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VOICES OF SCOTLAND The picture has become clear for all to see. The Tories want to save money not lives

The Tories would have us paying for this crisis to claw back normality for the most wealthy – we can’t allow that to happen, says JAMIE CALDWELL

NEVER before have we been given the opportunity to go forward in a different way like now. 

Back to normal can’t be back to “normal.” Deep divides, rampant inequality and the underfunding of our NHS, including so many staff going underpaid — all of them key worker “heroes.”  

They don’t need charity. They need proper, secure jobs with decent pay and conditions and a union for solidarity.

We need a new normal and now is the time to start to map that new normal out. 

Like the phoenix that rose from the ashes, the NHS was born only three years after World War II. 

Our country was broke and still we sought to give everyone free healthcare and embarked on one of the biggest housebuilding programmes our country has seen.  

People were put to work to create a better, fairer country — united in the dream for a better future.

This is what we tell ourselves. We forget the opposition and the struggle. 

The reality was that doctors (although not all) campaigned against the creation of a National Health Service and big landowners didn’t want council houses being built, bringing down their property prices. 

But the needs of the many outweighed the greed of the few. 

The Labour Party recently put on its election leaflets that we needed to properly fund our NHS and to stop privatisation, that the wealthy and the corporations should pay their fair share of tax and that we needed to build more homes to fix the housing crisis — and that we need an overhaul of education to make it fairer and fit for purpose, workplaces safer with better pay and conditions and more access to union organising and with our vital services brought back into public ownership along with free wifi as it’s now a necessity of modern life.  

And what if they also put that we needed all this to be prepared for a pandemic?

How politics can spin on a dime! Those policies are what we need now. 

In December the Tories successfully made it all about Brexit. Now the result would be different.  

It sadly takes something to go terribly wrong before something changes.  

After the financial crash the Tories painted the picture that they were “saving for a rainy day” to justify austerity. 

Instead this storm has come and destroyed the economy and highlighted the inequalities of capitalism to the public like never before.  

We must now organise because, if we don’t, it’s the workers who will be marched back to work and our children who will be sent back to school or nursery. 

Right now, across Britain, the picture has become clear for all to see. The Tories want to save money not lives. 

They echo Donald Trump as we see them mobilise the “common-sense brigade.” 

But stupidity is not in the guidance for high risk. Staying alert doesn’t help you magically see Covid-19. 

While trade unions went from the naughty step to save the nation’s workforce, the real wealth of our nation is the people. 

We pay for our NHS. So it is not a charity. Imagine if the Tories had got their way with a “grown-up conversation about NHS” — code for “let’s sell it as we don’t really need it” — how much more terrifying would this virus be. 

We are lucky that the war generation dreamed of a better future and they were bold. What are our experiences going to teach us about this? 

Pre-Covid-19, the idea of a three-day week was crazy. But people working from home, spending probably the most time they have ever spent with the people they live with, might start clicking that this should be the norm. 

The introduction of machines and automation was to do away with cost of labour with the false promise of convenience for the customer. 

How that promise has been blown apart! It’s those lowest-paid and “unskilled” staff that are out there keeping our shops clean and stocked. 

They definitely deserve a lot better. They should have an actual wage to live on and terms and conditions that provide them with safe and secure work. That should be the new normal.  

Unite has advised the government that it has tens of thousands of safety reps trained and in workplaces. 

This has fallen on deaf ears. But the tide has already shifted.

The unions defeated Tory plans of ending furlough and got it extended. I hope the public are waking up to trade unions being a positive addition to the economy. 

Trade unions are integral to stopping employers running wild with power. Trade unions are better for everyone. 

Workers have an invested interest in creating a better functioning workplace. They won’t asset strip it or close it down to make more money. Workers deserve to have a say in how they work. 

These last few weeks I have seen hope. My optimism comes from that. We have seen hospitality workers organise like never before and renters waking up to the fact that their landlord gets a mortgage break while they have to pay full rent.

I have spoken to many new members that had never heard of a trade union and are now grateful that they have. 

We must organise like never before as we talk to people in our communities. It’s our duty to highlight trade unions and advocate that people join, in work or out of work.

Unite Community membership is for people who are unwaged. Because one thing is for sure.  We can’t afford to allow turbo-charged austerity after this.  

The Tories will have us paying for this crisis to claw back normality for the most wealthy.   

Capitalism is a choice which we now need to abandon because that choice is clearly not working. We have a chance to forge a new way.

Jamie Caldwell is a community organiser for Unite Scotland.


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