Demonising the working class

Changes to the lockdown in the UK have sparked anger from unions towards the government

This week has seen the UK government make changes to the lockdown measures in England. It has led to confusion and uncertainty, but most importantly it has shown a lack of understanding of how to efficiently merge into normality.

The government called on people to return to work if they can but avoid using public transport. For the many people, this is impossible, it would have left them in a potentially life-threatening dilemma. The announcement from the government gave employers more ability to enforce workers back to work. People can now not go to work and face losing their jobs, or cram onto public transport, those who rely on it, and risk contracting the virus.

If there is a second wave, will the government take the blame for telling people to return to work but avoid public transport? Of course not. in fact, the demonising of the working class has already started. Pictures and videos of crowded buses and trains plastered across social media are suggesting that these people are wrong for going to work.

In a city like London, which is built to accommodate the people through public transport, you cannot tell people to go back to work but say they must avoid public transport.

The coronavirus outbreak is showing that the health and well being of the working class has taken a backseat to profit. The economy isn’t going to collapse, but what use is the economy if the core workforce lies dead or dying in hospital? Making money is and always will be the be all and end all for some.

Amongst basic working rights is the right to only go to work if you feel it is safe to do so. The governments mixed messages on going to work but then restricting how they travel is going to put a lot of people in danger. It’s already doing so. The images of people using public transport shows that for many, their own health and safety is not a priority. The fact that people feel forced back to work is yet another chapter in the book of the poor handling of this crisis by those in charge.

The most dystopian idea to arise from the governments changing of the lock down measures is that many people will see their bosses before their family. Wealth over health has never been more prominent.

Working class people have gone from being told they can’t go to work, to then going to work but told they must drive or walk. Many don’t have a car and many more will live far from their place of work.

Trade unions have come out in protest of the government guidelines, saying that public transport may be stopped altogether. Manual Cortes, who is the general secretary of the TSSA transport union, said in the Guardian earlier in the week that sending people back to work was dangerous and risked turning rail workers into “cannon fodder. He added that the idea that people could go work without using public transport was “a ridiculous notion”.

This pandemic has already shown that occupations which were so often looked down upon in normal times, such as cleaners and sanitation workers, are in fact vital. To think of them as anything other than this would be ignorant.

It is now time for workers in general to appreciate themselves and be appreciated as the vital cogs in society which the working class is. This last week has shown that national media and the government have hung them out to dry. The working class of this country deserve better, yet it is unlikely they will get this even in a post-pandemic UK.