Johnson's dangerous buffoonery and his catalogue of errors & Are railway workers' jobs now being signed away by union leaders?

 Johnson's dangerous buffoonery and his catalogue of errors

Much to the upset of everyone, so-called Freedom Day is postponed until late July. Yet the "Delta" variant outbreak which is responsible for this, could have been prevented. Flights from India were allowed into the country during the peak of India's terrible second Covid wave. And this was because Johnson chose to woo India's PM, Modi, by retaining India as "amber" on the travel list, until trade talks had taken place.

    At the time, it was already obvious that this new variant was more infectious and more lethal than the Kent-Alpha variant and that it infected younger people. But even now, government spokespersons still defend their policy, citing British scientists' advice that it was still a "Variant under Investigation", rather than a "Variant of Concern"! Never let it be said that the "superior" British accept the better knowledge or advice of others - in this case, Indian scientists! But this was plain stupid and dangerous. And the population is now paying for it.

    Then there is the scandal of the Lateral Flow Tests made by Innova, on which the government spent £3bn. It is still using them everywhere, even though (non-government) scientists said they were only 40% accurate. So positive results based on these LFTs are probably a gross under-estimate. US authorities have just declared them good for nothing except the bin!

    Johnson has also elected to play with fire when it comes to the Northern Ireland Brexit Protocol which he signed up to. Blockages caused by border checks which were never prepared for, nor acknowledged as necessary, are now blamed on the EU. These helped precipitate the resignation of Arlene Foster, Democratic Unionist First Minister, paving the way for ultra-right bigots who are even worse - and the possible re-collapse of the NI Assembly. Unionist paramilitaries are now parading in balaclavas and burning Irish republican flags. Nobody can know whether or not this will stir up the kind of conflict which marked the years of the Troubles. But this is the risk the oblivious Johnson happily takes.

    Of course he is just a personification of the degenerate state of the capitalist system's politics, confirmed too, by the even more stupid and dangerous sabre-rattling against China and Russia, after Johnson's beach jamboree in Cornwall and the Nato summit in Brussels. Yet more evidence if needed, that this system needs urgent replacing.

 Are railway workers' jobs now being signed away by union leaders?

On Tuesday, RMT, ASLEF and TSSA union leaders announced that they had signed up to an "Enabling Framework Agreement" which means they are talking with train operators and Network Rail about severe and wide-ranging cuts in jobs, conditions and pensions. But worse, this also amounts to signing a no-strike deal; they've tied their hands in advance!

    This "agreement" was formulated by the Rail Industry Delivery Group, a new body set up specifically to propose cost-cutting, using the pretext of the fall in passenger numbers due to the pandemic. It already announced a pay and recruitment freeze. 

    Of course the aim of making cuts dates back long before the pandemic. The privatisation of the railways in the mid-1990s was never a success. The launching of (not so) "Great British Railways" is the Tories' half-hearted way of acknowledging this. It's not renationalisation, but still an admission of failure.

    From day one of privatisation, the government paid out huge subsidies to private operators, who had a free hand to screw workers' conditions, subcontract and charge sky-high fares. After only 8 years the bankrupt track and signals company had to be taken back into public hands. East Coast mainline landed back in government control twice - and so it remains.

    Modernisation was done on the cheap: new Azuma trains already have chassis cracks and the "digital" railway’s safer signalling isn't even half-completed. And don’t mention the HS2 cost over-run!

    Yet the reality is that even with falling passenger numbers, more trains are needed to allow social distancing inside these enclosed spaces, which act as Covid-propagators. What is more, worker numbers were already at an all-time low before the pandemic. So post-Covid, more hands, not fewer, will be needed in every job - whether on-board, in depots, in stations or on tracks, for safe and effective working.

    Union leaders claim they'll refuse "compulsory redundancies". The RMT adds that it will be "pursuing pay awards, coupled with a framework that allows the union to pursue long standing objectives such as a reduction in the working week, travel facilities for all rail workers and bringing catering and cleaning work in-house". Cutting working hours, sharing work and bringing jobs in-house, yes, who would disagree? But the starting point, especially now with pandemic unemployment, has to be no job cuts whatsoever, plus the unfreezing of recruitment. And the only way to achieve this, will be to strike for it - against this duplicitous "Agreement".