The slogan of Workers’ Memorial Day on the 28th April is “Remember the Dead, Fight For the Living”. As well as an international remembrance of those that have died at work, this is a call to arms by the organised working class against unsafe working conditions and unscrupulous employers.
Workers’ Memorial Day is more relevant than ever, given the Tories’ mishandling of the Covid pandemic and the Track and Trace fiasco, which has led to 170,000 deaths so far and wasted billions of pounds, given away to firms run by Tory donors. This is the same government who have cut the budget of the Health and Safety Executive by 50% since 2010, the same Tories who regard human lives as expendable in the pursuit of profit. Not a single employer was prosecuted or fined for putting workers at risk during the restrictions, simply because not enough health and safety staff were available to police the law. Of course, while workers made sacrifices, and were unable to see their loved ones, the Tory leadership were partying.
As we return to our workplaces, universities and schools, we need to join trade unions, and fight for a leadership of the workers’ movement, which is willing to take action against the government’s laissez-faire approach. The TUC are correctly calling for statutory sick pay to be increased to the level of the living wage, but this demand is toothless without the threat of industrial action to back this up. Pleading to the government is no more than wishful thinking.
The demonstration called by the TUC on the 18th June needs to be a springboard for co-ordinated action, in order to win back concessions from the ruling class. The Tory anti-trade union laws need to be swept aside by a mass movement of workers. In the USA, even union-bashing employers like Amazon and Starbucks are for the first time, being forced to recognise trade unions. If workers can organise there, we can organise anywhere.
While the working poor are forced to rely on food banks, refugees and migrants are exploited in crowded, dangerous sweatshops, and fuel poverty is skyrocketing. Meanwhile, companies like P&O think they can get away with sacking their workforce without consultation, replacing them with scabs hired on less than the minimum wage.
The only winners from the pandemic have been the super-rich. Worldwide, the wealth of the world’s ten richest men doubled to a staggering $1.5 trillion, while billions are forced to live in abject poverty. The profits of the wealthy are made by the working class. By withholding our labour, it is possible to begin to bring about an end to suffering and exploitation and build a socialist society.
Socialist Alternative is organised in over 30 countries worldwide. We need to end the rule of bosses and fight for workers’ democratic control of workplaces. We can no longer afford this unsafe and unjust system of capitalism. We are fighting for a world where every life is valued equally, for a planned economy which is not destroying our lives and our planet.