Following Boris Johnson’s confusing messages on returning to work and other measures to ease the lockdown, London’s public transport system is once again packed.
On 13 May, this led Sky News to tweet:
Buses in London are packed with passengers this morning, despite the govt asking people to avoid public transport if possible when the #coronavirus lockdown eased.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) May 13, 2020
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But the wording of the tweet was problematic. So people on social media were quick to provide a much-needed alternative to the broadcaster’s analysis.
It was the word “despite” that many Twitter users took issue with:
Correction – London buses packed after government said it is safe to return to work. The public are not to blame, the government are. The slow framing of the public being the problem has begun https://t.co/gZGqvOLDo2
— Niall McLoughlin (@niallmcloughlin) May 13, 2020
This tweet summed up the situation for people forced to return to work:
‘despite’ as if these people are willingly hopping on dirty london buses in the misdle of a pandemic to go back to shitty jobs at early hours in the morning https://t.co/C6sZBF8AbV
— *•.¸♡ 𝖒𝖊𝖌𝖎 ♡¸.•* (@seriouslymeg) May 13, 2020
Commenting on the situation on London buses, Unite regional officer for London buses John Murphy stated:
The government is on the one hand telling people to go back to work but on the other failing to provide the means for them to get there safely.
Overcrowding can only be resolved by the government providing additional funding to run more buses during peak hours and introducing strict rules on policing the number of passengers on each bus.
Murphy highlighted that tragically:
During the pandemic at least 30 bus workers have lost their lives in London. Huge efforts have been made to protect the workforce and Unite will not allow that to be compromised.
The union also advised its members:
of their right to withdraw from serious and imminent danger in line with the legal protections that exist, and that where they are forced to do so they will receive Unite’s full support.
Meanwhile, SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), slamming Boris Johnson’s:
total disregard from this government for workers’ safety.
A coronavirus plan for the billionaires
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the government’s plan for dealing with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is to pander to the wealthy elite. After all, there is little other explanation for a system that’s prioritised nannies and cleaners going back to work in private households.
It is workers in low paid or precarious work who’ll be impacted most by the government’s new plan to get people back to work. Because it’s these people who are less likely to be able to work from home, but also less likely to afford cars and follow recommendations to drive.
As the BBC reported, coronavirus disproportionately impacts those in poorer areas:
Office for National Statistics analysis shows there were 55 deaths for every 100,000 people in the poorest parts of England, compared with 25 in the wealthiest areas.
The non-existent benevolence of bosses
Johnson’s plan to get people back to work rests on a non-existent benevolence of bosses: a fantasy world where people can ring up and have a casual chat about whether it’s safe for them to return to work and trust the answers they receive. All of this ignores a capitalist world based on the exploitation of people for profit. Construction, for example, one of the industries Johnson wants to get back to work, is known for blacklisting workers who have raised health and safety concerns.
Meanwhile, those with cars are now able to drive to the beach and take unlimited exercise while those on low incomes are forced back to work in unsafe conditions. And so the pandemic plan for the elite is complete. Nice drives and walks in the countryside while the nanny and the cleaner look after the kids and the house.
The Conservatives’ contempt for working-class people is on full show. We must hold them to account. A central part of doing this is to ensure the mainstream media isn’t allowed to twist the narrative and blame ordinary people for the consequences of this despicable government. If a second wave happens, it won’t be the fault of those people forced to travel on overcrowded public transport, it’ll be the fault of Johnson and his minions.
This is something we must never forget.
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