - for a one-off, measly £500 payment!
The struggling will help themselves!
“Act as if you have the virus”, says the government and its advisors. “Stay at home”. But the reality is that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is against lockdowns, full stop. While Johnson has postponed them until the point where delaying further would have lost him even more points on his plummeting popularity poll.
So they have refused to tell manufacturing, construction, transport, security, and of course the booming estate agencies, to shut up shop as part of lockdown. In fact it is as if this part of the working class, which is also on the frontline now, despite not being “essential”, didn’t even exist! The Covid cases and the Covid deaths amongst these workers are not being counted. Just like in the war against "terrorism" when they did not do civilian body counts, they are not counting these casualties. No, Sunak and the bosses behind him, are concerned only with counting profits.
And this is why they have to be grabbed hold of and squeezed, because it’s the working class, who made these profits with their sweat and blood, who need to reclaim them, now, more than ever.