Plans announced by Boris Johnson for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas at yesterday’s (17 July 2020) coronavirus briefing have been roundly criticised by trade unions, the NHS, the government’s chief scientific adviser and the devolved administrations.
With the Etonian Tory PM’s arbitrary emphasis on Christmas, bearing in mind the pandemic is predicted to surge over the winter months, many couldn’t help but be reminded of the same feckless ruling class mismanagement imposed during the First World War. ‘Lions led by donkeys’ who promised “we’ll be back by Christmas“.
We all know the slaughter that ensued.
Britain’s has already lost over 65,000 during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Infections levels continue to be high and local outbreaks continue to crop up across England. The response of the UK and devolved governments has been criticised as inadequate at every level for failures in planning, delay and poor resourcing.
Despite this, the PM yesterday declared, “It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas.”
In an extremely worrying move for workers, Johnson also declared “Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.”
Many trade unions have pointed out that this is not only a complete denigration of responsibility by the government, but it also gives employers a free hand to demand workers return to site, regardless of the risks. Emboldened bosses will now be in an even stronger position to threaten and pressure workers to return – and even discipline or dismiss them where they refuse to do so.
Johnson said he would encourage more homeworkers to get back into the office and to use public transport in doing so – despite the risks. This is despite the fact that government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told MPs the day before that there was “absolutely no reason” to change the government’s current guidance on working from home.
Since March the Tory government has grudgingly conceded that workers should “work from home if you can”. Vallance told MPs home working was still a “perfectly good option”. Confusingly, Johnson yesterday said he “totally agrees” but that it was not for the government to tell employers where their workforce should be.
Johnson and his millionaire cabinet are facing stark criticism and real pressure over Britain’s tanking economy which has been another victim of their mismanagement. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost and millions are under threat as the furlough scheme is withdrawn. The most recent figures showed Britain’s GDP is down 25% since the start of the year.
YCL General Secretary Johnnie Hunter said, “yesterday’s announcement is a clear signal from this ruling class government to bosses that its now ‘open season’ on the lockdown restrictions and other measures which have saved tens of thousands of lives in recent months.”
He added, “the extent of the opposition to these moves, not just from workers and trade unions, but from the devolved governments – who must also shoulder blame – the NHS and even the Tories’ own chief scientific adviser, tells you everything you need to know about this move.”
He concluded “Johnson wants to strengthen the hand of the bosses. Our only response can be to strengthen the hand of the organised working class. Join your union. Be active. Fight for safe conditions in your workplace. Fight for every job. Fight for public safety.”
Challenge News Desk