Daily briefing 11/5/20


Now is the time to join a union, if you are not already a member, and to encourage your friends and family to do so. If you’re not sure which one, the TUC has a handy Unionfinder tool.

Boris Johnson made a vague, contradictory, confusing statement last night that raised more questions than it answered. It will only spark confusion and anxiety among workers, warned Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC. Union leaders were outraged as the government actively encouraged people to go back to work if they were unable to work from home seemingly with only 12 hours’ notice and without proper health and safety measures being put in place; they condemned the mixed messages as a “recipe for chaos” with “potentially lethal consequences.” Johnson urged workers to use cars or bikes, or to walk, to get to work wherever possible, failing to address the needs of those who rely on public transport. The Prime Minister made specific mention of manufacturing and construction workers, leading many on the left to observe that the government’s plan was disproportionately exposing working-class people to risk while middle-class professionals would be protected while working from home.

Expressing her disapproval, Nicola Sturgeon said that Scotland the “Stay at Home” message would be retained while the Welsh Health Secretary Vaughan Geffing also rejected the government’s new slogan, setting out a more cautious approach in Wales.

The RMT issued fresh advice to its members reinforcing the message not to work in conditions where their health and safety is clearly compromised.

49,000 members responded to the NEU’s survey last night after the government’s announcement to reject resoundingly the PM’s roadmap. The NEU also issued a statement condemning the PM’s announcement on the return to schools as “reckless.”

The backlash over Keir Starmer’s reversal of the party’s policy on renters continues with calls to “Cancel the Rent” and demands that Labour should not be defending landlords at the expense of tenants.

LabourList readers also want the party to back UBI.

Unite warns that British Airways staff will pay with their jobs for the company’s errors on fuel price hedging.


At 11pm UK time (6pm EDT) Vivek Chibber kicks off a new series on the ABCs of Capitalism on Jacobin‘s YouTube channel. Now’s the time to educate non-organised workers about their exploitation, so tell them to give it a listen!

New articles, podcast episodes, and resources

Martin Farley explains how a transition from private to public rentals could save the government £50bn while Joe Bilsborough calls for a “People’s Rented Sector.

Corrie Drew in Tribune looks at how Labour has turned its back on renters.

Rob Owen argues for RS21 that teachers, not ministers, should determine when it is safe to return to school.

Nathan Akehurst writes that the right-wing press is stirring up a hate campaign against trade unions, local authorities, and politicians who oppose an early exit from lockdown.

In an exercise in and commentary on big-data visualisation a TikTok video that has gone viral uses rice to show how rich Jeff Bezos is.

At the Virtual Social Centre

If you have a suggestions for resources we should post, especially about health and safety in workplaces, or for questions you want answered, please let us know. Also get in touch if you have ideas for political education events you’d like to host or stories you’d like to tell about workplace or social struggles.